The Great Student/Teacher Cop Out!

Don - July 1, 2006

Maybe my title should have read "Is it the student or the teacher’s fault?"  My previous post produced some comments that got me thinking about the responsibility of the teacher and the responsibility of the student.  Who should we blame?

I’ve had bad teachers, ones who cut up quotes and pass them out to be read.  Or teachers who have class members read one scripture after another, or parts of the lesson manual.  Then there are the comments about the students….only about 2% ever have read the material before class…the students don’t come prepared.

I’d like to put the "blame" where I think it really belongs….on the teachers!!

Here’s my take on this.  When I’ve been a student in regular educational situations I’m not expected to read / study the very same material the professor / teacher is going to teach in class the next day.  I’m paying the teacher to teach me…so teach me.

Yes, SS, PH, and RS classes are somewhat different, but I still think it’s the teacher’s responsibility to teach, not pass out scripture readings, or for that matter conduct a pointless, random "discussion".  Discussions are fine, if the teacher knows what they want to teach and they direct the dicussion to that point.  The teacher should study enough, in depth, to come and teach, not regurgitate the printed lesson manual.  If the teacher is properly prepared and teaches then the students learn.

OK, yes it is nice when students read the material.  It can help the teacher.  But I don’t think we should feel bad if we don’t read it.  I’m the student – teach me!

9 Comments »

  1. Hear, hear!

    These teachers are called to prepare a lesson. I have my own calling.. if I’m the FHE group leader (if it’s not yet obvious, I’m in a singles ward), the people in my group aren’t required to come prepared on Monday night. I’m the one that has to prepare.

    Similarly, teachers should make ample preparation for a lesson and thoughtfully (and prayerfully) prepare something that will uplift and enlighten all.

    I’ve long since grown tired of teachers who do exactly as you say – going person to person, down the row to read an entire chapter, or pass out cut-out lesson snippets.

    I have a teacher right now that doesn’t give any response when somebody comments. She just nods her head, saying “thanks!” That stifles any hope of discussion and dialogue, since she instead just moves on to the next verse to read without any depth or analysis. Booooooring.

    In a nutshell, I wholeheartedly agree with you. The responsibility is that of the teacher’s to prepare a lesson worth sitting through.

    Comment by Connor Boyack — July 1, 2006 @ 8:19 pm

  2. “In a nutshell, I wholeheartedly agree with you. The responsibility is that of the teacher’s to prepare a lesson worth sitting through”

    Amen.

    Comment by Kristian — July 1, 2006 @ 10:48 pm

  3. So I’m sitting w/ my cousin at Stadium of Fire tonight in Provo, and he mentions to me that he has a lesson to teach tomorrow (9am church) and hasn’t prepared his lesson at all.

    Oh, the agony……….

    Comment by Connor Boyack — July 2, 2006 @ 2:10 am

  4. I agree – the student’s responsibility to be prepared is largely for his own benefit, so the teacher can teach to a high level without having to explain every piddly little point that the majority of the audience should be familiar with.

    It is particularly the responsibility of new members (and others who have hardly bothered) to study and be prepared to appreciate a serious discussion or elaboration of doctrinal principles from the scriptures, not just a repetition of standard Sunday School pabulum.

    So perhaps the best way to get students to prepare is not to speak down to them, but rather lift them up by causing them to stretch beyond their ordinary comfort zone. That requires considerable preparation on the part of the teacher – a teacher who is not a serious or aspiring student of the scriptures is hardly worthy of the job.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 2, 2006 @ 4:38 pm

  5. Also, teachers should remember the principle of proportionality – i.e. if he or she prepares for one hour, that is worth many hours of preparation on the part of her students collectively. Churchill used to spend forty to one hundred hours preparing his speeches because he understood that very principle. Talk about returns to investment!

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 2, 2006 @ 4:42 pm

  6. I guess I’ll split the responsibility. The best classes I’ve ever had were 800 level seminars where both the teacher and the students were thoroughly prepared and engaged.

    I don’t see why this can’t be the case in GD.

    That said, I think the second most significant factor in a really good GD class is its size. I think smaller is better, down to about six-eight students.

    Comment by Mogget — July 3, 2006 @ 9:54 am

  7. I’ve long since grown tired of teachers who do exactly as you say – going person to person, down the row to read an entire chapter, or pass out cut-out lesson snippets.

    What do you suggest if the students haven’t prepared or read the material? Not much else to do but spend some class time going over the material.

    Quite frankly, cut-outs are a step up for many classes.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — July 4, 2006 @ 11:03 am

  8. “a teacher who is not a serious or aspiring student of the scriptures is hardly worthy of the job”
    Of course, they didn’t ask for the job, and they’re probably, most I know are, really stretching into their callings. I don’t know too many times where I’ve known of someone gets called to be a gospel Doctrine teacher without having studied the scriptures in some depth.
    Stephen M,
    I’m with you. A teacher can certainly prepare as well as she wants to, but if the class hasn’t prepared, the only alternatives are reading or entertainment. You can talk all you want about the material, but if the class hasn’t read it, they won’t understand, so you either pull snippets or quotes, or you do a little song and dance and bring in visuals or music. You try breaking things up into such small chunks that you can throw out scripture sound bites. If people haven’t read the material, and recently, mind you (nearly no one has the old testament down well enough to really ponder it without a recent re-reading), there can be no real broad discussion of the principles invovled in the lesson. Anyone who thinks teaching is a one way experience hasn’t taught much, I would think. Even lecture is a precess with feedback, like acting a bit.

    Comment by Steve H — July 4, 2006 @ 12:28 pm

  9. I think it’s only a matter of time before Sunday School is discontinued altogether and we won’t have to worry about it.

    Comment by annegb — July 5, 2006 @ 1:50 pm

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