Guest Author - Shannon Swanson
So, you have just started teaching your young men and young women (or maybe you have been teaching them for sometime now) but you sense that you haven’t developed the sort of relationship that allows for you to teach and for them to be taught as effectively as you would like.
There may still be the question asked without any response, the awkward silence, the passive attitude, the doodling, the whispering and giggling in the middle of class, etc. and maybe you are thinking, “It wasn’t that long ago that I was a teenager!” and may be surprised at how challenging it may be to bridge the gap between you without compromising your role as their teacher, mentor and youth leader.
Don’t Expect Too Much…
Teenagers are in an awkward stage. I don’t know how many times I have heard those who are teaching them in church complain that they are constantly asking questions and getting dead silence in return.
At this stage in life, it may not be “cool” for them to answer all the questions and know it all. But there still has to be some sort of communication or at least personal growth in class. For this, I would recommend my article “Journaling in Primary and Young Women’s” as a help.
But if you are really stuck, you may want to take a part of your class time to get to know each other better. Play a get-to-know-you game or any game. You may be surprised at how much it helps break the ice and helps the class flow better. And, of course, going to Mutual should help as well but another idea may be…
There have been studies done on teachers and classes that show that when the teacher expected more out of the class, the class followed through. The same can be applied here. Young men and young women know that they are not in Primary anymore and may not want to be treated as such. So instead, I have learned to talk to them as if I were talking to adults, only the issues are different.
I say this because I have had the complaint on more than one occasion where the teacher said that he/she asked the young women and young men to define what the priesthood is, for example, only to hear an awkward silence.
Although it is true that most should know by now what the “textbook” definition is of the Priesthood, there is more to it than that. Teens now also have the ability to think deeper. For them, regurgitating information may be boring. That is when you may have to go to the next step of applying the knowledge that they already have.
For example, instead of asking for the definition of the Priesthood, ask to share a story on how the Priesthood has affected their lives or why they should all be thankful for the Priesthood. You may want to make it a point to rephrase every question this way.
In many cases, it is true that laughter is the best medicine. Keep things light when appropriate because just about everyone can relate to a good sense of humor. If the tone in your class is a little tense, lighten it up a bit.
This doesn’t mean you have to tell a joke, it just means that you may want to leave room for a moment to speak openly or share a casual story about something funny that happened to or someone else. Just be sure to get back on track when you need to.
Talk to the Parents
Try to form some sort of relationship with the parents of your young men and/or young women. It doesn’t mean you have to be best friends, it just means that you may want to introduce yourself and let them know that if there is anything you can do for their son or daughter, to let you know.
I have been surprised at one time or another when I have gotten to know the parents of my students at how different they act at home in comparison with how they act at church. It turned out that some students who are very serious at church were just the opposite at home and vice versa. But it was important for me to know that because knowing that they had that side to them helped me get them to open up more at church.
I think the most important thing you or I can do to develop a good, appropriate relationship with our young men and young women is to pray that we will love them more. When this happens, even if you have nothing in common, they will still sense that you care for them and that you want the best for them. It will help them follow your guidance and example when they are doing so out of love.