Jenny's blog

Second day of Seminary

I’m not as tired as I was yesterday — slept a lot better. I kept waking up during the night sure I was going to miss my alarm. Hopefully I will be able to sleep even better tonight.

I didn’t mention it yesterday (because I thought it was not big deal), but I started out yesterday’s lesson differently than I had written. I mentioned that I had been on Facebook and saw some slightly disparaging remarks about Seminary. “I have to go to Seminary tomorrow,” and the like. I then talked briefly about semantics, or the importance of speaking accurately. I also mentioned a woman, Sister S, that most of the kids know from our neighboring ward. She attended seminary for years as a nonmember. I asked the kids if they thought the friend that invited Sister S to seminary used the words: “I have to go to Seminary.” The students said no and why. I asked the students to make an effort to speak correctly, separating the getting up early from the Seminary. “I have to get up early, because I WANT to go to Seminary,” is more correct (I hope) for these good LDS students.

I had some more good, better, best type analogies to use, but it was apparent that they got the idea, so we moved on. Anyway, I got on Facebook later in the afternoon and saw that a couple of the kids had corrected FB posts or made comments on others’ posts about how they like Seminary, it’s just the getting up early they dislike. I was surprised. Of all the things they could have taken home from yesterday’s lesson, THAT was the one that stuck?!?! :-) I guess you never know. It also showed me that the kids really are listening to what I’m teaching, even the tiny things. AND that some of them will stick.

Anyway, God bless you, Zuckerberg, for inventing FB. How did youth leaders live without it?

I don’t know if I mentioned yesterday that I am having the kids sing “The Books of the Old Testament” from the Children’s Songbook for our opening song. It’s pretty lame and has some awkward wording, but hopefully we’ll get the books learned after a week or two.

Today’s lesson was scripture study skills. We spent some time at the beginning of class doing a group activity where each zone competed against the others to find different helps in their scriptures. They raced to find the topical guide, bible dictionary, index, maps, Bible table of contents, JST, and letter to King James. I asked them what the difference was between the index and topical guides and also what they might use certain aids for when studying scriptures. We also found footnotes that used “HEB” and “OR”. The best part was that they helped each other find the sections. I could have done it, of course, or made up a great PowerPoint dealie to teach them, but I think it’s better for them to study with peers. The winning team got to choose a treat first from the bag. (This proved to be a mistake, however. I should have had the treat choosing wait until the end of class — it was too distracting during the next portion of the lesson.)

Next I showed the short seminary welcome video from Elder Oaks. We (by that I mean I) talked about the key to gospel study Elder Oaks’ gave us and what a privilege it is to be able to study the gospel. The food proved to be too much of a distraction, and I didn’t get much participation.

So like I said, during the video the kids picked out their treat from the bag. Mistake. They ignored the video and generally goofed off. Actually had one kid open another kid’s lunch and toss bits of it around. Hrm. I will have to be a little more strict with the boys. The truth is I don’t mind a bit of goofing. I probably tolerate more than most teachers. But I do want them to focus in sometimes, and I need to be a little better about clamping down before someone’s pudding hits my ceiling. (It didn’t — but I don’t want future pudding splatters.) By this time I had about 10 minutes left in class, and so I had to rush a little through the next part.

I suppose I could have held the treat until the end of class or given them all the same treat.

For the next part of the lesson, I visited the Red Headed hostess blog and showed them how we will do our scripture binders. We are not writing “feelings” so much, but we are recording information. I hope their binders will be like a bible dictionary or topical guide — a personal gospel reference — for them.

Sang “The Spirit of God” to close. I made them sing verses 1 and 4 because that song is my favorite. I will probably require them to sing more than one verse pretty regularly. Right now I’m assigning the first song and letting them choose the second. There’s a little bit of awkwardness while they act like they’ve never picked a song before, don’t have a favorite, or choose a random song. I may try having a song bucket like the prayer bucket where the kids get a chance to choose a song. I’m also making them stand to sing. Seriously — whoever that was who shared the standing to sing idea was a genius. It’s working for us.

Since I’m teaching at home, I have the luxury of using my big TV hooked up to the laptop. We are using the online hymn playing thing to provide our music right now. I have one student who kind of plays and I will have her do some playing for us later. She has volunteered to be our chorister of sorts.

Maybe I will ask our piano playing chorister to be a music leader. She can choose someone to choose a song, and then she can work the music player or play if she prefers. That way she’s in control.

While the kids don’t say so, I can tell they really like the technology of the online music player, and that may be part of the reason we’re doing well with the singing. They are paying good attention, and looking at the music to sing. I am not sure if I will point out or let them discover that we can change the tempo, too — the hymns seem to drag so often for me. One student commented to me at the end of the lesson that we could switch off the voices and hear only the men’s parts when singing. Since it was *his* suggestion, I will ask our chorister to do that tomorrow when we sing so that the boys can hear their parts. It’s hard for them to sing so high and find their notes. I appreciate that they are trying. I really have a great class.

I will say that I really like having them sing at the close of the meeting. I’ve often (read: usually) cut that out when I’m teaching to leave more time for the lesson, but I think the singing is good for this class. I will try to keep that. I realize I’m spending a lot of time talking about music, but it was something I was worried about with this group, and additionally, I think singing is very important.

Somehow 50 minutes seems so short! I’ve never taught so long and felt that I could cover so little. I did let us start 5 minutes late today because our president arrived late. She had a terrible day yesterday and this morning apparently, so I held class so that she could conduct. Tomorrow we will start on time regardless, but I wanted her to have a good experience today.

Today we sat in our zones for the first time. Worked fine.

Also discussed group props. They voted for “give that boy/girl some bacon.” When someone does something good in class, we will say “give that person some bacon” and all lick our finger, point it at them, and make a bacon sizzling sound. Hopefully that will be a good team building exercise and will be fun, too.

I’ve observed that certain of my kids arrive quite a bit early (BEFORE SIX!) to socialize. They also linger the longest. All of the kids are sluggardly collecting their things and leaving the house, so I’m glad that I’ve made the decision to try to end about 5 minutes before 7. I feel it’s important that they have a little time to visit. It’s interesting to note the kids who scurry out. At least one of them is not socializing with the group well. I’ll have to work on helping.

Something new that I’ve been doing is using the words “Today you learned…” at the end of class to summarize what was taught. I hope that helps emphasize to the kids that while what we’re doing might be a game or fun, I’ve chosen these activities for a purpose — a learning purpose. Plus it gives me a chance to emphasize any points from the lesson that bear repeating.

One other thing. I need a clock. I keep checking my cell phone for the time. I have a 10 minute warning chime set up so I don’t accidentally go over. It’s annoying to me, but I don’t know if I can do better with a clock.

Today during prayers both of the kids thanked Heavenly Father that I was allowing them to have Seminary in our home. I was, frankly, a little surprised. It is an inconvenient convenience for us, but I’m relieved that the kids seem to be appreciating it. They are getting a few extra minutes of sleep, and the time and travel on the road is shorter for them.

Before class started I called my BFF to talk about having Seminary in our home instead of at the church and she told me about how she liked doing it that way when she was growing up. Her teacher cooked food all the time and they met around the kitchen table. Since my friend’s home life wasn’t too great, this was a great opportunity for her to be in someone else’s home and experience another way. She said the feeling of doing it in a home made Seminary special, more personal. I hope these kids are also having that same experience.

Before class started, I had also driven to the schools and checked the distance from people’s homes to ours. While 2-3 traveled farther (one significantly farther), the collective distance traveled was far less holding it at my home than at the church, and we wouldn’t have to get a sub whenever Jared traveled, so I suggested it to the Bishop. It’s inconvenient, sure. God has blessed me with talents, but housekeeping isn’t one of them. :) But I really did think I was being helpful by offering up our home for classes, and the location was approved.

It’s unfortunate that having Seminary in our home caused so much strife among some of the families. I’ve served in leadership positions and been a member all my life, and I know what you don’t do: you never approach the Bishop saying “I will not.” You can say, “here’s my situation/problem”, but you never, ever approach a leader in a way that demeans his authority. This is not because a Mormon Bishop is your “boss”, but because we follow the Savior’s injunction to meekness in our relationship with others. Further, telling someone what you will or won’t do negates their stewardship and weakens your faith.

Leaders want to help and further, they will help I’ve sat in enough meetings with enough leaders to know that they really do want to help. Start with that assumption, and you’ll do much better. But instead of approaching leaders, most of the time members talk amongst themselves about problems or solutions. Eventually the consensus becomes that leaders are picking on them — they MUST be after all, because WE know what they should do! And leaders also fail to explain the reasons for their decisions to members, or, they wait until a brush fire has already started to begin quelling rumors. Correcting these communication issues would go a long way toward making difficult situations better in the church, imo.

Posted by Jenny Smith

I'm Jenny Smith. I blog about life on the 300+ acres of rolling farmland in Northern Virginia where I live. I like tomatoes, all things Star Trek, watercolor, and reading. I spend most days in the garden fighting deer and groundhogs while trying to find my life's meaning. I'm trying to be like Jesus -- emphasis on the trying.