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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Come Now, Tell the Truth, Do You Teach To Impress? » Come Now, Tell the Truth, Do You Teach To Impress?

Come Now, Tell the Truth, Do You Teach To Impress?

Rusty - September 29, 2006

In an interesting thread at FMH, commenter Lyndsey says (speculating why RS lessons are better than EQ lessons) “…men generally do not care if the other brothers are impressed by how much time they took to prepare the lesson because they realize that the men wouldn’t notice anyway. The women overly plan to impress.”

This got me thinking. For the most part EQ classes have always generally felt like the guy read over the material during Sacrament Meeting (and makes the class do a lot of reading straight from the manual). I often hear from my wife about how fantastic the RS lesson was (and have been told how much preparation is put into them). This can’t be a gender thing because I’ve had countless excellent lessons in GD taught by guys (as well as women). Could it really be the audience?

I’ve done my fair share of teaching in the church and I’d consider myself a pretty decent teacher, so after reading what Lyndsey said I had to ask myself, what is my motivation? Do I devote my weeknights and Saturday to the lesson because of the good feelings I get when people approach me after the lesson telling me how much they enjoyed/learned from it (not just the “nice lesson” variety but the ones that have something sincere to say about it)? Because lemme tell ya, that feels really good. So does creating an engaging discussion where everyone is paying attention and participating. So does witnessing that light go on in someone’s head when they see something in a way they never had before. (And for what it’s worth, this doesn’t change if I’m only teaching men.)

I guess it comes down to why I want those experiences. Do I want to witness that light go on in the student’s head because it validates me as a good teacher or do I want to witness it because I truly care that the student is learning? Because that is the difference between teaching to impress and teaching for learning. I’d like to think that for me it’s always the latter but I’m probably wrong. And that’s sad.


  1. I think it’s ok for it to be both. Doing a good job at something increases your feeling of self-worth. That’s ok. It’s just not ok for pride to be your prime motivator. You should care more about the students taking something valuable away from your class than you should anything else.

    I gave a talk in SM once where I had nothing written out beforehand except some scriptures I wanted to reference. I’d prayed about whether I should write out a talk or wing it, and the answer I got was to wing it. So that’s what I did. I enjoy public speaking, when I can plan out a talk and rehearse it, etc. I delivered the talk and afterwards I felt like I’d done *such* a bad job. It was all over the place, no structure, no cohesion, it seemed like just a bunch of random things came out of my mouth. I was really bummed about it. But several people came up to me afterwards to tell me I’d said exactly what they needed to hear. My husband later told me that he could see different people reacting to different things I touched on (I guess they were crying).

    It’s funny that by the typical rules of public speaking, my talk was a failure. I think some teachers can focus too much on what they think a good lesson should be rather than what people need to hear.

    Comment by Susan M — September 29, 2006 @ 4:03 pm

  2. Yep. All the time.

    Comment by Ronan — September 29, 2006 @ 4:04 pm

  3. Yes, I sometimes do. But this is one of the reasons I love EQ so much… rather than being some elaborately prepared lesson, it ends up being a discussion where everybody participates and learns together.

    I have found most of my EQs highly enjoyable because of this group participation. Or perhaps it’s due to the lack of doilies, flower arrangements, and colored paper announcements plastered all over the walls.

    Comment by Connor Boyack — September 29, 2006 @ 4:58 pm

  4. I’m not sure that I aim to impress as much as just not wanting to look like a fool with bad questions and obvious points(cause lemme tell ya, it feels really bad). Maybe that’s the same as wanting to impress. Also, as far as RS goes, from what I hear, the teachers have to prepare or they’ll get eaten alive by the lesson dominators.

    Comment by cj douglass — September 29, 2006 @ 5:23 pm

  5. Well, I start teaching Relief Society class on Oct. 8, so I guess we’ll find out.

    I hope I don’t. I’m not very impressive with my knowledge anyway, but I do hope that I’ll prepare a better lesson than what usually goes on. this isn’t out of pride. it’s just out of boredom.

    Comment by meems — September 29, 2006 @ 8:26 pm

  6. I’m definitely the same. My problem is that I often go too deep either to sound impressive or becuase that’s the stuff I’ve gained so much about lately and assume everyone else would too. This is only sometimes true. I usually need to do as Susan pointed out and focus on trying to figure out what people need to hear.

    Oh, and at least in some singles wards I’ve attended, GD is better because guys try to sound more impressive in front of the girls. Too bad too because that often intimidates girls from adding to the discussion.

    Comment by Bret — September 29, 2006 @ 9:52 pm

  7. If one has a good scripture to back up his or her point, and it is relevant to the discussion, why in the world should anyone be intimidated? The scriptures very often teach something different than conventional wisdom on a subject. And if one wants to have the Spirit echo the wisdom of his or her words, the word of God is the way to go, not the arm (or mind) of the flesh alone. No one can gainsay the scriptures.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 29, 2006 @ 10:25 pm

  8. I totally want to impress–so I get angry at myself and go utilitarian. Mostly I successfully avoid teaching.

    Comment by Johnna — September 29, 2006 @ 11:11 pm

  9. This talk by Eldar Bednar is very appropriate to the question:

    Seek Learning by Faith

    Comment by GeorgeD — September 30, 2006 @ 6:11 am

  10. I love to teach. I do it for money (but not in the church, ha ha.) I hate sitting through a boring lesson. I HATE IT. So, I wish all teachers taught to impress. Then I’d be impressed and go home feeling good.

    There is a certain teacher in EQ who teaches a lesson once a month. I skip the first 10 minutes to avoid the overbearing guilt trip he puts the class through for not bring their manuals. (I never bring mine.) After ten minutes, I return and take my seat usually to wish that I had stayed outside to get the fresh air and see the sunshine and trees. THAT is far more spiritually uplifting than sitting in that stuffy room listening to passages being read from the manual.

    Really, these manuals are not “teacher-friendly.” Unless you are a skilled teacher, what in the world can you do with these lessons. It is nothing but page and page of text. It practically calls out, “READ ME, READ ME OUT LOUD IN ELDER’S QUORUM CLASSES!!!” I think perhaps the point in introducing this new curriculum was to get the teachers to work a little harder, go from the spirit more, in their class preparation. And that is happening, but it depends on the teachers.

    Even with the tighter controls over curriculum, there are still a few members who manage to teach false doctrine. My jaw dropped when a newly returned missionary told us that God, despite having progressed to Godhood, is still being tempted to sin. It is just that he is so perfect he nevers gives in. I thought to myself, “Goodness! If I have to suffer temptation for an eternity, I’d rather just give in to it now and put myself out of misery!!”

    The theological conundrums implied by such an outlandish statement apparently were never thought through by this young man. If God suffers temptation, that means there is a power independent from and possibly greater than He. And that power would be the source of temptation: either a physically imperfect body or Satan.

    I just close my eyes and shake my head sometimes.

    I wonder how much false doctrine I have taught. Hmmmmmmmm.


    Comment by John Cline — September 30, 2006 @ 8:59 am

  11. I like the compliments after class. I like seeing things click.

    But most of all, I must admit, I like throwing out ideas that make everyone a bit uncomfortable.

    Kinda like my blogging motivation sometimes….

    Comment by Seth R. — September 30, 2006 @ 3:49 pm

  12. I very much enjoy compliments after teaching a class or giving a talk. But I like to think that receiving compliments is not my primary motivation. Especially when teaching a class my motivation is to lead a discussion that is engaging, allows people to learn about the gospel, get to know each other, and be spiritually and intellectually stimulated so that they enjoy coming to class and are more likely to attend in the future. This was more on my mind in m previous ward, where I was EQP and really worried about the quality of the lessons, both those that I taught and those that others were teaching. I wanted the EQ meeting to be more appealing than being a hall dweller. In my current ward I’m tempted to be a hall dweller, especially when somebody pops in a video tape. I think I blogged on that here at some point…

    Comment by a random John — September 30, 2006 @ 9:56 pm

  13. The idea that God is tempted by sin isn’t really a clear issue. I’d put it in the neutral camp. Some think that for God to be God he has to always be making a free choice not to sin and for it to be a real choice the sin has to be a real option. Others find this blasphemous.

    I suppose the way to characterize it is to ask whether Jesus was fully God and whether he was tempted. If you say yes then the issue shouldn’t be a big deal.

    Back on topic, can I confess that PH is the only lessons I find interesting because it’s the only place where a real discussion with a variety of opinions happen? I can’t recall a lesson where someone just reads the manual since my mission. I’d take PH over SS any day of the week. Since in SS if you have done your reading it typically (although not always) is a waste of time. PH always seems much more practical and laid back. i.e. it’s not really about how much you know or, as you said, to impress, but how to actually do things.

    Comment by Clark Goble — October 1, 2006 @ 11:23 am

  14. My wife hears about the minor debates that occur in EQ and is always a bit jealous since disagreeing with someone in RS is absolutely forbidden, of course.

    Comment by Seth R. — October 1, 2006 @ 3:33 pm

  15. “For the most part EQ classes have always generally felt like the guy read over the material during Sacrament Meeting”

    I count myself lucky then. Our EQ isn’t like this at all and I cannot remember the last time we had a lesson where the instructor did nothing but make everyone read from the lesson.

    Comment by Kim Siever — October 2, 2006 @ 12:52 pm

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