“Continuing to Improve as a Teacher,” Gospel Teaching and Learning: A Handbook for Teachers and Leaders in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion (2012), 78–79
“Continuing to Improve,” Gospel Teaching and Learning, 78–79
As teachers strive to implement the principles and methods described in this handbook, they should constantly but patiently work to improve. Teachers must learn principles of effective teaching and master effective teaching skills line upon line through study, faith, practice, and experience. There are many ways to evaluate teaching effectiveness and to receive feedback and assistance as to how to improve. Some things that will help teachers improve are formal, structured methods such as observation and feedback from peers, supervisors, or students. There are also informal ways such as listening to students, watching other teachers, or sharing ideas and experiences with colleagues.
One of the most valuable sources of feedback can be self-assessment under the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Elder Henry B. Eyring taught:
“After a class, you might find a moment to pray that you might see clearly what happened in the class and what happened in the lives of the students. You may do it your own way, but the way I like to do it is something like this: I ask, ‘Was there something I said or did, or that they said or did, that lifted them?’ …
“If you ask in prayer, humbly and in faith, you will sometimes—perhaps often—have moments during that class brought back to your memory of a look on a student’s face, or the sound in a student’s voice, or even the way the student sat up and leaned forward at some point in the lesson that will give you reassurance that they were lifted.
“But more important than that, it can give you the chance to learn. You can learn what happened in the classroom and, therefore, what you can do to bring those lifting experiences to your students again and again” (“Converting Principles” [remarks at an evening with Elder L. Tom Perry, Feb. 2, 1996], 2).
As teachers desire to improve and consistently work to teach in a way that is pleasing to Father in Heaven, He will inspire them in their preparation, strengthen their relationships with students, magnify their efforts in the classroom, and bless them with His Spirit to more fully accomplish His work. He will also help them see areas where they can progress as they strive to teach in a way that leads students to understand and rely on the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, the goal of every religious educator should be to represent as well as possible the Savior of the world as “a teacher come from God” (John 3:2). Speaking to a group of seminary and institute faculty, Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “The attributes which it has been my choice privilege to recognize in you brethren and sisters over [the] years are no more nor less than the image of the Master Teacher showing through. I believe that to the degree you perform, according to the challenge and charge which you have, the image of Christ does become engraved upon your countenances. And for all practical purposes, in that classroom at that time and in that expression and with that inspiration, you are He and He is you” (“The Ideal Teacher” [address to seminary and institute faculty, June 28, 1962], 5–6).
Teaching the gospel is the Lord’s work, and He wants seminary and institute teachers to succeed in that task. When teachers and leaders call on Him daily, they will feel that help come. He gives a promise to those who are striving to live and teach His gospel:
“Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men;
“For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.
“But a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall declare whatsoever thing ye declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things.
“And I give unto you this promise, that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say” (D&C 100:5–8).