The Perfect Gospel Doctrine Teacher

[ 12 ] Comments

by jendoop

Someone asked me recently what the qualities of the ideal gospel doctrine teacher would be. Once we got talking about it there seemed to be a middle ground where instruction wouldn’t be too boring, nor too overwhelming. Where class participation was encouraged, but not allowed to run rampant. Where preparation was encouraged by not reading all of the material in class, but you could still follow the lesson if you had a late night with the baby and didn’t read.

As these qualities added up I thought about how important teaching really is, and how little it has to do with intelligence or book knowledge.

What does a perfect gospel doctrine teacher look like?

How does a gospel doctrine teacher know if they are effective?

Have you had any classroom gospel teaching moments that were perfect?

About jendoop

Jen writes, reads, paints, walks, prays, eats and sleeps. Paul is her co-conspirator in teaching these skills to 4 children.

12 Responses to The Perfect Gospel Doctrine Teacher

  1. Lisa says:

    The perfect Gospel Doctrine teacher has contagious enthusiasm about the Gospel and topic.

  2. Paul says:

    And here I thought this would be a post about me… (as IF) LOL

    I think even perfect GD teachers have bad days, and certainly as a student I also have bad days. Beyond someone who teaches from a position of truth and testimony, generally I like a GD teacher who is:

    Well prepared (well-versed in the scriptures at hand so that he’s not glued to the manual)

    Articulate (about the scriptures, the concepts / doctrines / principles)

    Asks good questions (neither yes / no, nor “gues what I’m thinking” questions, but rather thoughtful and thought-provoking questions that lead to discussion)

    Incorporates the discussion into his or her lesson (as in, “That comment leads me right into our next point,” or “I’m so glad you said that. I reminds me of this related experience or idea…” or “Does anyone else have a similar experience you’d like to share?”)

    Flexible (prepared enough to fill the hour, but flexible enough to go where the spirit takes the class and leave 90% of the prepared material behind if need be)

    Innovative (willing to try new things once in a while; not the same “ready-aim-read” approach every class)

    Uses appropriate supplemental materials (rather than reading tired old stories from tired old manuals, uses newer related stories from recent conference talks or church magazine articles; uses the new church history website information in D&C lessons, for instance)

    Links themes from one lesson to the next (“Do you remember two weeks ago when we were discussing…? I want to follow up on that in today’s lesson.”)

    Just a few ideas.

  3. templegoer says:

    I do try hard not to think about this as we get what we’re given,and none of us is perfect. Often-and I include myself here-I think we are nor forgiving enough in terms of people’s ordinary human limitations in their callings, and I sense in myself that when I am in that state of mind I am not being Christ-like. As you may guess,I’m having a really hard time with our gospel doctrine teacher, who is a really good friend and underperforming. He’s a very intelligent man and very educated. He just doesn’t feel comfortable in front of a group of his peers.
    I really do think that some people have no talent for communicating and we can find fault ’till we’re blue in the face, and that just leaves us blue in the face. Some clear suggestions have been given to this guy during lesson time (writing the scripture references on the board even! ?). Exasperating.
    So, I just try to knuckle on down and let the Spirit tell me what I should be looking at in myself . In this case it’s easy.

  4. Paul says:

    TG, you reminded me of a discussion in our HP group a few years ago. The subject was how we can improve as teachers (recognizing that we all teach somewhere). After some good discussion on techniques, etc, one older brother spoke up. True to his advancing age (and therefore he felt no need to edit himself) he said, “Either you’re a good teacher or not. If you’re a bad teacher you can’t improve. Period.” I’m pretty sure he felt himself on the non-teacher side of the fence, especially at that stage of his life.

    I think you are right that there are some who are more comfortable than others in the role of teacher. And I’m also reminded that we don’t go to church to be entertained.

  5. Ray says:

    I really like templegoer’s point. It is SO true. We ought to allow people to decline invitations to teach if they are experienced enough to know they aren’t good at it.

    Generally speaking, I’m a good teacher – naturally and through professional experience and training. However, even the perfect teacher for one person is a lousy teacher for someone else. The judgment is influenced greatly by the expectations and desires of the students. That’s important to remember.

    Having said that, I like Paul’s criteria for a good teacher. I would add being open-minded and not needing an echo chamber or bully pulpit. Gospel Doctrine works best, imo, when multiple views are allowed, encouraged and valued.

    Also, I like it when getting through everything is ignored in favor of really digging into a topic that interests the students – measured by the number and enthusiasm of the comments.

  6. Brenda says:

    “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.” I fear that because we don’t particularly like the style of teaching a certain teacher uses we can pass judgement that they are inadequate. If we honestly believe that the Bishop calls individuals by revelation then this smacks a little of leaning upon our own understanding and not God’s.

    Sometimes patience is needed especially if the calling is new for someone. I have seen teachers begin haltingly and then grow and get better over time. This includes myself. If the teacher can learn to get themselves out of the way and become a window for the light of heaven to shine through and the students do the same, even the most humble and inexperienced teacher can do wonderful things.

    • Ray says:

      “If we honestly believe that the Bishop calls individuals by revelation then this smacks a little of leaning upon our own understanding and not God’s.”

      Some callings are through revelation; some are through desperation; some are through convenience. I’ve been involved in the decision-making process, and I’ve seen multiple reasons for callings being issued.

      Having said that, I agree completely with the spirit of your comment, Brenda. I try to be VERY charitable toward teachers and speakers, knowing most of them are doing their best to magnify their callings. I want to be cut some slack when I’m the one not doing something perfectly, so I try to do the same for others.

      • Brenda says:

        Desperation, revelation, convenience- I think His hand is in all of that. As long as the person/people involved in giving the call are doing it while trying to magnify their own callings. It may not be recognized as revelation but it seems that the Lord directs these things in various ways when the intent is to do His will.

        I know that is idealistic but I have identified in myself over and over that when I begin to criticize leaders or teachers that inevitably it is my pride rearing its head. I always come to know that God has his hand in these things.

        I did not mean to infer that anyone else in this thread was being uncharitable. I always find both you and Paul’s comments enlightening, thanks for engaging in these topics.

    • AL says:

      .” If the teacher can learn to get themselves out of the way and become a window for the light of heaven to shine through and the students do the same, even the most humble and inexperienced teacher can do wonderful things.”

      Thank you for this.

      I don’t think I’m a good teacher and Most of these comments made me feel worse.

      I didn’t ask for the calling. Was the last one I would have ever wanted.

      You made me feel better.

  7. Paul says:

    Brenda, you and TG both raise a valid point. But I still there’s more than just the parlor game element of identifying what makes a good teacher, otherwise what is Brother Osguthorpe’s role? When I think about what makes a great gospel teacher, I think about how to apply those lessons / ideals to my own teaching. I agree we ought not use it to club those who are teaching us.

  8. Jendoop says:

    That is what I was getting at with this post Paul, and what the person originally asking me the question asked it for – because they want to improve. We do need to quantify what makes a good teacher if we are going to set goals towards getting there. Good teaching is the responsibility of every member, for themselves but also in supporting others in their teaching efforts.

    Far too many people take the phrase, “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies,” to mean that they were called because they innately possess all the necessary qualities and therefore have no need to attend teacher training, inservice, stake meetings, etc. or to prepare lessons in advance or any number of things we can do to improve our teaching. Everyone needs to improve their teaching. If we have that attitude it will be no surprise when we encounter a teacher whose class isn’t all we hoped it would be. We will know that they have something to learn, just as we have something to learn. We can be helpful and understanding, and we can compliment them when we see something go right in their class as a way to encourage their development.

    Support doesn’t mean pretending there aren’t difficulties, or offering shallow compliments, it means loving the person while their weakness shows. It makes my skin crawl to hear a person frustrated with a lesson, then when the teacher asks for feedback the complainer stays quiet. We can offer support when a lesson doesn’t go so well, not by offering fake encouragement (lying) too soothe their conscience (which may need to be pricked by a bad lesson to realize that they need to improve), but by a simple, “I really appreciate your efforts. What could you have done differently to get better participation?”

    This goes back to a recent discussion about passive aggressiveness in the LDS culture. We are passive aggressive about many things, teachers included. We won’t read material, we’ll linger in the halls, we won’t offer comments, we’ll volunteer for nursery but we’ll never go to the teacher and say, “Your lessons are difficult for me because we don’t have much class discussion. This is a problem for me, is there something we can work out so I can get more out of your lessons?”

    Or how often does a teacher get bugged by a class member speaking up too much but rarely do they go to that person and say, “You always have good comments, but today I’m not going to call on you and I don’t want you to take it personally. I would like other members of the class to have a chance to participate. If you have a thought that you want to share with me maybe you could write it down and share it with me after class.”

    These two responses not only support good teaching, but they also go towards the Lord’s larger goal of building relationships, which I believe is the heart of the gospel.

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