Becoming a master teacher
"Thou art a teacher come from God" John 3:2
This site provides tools for improving and mastering teaching. Whether you are a first-time teacher or have years of experience, the ideas that follow can elevate your teaching so you can more effectively invite all to come unto Christ.
While you can apply some ideas immediately, other skills require deliberate practice and are learned with ongoing focus. To grow your skills, it is typically best to focus on one skill at a time and practice it rather than trying to do everything at once.
While many of the ideas are based on church publications, the ideas are solely the responsibility of Dave Jennings (firstname.lastname@example.org). To view official Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teaching manuals and videos go to Teaching in the Savior’s Way (churchofjesuschrist.org)
What's My joB?
Invite all to come unto Christ
Apply four pillars of Teaching in the Savior's Way
Create environment where every person feels more loved, heard, respected, and capable from having been with you and in your class.
"Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way and while he opened to the us the scriptures"? Luke 24:32
Teaching in the Savior's Way
Seek to know each person by name and their needs.
Create a space where people are heard, validated, respected and safe.
Seek to teach individuals, not get through the materials
Teach the doctrine
When preparing, ask yourself, "What is the core doctrine I am sharing?"
Make sure you tell people the core doctrine.
Invite diligent learning
Use valid resources, prepare great questions, focus on effective listening, and facilitate discussion and application.
Looking to Improve Your Teaching?
Start Mastering these Five Essential Teaching Skills
Understand your audience
Define objectives (This one helps everything else)
Build a lesson plan
Facilitate deeper learning and participation
Close with purpose
The videos below will help you apply the five essential skills with the four pillars of Teaching in the Savior's Way to create a place where the Spirit teaches with us.
overview essential skills
understand your audience
define the objective
build lesson plan
What to Avoid when Teaching
Giving a talk instead of a lesson
Trying to teach all the content in the lesson manual
Focusing on getting through the materials rather than focusing on people
Not giving enough time to think when you ask a question. People can easily need 15-20 seconds to prepare.
Using disrespectful analogies!
Avoid using a PowerPoints, unless its the best way to share info. You are the message. Not the slide!
Having to have the last word
Pouring advice on people when they ask a question or state a challenge. Instead, seek to understand them more deeply.
Exclusivity statements ("Those who have...been on missions, grown up in the church, been to the temple, who are converts, or who are members"). These statements imply superiority and exclude people with equally viable experiences.
Talking down about other groups or individuals.
Guess the list in my head or its wrong
Teaching opinions or tradition as doctrine
Validating only certain comments or individuals
Abandoning the need to prepare and teach in the name of "I'm facilitating." Facilitation requires better teaching, not less.
Making things political
I'm scared to death to teach. What can I do?
Fear is common with teachers at all levels. When you are doing something you do not do all the time, doubt is a normal response--even for experienced teachers on new topics. So, you have plenty of good company.
Most people teach well in spite of their fears, not because they lack them.
One way to reduce fear is understand the needs of the audience, create objectives, and plan the beginning, middle and end of your lesson. The more you think about the needs of the learners the less you need to worry if you will be good enough. This preparation reduces stress.
Another way to reduce fear is to realize that sharing the authentic experiences, questions, and efforts that you have had is enough. We don’t need perfection. We just need you.
How do I provide high value facilitation rather than just talk at people?
Teaching involves various skills. One skill is creating learner engagement through questions, activities, and discussions. This "facilitative" approach is in contrast to basically creating a talk and giving the talk as a lesson.
Facilitative teaching is a mindset that says, "my job is to help people think," rather than "my job is to inspire them with my great knowledge." This facilitative mindset does not mean that you can skip the need to study deeply and ignore the need to provide high value content. In fact, our job as a facilitative teacher is still to bring robust content to the discussion; yet in addition, we must create a place where people have time to wrestle with and internalize the ideas. So, facilitating actually means we need to be clearer about the objective and how we are going to help people get there.
The skills of facilitating include:
Know your objective and your content (if you don’t know the objective then you can have a wave of conversation that seems interactive yet actually creates no value)
Ask questions that help people think deeply and give them space to process ideas. (This usually takes planning out good questions)
Focus on listening and bringing out others' ideas (rather than sharing your opinion on each comment)
Choose activities that invite thought and discovery
Summarize key points to validate and clarify
Help people personalize and take action.
Different objectives will require different amounts of you sharing and the audience sharing. There is no cookie cutter approach to facilitating. It all depends on the needs of the learners and your objective.
To improve your facilitation abilities, choose one skill to improve on. When you have made progress, choose the next skill.
How do I manage participation of those who talk too much and those who do not participate?
Most lessons need a certain amount of input and discussion to move forward. However, not everyone enjoys participating. While others are ready to comment on every point. We need everyone.
We can sometimes confuse outward participation with learning. Some people participate in their mind and are thinking quite deep and personal thoughts. We cannot know how engaged someone is just because they are speaking or not. So our job is not to force outward participation but rather to invite involvement and to invite different types of participation: Large group discussion, small group interactions, and self-reflective participation.
To help people participate, provide good questions that deserve a thoughtful answer. Trite and obvious questions cause people to hold back. Also, give people time to think about answers before expecting a response. Warn them that in a minute you want input on a specific topic. Allow people to ponder or write down answers rather than share with the larger group. And, as appropriate, use pairs or trios so people do not have to expose their thinking to the larger group.
When people are sharing lots of information summarize what they say and then ask others for their input. In some cases, you may ask a highly participative person outside of class to help you make room for other voices.
What if a teacher is not teaching the doctrine?
Tactfully ask for more information on what leads them to their conclusions. Seek to fully understand their position. Once you understand and it still seems counter to the doctrine, you may share that you view that same information in a different way. In some groups it is perfectly OK to say "I understand the doctrine in this way…" and to have a discussion among the group. However, some individuals or groups may find this too blunt for the classroom. Respect the individual.
In all cases, avoid making a battle out of the differences. If there are serious concerns of teaching false doctrine or personal biases, you may want to approach the person outside of class or share your concerns with the appropriate leader.
Yes, if you are stuck we can help you. Really!!! Call, text , or email and lets talk through your lesson challenge.
Reminders for How Leader's
Can Support Teachers:
Provide each teacher with clear expectations for teaching based on the 4 pillars of Teaching in the Saviors Way: (Love those you teach, Seek the Spirit, Teach the doctrine, Invite diligent learning)
Provide ongoing reminders and instruction on how teachers can apply the 4 pillars of Teaching in the Saviors Way and the Essential Skills
Make sure teachers are clear on what they are teaching and when they are teaching it.
Provide direction on what to do if you cannot teach on your assigned day
Provide forum for teachers to learn from each other and solve problems
Encourage teachers to reach out to those who do not attend or have questions
Don't ask someone to prepare and then take up their teaching time with excessive announcements.
"Are we really nurturing our youth and our new members in a way that will sustain them when the stresses of life appear? Or are we giving them a kind of theological Twinkie—spiritually empty calories? ... the kind of thing you could eat all day and yet finish feeling totally unsatisfied."
Jeffery Holland, April Conference 1998
Reminders for Teachers
Invite all to come unto Christ relying upon the 4 pillars of Teaching in the Savior's Way (Love those you teach; Teach by the Spirit; Teach the doctrine; & Invite diligent learning).
Bearing testimony as appropriate.
Create an environment where people feel respected, heard, and safe to ask questions.
Apply the essential skills to support Teaching in the Savior's Way.
Reach out to those with questions and those who do not attend.
Pick one teaching skill to practice and intentionally get better at. Then pick another.
"May we exalt the teaching experience within the home and within the Church and improve our every effort to edify and instruct. In all of our meetings and all of our messages may we nourish by the good word of God. And may our children and new converts, our neighbors and new friends, say of our honest efforts, “Thou art a teacher come from God.”
Jeffery Holland, April Conference 1998