“Teaching Teens,” Ensign, Jan. 1994, 72–73
After years as a teacher, I have formulated some ways to work with adolescents in Church teaching situations.
The most important thing I have learned is the need for seeking the Spirit as I teach. Even though most of our teenagers are familiar with the basics of the gospel, they still need help understanding how the Restoration applies to them. The warmth of the Spirit can provide that help. I have learned that if I am in tune with the Spirit, I help set the mood of the classroom.
My preparation, my use of eye contact, and my respect for class members are all important ways of establishing an atmosphere of gospel learning. When I am well prepared, the Spirit is present and can have a calming or motivating influence on the class members. I also know how much young people want to be noticed, so I make it a point to look them in the eyes. And I show respect for them by using their names when I address them.
Also, I’ve discovered that if I explain the objectives of the lesson and sincerely tell the class of the lesson’s importance, the students will be more likely to listen. When they know there is a reason for what I am teaching them, they pay attention and respond with thought.
I’ve also found several things that help me maintain the mood I have established. Making eye contact with those who begin to disturb the class is a way to curb a problem before it happens. I also like to move around the room as I teach so I can be close to those who may be more energetic—because youth generally behave more appropriately when their teacher is in close proximity. Even placing a hand on a lively class member’s shoulder can help keep an atmosphere of learning. When young people are treated with respect and trust, they will usually respond in the same spirit.
Another great truth I’ve learned is to keep the class busy reading, discussing, or acting out a situation. It’s important to use variety to keep the learning atmosphere exciting.
After each lesson, I evaluate myself and put a number from one to ten next to the lesson topic. I identify areas for improvement as well as noting ideas that worked well. Because teaching takes time and thought, I’ve found that by building on past experiences, I continue to learn to create an atmosphere of interest in and excitement about gospel topics.—Debra Lacy, East Wenatchee, Washington