A preschooler asks where babies come from. A child proudly announces that she did exactly what you taught her last week when you told her the story from the manual—oh, not the part where the heroine chose the right, but the part where she sneaked out of bed and played until really late when she was supposed to be sleeping. A Sunbeam grabs the scissors you are using in a demonstration and tries to cut his seatmate's hair. A seven-year–old child spends the entire forty minutes of class time softly chanting swear words, just to see what you will do.
With decades of Primary teaching experience behind me, I have had all sorts of Primary days: glorious, average and bad. From the days when you feel like crying to the days when you just wonder why you bothered to show up, teaching Primary is not always the joyful experience we are promised it will be. Now you understand, I am passionate about Primary. I do everything in my power to stay firmly seated in a chair that is too small, and where scripture stories are still told with flannel boards. I consider it the most important, and the most fun, calling in the church. However, there are days….
Whenever speakers discuss the qualities needed to be a good Primary teacher, the usual list is offered: patience, love, godliness, a desire to share the gospel with little children. My own opinion is that the most important quality a Primary teacher needs is a sense of humor. At the end of class, before emailing my friend about my Sabbath Day, I review how the day went. At first, I sometimes find myself frustrated because it often seems, especially when I teach younger children, that I spend more time trying to get their attention, tying their shoes, settling their fights and listening to odd stories about their lives than I do teaching. Memories of the children fighting over a crayon or ripping my visual aids seem to dominate what happened in the course of a day. On days like this, I start over. I walk through the class in my mind once again and try to see it as a storyteller. How will I present this story to my friend? At that point, I generally notice that many of these events are actually pretty amusing. It doesn't seem funny when you're trying to figure out how NOT to explain where babies come from, but you realize it's one of those days you'll laugh about later…so why not now?
Why not find the humor, find the joy, and search out the tiny precious moments you will always remember right now, instead of a year from now? When we find our little treasures immediately, we look toward the next Sabbath with greater anticipation, knowing that we will come home with still more stories to record in our journals and our hearts.
Last week, I had a day where I wondered what the children told their parents when they were asked what happened in Primary. The lesson was an important one, but amidst the chaos of a day when the class was tired and fussy, the humor was hard to find. It seemed as if the gospel hadn't been presented to my little ones and I wondered if I had wasted their Sabbath. But that evening, a handmade card was delivered to my home. Inside was a picture of a little girl with shining, multi-colored hair. In the careful hand of a four-year-old just learning her letters were the words, "Sister Bittner, Thanks. I love you. Adeleine."
Maybe there was a lesson learned that day.
Love Is Spoken Here