teaching Primary

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Momma Snider
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teaching Primary

Postby Momma Snider » Sat 01 Dec, 2007 04:58 pm

I almost put this on the "inappropriate" thread, because I don't want to be the inappropriate one, and I'm looking for discussion. But I didn't want to derail that thread, so here I am.

As I've said, I teach the Valiant 9 class. There are now 13 of them, with different backgrounds, although the vast majority of them have been members all their lives. Four of them have been baptized in the past six months, but all of their parents are long-time members, just not active until recently.

Okay, so that's the background. My dilemma comes when I'm teaching particular principles or practices of the Church. I mentioned a couple of months ago about teaching about tithing, and only one of the kids had ever paid tithing, which I found to be quite bizarre. Just last week we were talking about keeping the Sabbath holy, with regards to our friends making fun of us for our beliefs. I mentioned having to miss a soccer game because it's on Sunday, and they all looked at me blankly. Okay, that's a personal (family) decision, so I backed off. Then I mentioned going to a swimming party on Sunday, something specifically mentioned in the lesson, and I was given all kinds of stories about how if it's your cousin's party it's okay, etc. Okay, so then I brought up shopping on Sunday, something the prophet has specifically asked us not to do. And sure enough, I got all the details. One family only stops on the way home from church, they wouldn't make a special trip. Another stops on the way TO church to buy things for his sister's Primary lesson. Several mentioned having to get gas because otherwise they wouldn't have enough to drive to church and back.

So here's what I'd like to hear some opinions about: On the one hand, I don't want to tell them their families are sinners. On the other hand, I was called to teach them the Gospel, and if I have an opportunity to teach them something they're not learning elsewhere, I have that responsibility.

What I did last week was told them their parents have the right to make decisions for the family, but that they should keep these things in mind when it's time for them to make their own decisions. I also told them it probably wouldn't be inappropriate for them to ask, "Should we be doing this on Sunday?" I hope none of them comes to church with a black eye or something because of it.

So what do you think? I'd really like some input from other teachers and also from parents of Primary kids and parents of older kids and some non-parents.

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WiseNLucky
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Postby WiseNLucky » Sun 02 Dec, 2007 05:07 am

MommaS,

You are correct that you have the responsibility to teach correct principles in your class. I think you are doing the right thing by not emphasizing that the parents are doing something wrong, but that we each have the responsibility to make decisions and that we will be blessed for making the right ones. Accentuate the positive. :)

If parents punish their children for asking questions about the lessons they have learned in Primary, well, I just don't want to think about that. I believe that every parent brings their child to church and Primary because they want them to learn the gospel. Sometimes a push from a child might be enough to get a parent to repent. I absolutely do not think that any parent would begrudge you teaching the truth to their child as long as you didn't focus on the "your parents are BAD" part.

If the kids are doing things they shouldn't, and they begin to worry about that in class, it gives you a good opportunity to teach about repentance and the miracle of forgiveness.

Hang in there!

Edited to add: I'm a Primary teacher and most of my kids have Dads in the Bishopric and one's Mom is RS President while another's is Primary President. I have discovered that those families struggle with issues like we all do so there is no reason not to teach the truth - the kids mostly know it anyway.
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Momma Snider
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Postby Momma Snider » Sun 02 Dec, 2007 10:38 am

Thanks, Wise! I think you're right that the kids mostly know it anyway. And I was hoping I'd give enough categories of people I'd like opinions from that you'd feel like answering! I will try to focus more on the blessings of obedience for each individual, and that will help.

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Postby InOregon » Sun 02 Dec, 2007 06:25 pm

Momma, I've been thinking a lot about this since you first posted it and trying to figure out how to respond. I have two thoughts:

First, we had a lesson in Relief Society several weeks ago that had the teacher making a list of "Good" and "Bad" Sunday activities. I always feel uncomfortable when we do things like that because I feel like it justifies being judgmental. There were some things on the "Bad" list that my family likes to do on Sundays and there were things on the "Good" list that we never do.

I grew up in a home where we had to stay in our church clothes all day on Sunday and could only read the scriptures or play quiet games with each other.

Now, in my own home, we nap, play games, watch TV, go on walks, visit with family, and plenty of other things that I was never allowed to do as a kid. I prefer to make Sunday a family day where we enjoy each other's company and do things that strengthen our family bonds. (Napping doesn't fall into those categories except to provide two parents who aren't grumpy for the entire day.)

My point is that Sunday activities can be different for every family and I believe it's up to the parents to make the choices that are best for their family.

That said, here's my second thought, in the form of an anecdote:

Our ward has switched buildings four times in the last ten years. Before we switched to our most recent building, the drive between our home and our ward building passed by a dozen different fast food restaurants. On Fast Sunday, that drive was difficult, especially the times when I didn't have anything specific planned for dinner. (My Sunday dinner philosophy is leftovers and paper plates so nobody has to do any work.)

One such Fast Sunday, McSatan's was having a 2/$1 cheeseburger special and on the way home from church, I ordered the husband to hang a left so we could take advantage of it. We were pulling into the drive through, when my then 9 year old son piped up and said, "Is this keeping the Sabbath Day holy?"

I believe we still got the cheeseburgers (after all, we were already in the drive through)(and I'd been thinking about those cheeseburgers since I'd noticed the special on the way to church)(and I was hungry), but the guilt stayed with me for a while.

I don't know if either of those thoughts help you.
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Postby Momma Snider » Sun 02 Dec, 2007 07:12 pm

Yeah, I really don't want to be judgmental, and I know I wouldn't have liked it if my kids told me I was misbehaving. (I got enough of that when they started school and every sentence began with "Teacher said...")

I think the reason I've been thinking so much about it is the four newly baptized girls. There are a lot of things they just haven't learned yet. Like one Fast Sunday, one of the girls asked if I'd brought treats, and I said, "No, I don't bring them on Fast Sunday." A few minutes later, she asked, in some confusion, "Fast food Sunday?" So I explained a little bit about fasting and fast offerings and stuff. Another one was shocked when we talked about the Word of Wisdom and she found out we don't drink coffee and tea. (I'm sure the missionaries covered it, but a nine-year-old wouldn't have been paying much attention at that point.) So I taught about the W of W, not getting into any of the gray areas or matters of opinion, just telling them that their families might have other rules about what they should and shouldn't eat.

I guess my line of thinking is that every family needs to make their own decisions, and make exceptions when they feel good about it, but if the kids don't realize they are making exceptions, they grow up and make exceptions to the exceptions.

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fairyshasha
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Postby fairyshasha » Sun 02 Dec, 2007 10:18 pm

I've been thinking about this too. You have 4 kids in the same boat. I don't think it's inappropriate at all to get a bit sidetracked to make sure they know what's going on in the lesson. I know there are other kids in the class too, but they're not going to be hurt by a review.

There are a lot of things that are up to the families discretion. But I think you are asking about things that are commandments. So, I agree with the others. You teach the principle without placing blame.

The important thing is to teach the principle. More than it's important to teach all the little facts. i.e. it's nice to know all the names of Nephis brothers and their birth order etc... but it's vital to know the results of righteous and unrighteous behavior. If they don't know enough to be able to grasp the principle then you may need to do some brief backing up. They're 9, now is when they learn these things.

This is my fourth year teaching this age girls. One year I had a class where there were many issue; a dying parent, divorce where the Dad let the kids do highly inappropriate things (truly) and many other problems I just won't go into here. For that class I gave them all notebooks. They could take notes in it. If I had a handout they pasted it in, a written activity was written there. The most important part was the question section. If they had a question or concern they didn't feel comfortable asking in class they wrote it in the book. The books were turned into me. I would write my answer which they could read the next Sunday...or I could talk about it more in class (if it was a common concern). At the end of the year they got to keep the book.

My other suggestion is you could visit each childs home. It could help give you a good idea of where they are coming from. Make an appointment, take a plate of cookies etc... Or you can wait until the new year (if like me you will have the same kids.) and approach it as a "fresh start" kind of thing. Maybe they have questions or concerns themselves. Often the parents are wondering how their child is doing in class. If they fit in etc...

Some of your lessons won't go as planned. My first week with a class I was teaching a lesson about the Plan of Salvation. A new child asked me who Joseph Smith was. Obviously, I had to backtrack. I might not let them all give their example of what they do that is incorrect. It takes up the time and confuses the kids. Maybe just say..."I know everyone has something to say about this. I'm going to teach you what the scriptures say." Save the comment time for when they are sharing or asking something that is helpful to them and/or the class.

I can tell you really care about them. You'll figure it all out.
I had a baby this year. Three girls total now!

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Postby WiseNLucky » Mon 03 Dec, 2007 04:37 am

InOregon wrote:First, we had a lesson in Relief Society several weeks ago that had the teacher making a list of "Good" and "Bad" Sunday activities. I always feel uncomfortable when we do things like that because I feel like it justifies being judgmental. There were some things on the "Bad" list that my family likes to do on Sundays and there were things on the "Good" list that we never do.


This is a great point. While some activities are clearly black and others are white, these combined are fewer than the myriad of activities that are in the gray area. I enjoy watching football on Sunday, and I do not feel bad about it, but I know some families exclude that from their list of appropriate Sunday activities. Each family should be free to decide what sorts of activities they will or will not do on Sunday, within reason. If parents take it too far, however, they will turn the sabbath day into a form of torture rather than an uplifting experience. That could result in long-term negative consequences.

On the topic of naps - I could swear that a fairly recent conference talk mentioned them as appropriate for the sabbath day. I rarely go without mine. I'll see if I can find it.

I appreciate having you all here to talk about this stuff in a non-judgmental atmosphere.
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Postby Card » Mon 03 Dec, 2007 02:18 pm

WiseNLucky wrote:On the topic of naps - I could swear that a fairly recent conference talk mentioned them as appropriate for the sabbath day. I rarely go without mine. I'll see if I can find it.


Yes. I remember one like that. It was possibly in the late 90s.

Elder Oaks just gave a CES broadcast talk about keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. It's relatively hard to find because the main lds.org website doesn't have the links working properly so you can listen to it. The only place I've found it is here. (About halfway through is when he starts talking about the Sabbath. Prior to that, he is tells people to date and Sister Oaks also speaks.) It's one of those talks that addresses more of what you should do. If I recall correctly, he said that sleeping all day is not keeping the Sabbath Day holy. I can totally understand a differentiation between a nap and sleeping for the entire day.

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Postby Momma Snider » Tue 04 Dec, 2007 05:09 pm

Yes, sir or madam, I have definitely heard from official sources that napping on Sunday is appropriate. If it wasn't, they'd have to fire most of the high priests and half of the elders for falling asleep in sacrament meeting.

By the way, fairy, I will NOT have the same Primary class next year!!! (!!!) The only thing that got me through this year was knowing that they'd move on. Individually, they're mostly great kids, but 13 is too many for this old grouch. The boys giggle uncontrollably the whole time, and two of the girls always have a story to tell, whether it fits what I just asked or not. One tiny girl is perfect, and I know she listens, but she's too shy to express herself. Luckily, she's the one I'm absolutely sure is being taught what she needs at home, and doesn't even need Primary lessons. The rest are mostly very bright and knowledgeable, but boy, do they wear me out!

Next year's class has three sweet boys and about four girls, including my own granddaughter, and they all seem really obedient and smart. It will be a whole different world.

Back on the subject of feeling guilty or feeling judged, though, here's my thought. If hearing someone say you should do something differently makes you feel guilty, then look within and see if you need to change something. But if it just makes you feel judged, forget it. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, as long as you feel you're doing what's right. It doesn't even matter enough to justify feeling offended or hurt or angry; it is totally insignificant. Just be sure to differentiate within yourself whether you're feeling righteous guilt or unrighteous judgment.

I guess now I have to clarify that I don't mean guilt is good if it makes you feel bad about yourself. That's not Heavenly Father's way. But the little pangs I'm talking about, where you think, "I could do better on that, and will try to do so from now on," are constructive.

Where I tend to have the most trouble is when I hear something that I know I need to improve, but I also feel someone is judging me about it. I get very stubborn and don't want to change anything, just because it's none of their business. Don't be like me.

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Postby RenLass » Wed 05 Dec, 2007 10:10 am

Momma: I guess now I have to clarify that I don't mean guilt is good if it makes you feel bad about yourself. That's not Heavenly Father's way. But the little pangs I'm talking about, where you think, "I could do better on that, and will try to do so from now on," are constructive.
Righteous guilt versus unrighteous judgement. I like that. Meaning righteous feelings of "I'm uncomfortable with this - what is Heavenly Father trying to tell me versus unrighteous judgement of "Great, one more thing to do! Now I'll for sure never make it to heaven"

It remends me, momma of a time when we had a couple as our sunday school teacher. They drove us CRAZY! It was bad enough that we had to suffer through their preaching and puffing up at testimony meetings but then we had to suffer through another hour of it afterwards. One Sunday you and I were thinking about just skipping the class, but then you paused and said something like "No, that would be way too easy for Satan" and you walked into class. I guiltily followed you but I pondered that thought for a long time. We're supposed to go to our meetings, but because of extreme personal dislike for my teacher I was going to hand over a small victory to Satan without his hardly having to try.

That thought came to me again a few weeks ago as I was thinking of just going home and taking a nap because I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. You never know how long your simple words can influence a person for good. So teach the truth. If a student says their family doesn't do that it's OK to say that each family has to choose for themself what is right for them, but maybe you could encourage them to go home and talk to their parents about and see if as a family they might want to make changes.
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Re: teaching Primary

Postby ImAdhis » Wed 12 Dec, 2007 06:49 pm

Momma Snider wrote:So here's what I'd like to hear some opinions about: On the one hand, I don't want to tell them their families are sinners. On the other hand, I was called to teach them the Gospel, and if I have an opportunity to teach them something they're not learning elsewhere, I have that responsibility.


Just teach them the principles. Kids, in general, want to do the right thing.

Among other things, I learned in Primary that stealing was wrong. When I was 7, I caught my mother shoplifting and told her that it was wrong to do it. She tried rationalizing to me that the object was for me and my sister and that it was only such-and-such cents. I again told her it was wrong and that God didn't want us to steal.

She angrily put the item back and said "Why do you have to be such a goody-goody?!" It was painful for me to hear then and to remember years later, but I also learned from that experience that I wasn't afraid to do what was right even if the people around me (and the people who were supposed to be teaching me better) hurt me.
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