Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Toughest Calling Yet

A few weeks ago I was released from my calling as the Relief Society Activity Such and Such. I can never remember the full title because it's very silly and much too long. Anyway, I was what they used to call the Enrichment leader before it became called the longest calling in our church.
My new calling is a Sunday School Teacher to the 14 year olds in our ward. I was excited about my new calling because it's a change and it means that I no longer have to plan a party for about 40 women every month. I loved my old calling. My organizational skills along with a super committee made it fun and rarely overwhelming. But, after planning the Relief Society Christmas dinner three times in a row, I was ready for a break.
This new calling is different. The old curriculum was lengthy and very literal. It said things like, "After telling the kids this story, you will now feel the Spirit." Okay, not really exactly like that...the new curriculum is about three sentences long. Okay, maybe not that short, but it's definitely short. Now, instead of being a teacher, I'm really Oprah Winfrey. I get to ask tough questions like, "How does that make you feel?" and challenge the kids when they give me answers like, "Say our prayers and go to church." So, I'm a little bit Oprah combined with an investigative journalist. I even get to make the kids feel really uncomfortable by saying nothing at all or commenting on the fact that I'm saying nothing at all, by saying, "What do you think?" Wait, wait, wait... "I'll just wait while you guys think about it."
I have discovered that even though they are teenagers, they still love stories. They remember them and reference them from previous weeks. The story lines are more complex and I only provide true life experiences, but I guess that in some ways we all still love a good story--no matter our age.
I have a really great class filled with smart, pretty respectful kids, so it's really not bad. It's fun to see their personalities revealed in their answers. When we had a discussion about reading scriptures once, one girl said, "Of course I read every day. We have a chart in seminary and I can't fall behind!" I could feel the guilt oozing out of her pores and saw my own to-do list, guilt driven self sitting right there. Her friend beside her said, "I know about that chart, but I'm behind. I'll catch up sometime." I saw someone who gets that she needs to get it done, but isn't going to be kept up at night with the guilt. Then, I heard some of the other kids say, "I don't read my scriptures at all." I wasn't quite sure how to keep the discussion friendly and yet not offer up some advice. I can't remember exactly what I said in the moment, but I think it was something along the lines of, "Well, we all have to start somewhere."
I really like the new format. I think that the youth are much too smart to be lectured to--not that all of us don't need a lecture from time to time. They have great ideas. They see things. They certainly can relate to each other if given the opportunity.
The trick for me is to figure out if they are feeling the Spirit while they are in my class. I hope so. As I expected from teenagers, they don't give me any feedback about my role. I hope they are coming prepared to feel the Spirit and I'm going to come prepared to try and listen to the Spirit, so we can all guide each other through this journey of learning.


rachel said...

Colby has said all of these things about the new youth curriculum. He is a VERY literal person. It's been tough for him. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just install a Spirit thermometer or something, that could help us track it. He struggles also with students with Autism that say they have a hard time feeling The Spirit. We have come to the conclusion that some of them have it with them so consistently that they don't feel a big "Influx" at church. I think some of us feel it stronger when things pertain to us and we need to change. When I taught this age group it was tough. I taught adult gospel doctrine for three months before my current calling. It was quite the humbling experience.I liked the teenagers better. It's hard to know what battles they are fighting. I bet you're awesome.

Lara said...

I like the new format, too. I don't have a calling that allows me to use it, but the Primary format for sharing time is similar. Joel has been YM president forever, and he has found the difference wonderful.

I was really struck by your description of the different guilt-driven attitudes in your class. Thanks for sharing's given me a lot to think about my own motivation. (Even though that isn't really what your blog was about!)