Young children need teachers who 'care, share and prepare'

During this year as we Focus on Children, we must renew our dedication and commitment to ensure that all children are taught and helped to apply and live the gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the goals of Focus on Children is to give children quality gospel teaching. Quality gospel teaching comes from quality teachers.

This includes anyone who touches the life of a child. Teachers, therefore, are parents, brothers and sisters, Primary teachers and leaders, neighbors, priesthood leaders, home teachers and visiting teachers.Quality gospel teachers love the Lord and are obedient to His word and teachings. They concern themselves with teaching in such a way that children develop a moral and spiritual lifestyle patterned after that of the Savior's. Quality teachers not only teach children to choose the right, but also why and how to choose the right in a world where they are bombarded with constant evil.

To minister to and teach the children of our Heavenly Father, we need teachers who will care, share and prepare. Let's break these three actions down further and describe quality teachers:

Quality teachers care about each individual child. They seek to really know and unconditionally love each child. We must never forget that " . . . the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." (D&C 18:10.) The adage, "I don't care what you know until I know how much you care" is a truism. Children respond to teachers when they feel they truly care for them as individuals. At the end of one year a teacher asked her class what the most important thing was they had learned that year, and one child enthusiastically replied, "That you love me."

Sometimes it is the ones that are hardest to love that need it the most, but we must remember the Savior's admonition to "love one another" as He loves us. (John 13:34.) Children need to sense a teacher's love in many ways, such as hearing the words, "I love you," receiving notes that say, "I love you," and any deeds that transfer this message to children. In 1 John 3:18, John recalled the Savior's admonition to us, " . . . let us not love in word . . . but in deed. . . ."

Quality teachers care about involving children in lessons and in applying gospel principles. Quality teaching means children experience that which is being taught and are involved in practicing the principle. Role playing and dramatizations are excellent ways to involve children; they have a chance to try out roles or see scripture stories really come to life. Children will remember better the courage of Daniel because they were Daniel or another character in the story. Other effective ways to involve children include discussions, small-group interactions, panel discussions, questions, stories that children participate in telling, and games.

Quality teachers care for and are sensitive to the individual needs of the less-active children and seek for specific ways to invite and include them. Sometimes it is more appropriate to involve the children in extending a hand of fellowship. Perhaps a friend could take a balloon with a message inside that includes the main idea from the lesson along with an invitation for the child to come next time. On other occasions a phone call, mailed note, or a brief home visit help the child to feel missed and to feel a sense of inclusion.

Quality gospel teachers recognize the importance of sharing gospel truths. Jesus said, "And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it." (3 Ne. 27:10.) One December Sunday several years ago I visited a ward and sat behind two Valiant girls. For Sharing Time the Primary leader told a fantasy story that was not based on gospel truths. As the leader finished the story, one of the girls leaned over to the other one and questioned, "Was that a true story?" The other girl said, "Oh yes! Everything they teach in Primary is always true." All teachers must recognize the great responsibility they have to teach truths. Children expect it!

Quality teachers share the gospel and how to live it by the way they live; they are an example of the behavior standard they teach. Children learn so much from observing significant people in their environment. Children are told in Mosiah to " . . . trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments." (Mosiah 23:14.)

Quality teachers share their testimony and feelings about the gospel often. Feelings are caught and not taught. Years after children leave Primary or their home, they will not remember every specific lesson or principle that was ever taught, but they will remember how Primary teachers, parents or other influential teachers made them feel. They will recall the spiritual feelings stirred within them as they both heard and felt the spirit of a testimony shared.

Children need teachers who can bear witness of the divinity of our Heavenly Father and His Son. All children need teachers who continually remind them of their personal divinity; that they are literally children of a loving Father in Heaven. Each child must hear the truth - he or she is a child of God - often enough that it is firmly rooted in both mind and heart. This truth alone can assure children of their intrinsic value and eternal worth.

Quality teachers share a positive attitude. They realize how fortunate they are to be a teacher of the children of our Heavenly Father. They recognize their role in the life of a child as a privilege and responsibility. When teachers enjoy teaching, children in turn enjoy learning.

Quality teachers prepare and read lessons ahead of time so they can make an effort to personally apply and live that gospel principle, preparing to bear witness of its impact in their lives.

Quality teachers prepare lessons so well that they can give them more from their heart and mind than from the lesson manual. A story told in their own words has much more interest and effect than one read from the manual.

Quality teachers prepare by seeking, listening to and then heeding the promptings of the Spirit of the Lord. We have been told, "Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit." (D&C 43:15.) Teachers of His children are entitled - if worthy - to receive personal revelation that will help them in their teaching.

Quality teachers prepare themselves for teaching and prepare their lessons by reading, studying and pondering the scriptures and the messages of the living prophets. Answers for specific challenges they are facing in their teaching will often come as they read and study the scriptures. They will be more in tune with the Spirit as they prepare in this context.

Quality teachers are humble and teachable. They continually prepare to be better teachers and to improve their teaching skills. They are particularly interested in making what they teach developmentally appropriate, interesting and relevant for the children. They are dependable and arrive at their meetings with time to prepare their classrooms.

Teachers give great time and effort as they prepare their lessons. They deserve instructional materials that are well-prepared and organized. Available through Church distribution centers are wonderful visual aids, videos, tapes and other materials that will strengthen gospel lessons. Many teachers are called to teaching positions and have never taught before. They deserve orienting, training and support as they develop the characteristics and attributes that will enable them to provide quality teaching. All teachers need to be affirmed and recognized for the work they do. Notes of appreciation, a verbal thank you, or even a pat on the back can help them to feel that their efforts have been beneficial and appreciated.

But quality teaching does not only depend on teachers; children have some responsibilities also. Parents and others in children's lives can encourage these little ones to do the following:

Come to lessons with a desire to learn and participate. A child's thoughts and comments are important and valuable.

If they can read, children should come with their scriptures in hand. Most lessons will include scripture references or stories that can be read along as the teacher or another class member reads. When children follow along in their scriptures they can get used to marking those scriptures that they wish to have stand out. Also, seeing and hearing the words help them understand them better than just hearing them.

Come to a lesson intent on listening. Listen to understand the truths of the gospel.

Pray for the Spirit to touch and teach them those things that have been prepared for them.

As they learn from the lessons, they can think of specific ways to apply in their lives the principles taught. They can ask, "What will I now begin to do or not do because of what I now know and understand?"

When the Savior visited the Nephite people He taught them by example and precept many things, one of which was how to care for and teach children. It is interesting that as He called the little children to come to Him and then knelt in the midst of them, His words were evidently so sacred that they were not recorded. However, it was recorded that "the eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father; And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father." (3 Ne. 17:16-17.) This confirms to us the great love our Savior has for children and His great desire that they be cared for and taught in His way.

After weeping, the Savior implored the Nephite people and all of us to "behold your little ones." (3 Ne. 17:23.) What I think the Savior meant was to recognize the great and infinite worth of children; to teach, love, guide and minister to them that they might one day return to His presence. The only way to do this is to provide quality teaching experiences that children might learn and then do that which He wants them to do. We must work and act in their behalf; we must be their advocates.

Quality teaching brings with it a promise from the Savior: "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children." (3 Ne. 22:13.)

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