Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
It never fails. You get a challenging calling just when you are too busy to do it. The research for the lessons, the making of visual aids, the creation of handouts or crafts...how will you get it all done?
One solution is to create a teaching file that will help you with any teaching or speaking assignment you receive. This doesn't have to be done in a few weeks or months. It can be done as you go. When you prepare materials for a class or speaking assignment, place those items in your file for the future. If you find yourself with additional time, or an easy calling, work on a particular topic.
Begin by deciding how to store your file. A large filing cabinet is best, but if you don't have one and can't obtain one, use cardboard boxes with lids that can stack on top of each other. Some items can be stored on computer disks, but you run the risk of having a disk corrupt, so keep print copies as well. The advantage of having them also on disk, though, is that it is easy to print a new copy when you need it. You will also need file folders. If you have a filing cabinet with hanging files, you can easily create categories, but if not, use tabs to mark categories you want.
Initially, you may want generic categories and folders, but monitor how full they become, so that you know when it is time to divide your folders. Group folders on a related topic together. For instance, in my cabinet I have a section for Jesus. Sub-folders are labeled more specifically: articles on life, scripture reference lists by topic, flannel board pictures, packet pictures, handouts for children, crafts, and so on.
It's usually better to create files based on topic rather than a specific lesson manual, since manuals change. However, you may want to create a master list for each current manual. List the manual name and each lesson title and purpose. Under each lesson's name, list the items you have that pertain to the lesson. Don't forget to explain which folder they are in. Sometimes when I create folders, I am feeling a little too creative, and what made sense for one calling doesn't for another.
If you are just starting your file, focus on the current assignment. Make a folder for the topic of each upcoming lesson. Then start searching for materials to add to the folders. Use LDS.org as much as possible, since we are supposed to use approved sources. Click on Gospel Library, and then on the source you want to use to find articles from church magazines, conference addresses, and lesson manuals. Print out the ones you can use. Remember that the Friend often has crafts as well. Place them in your folder and refer to them when you plan your lessons. After you teach a lesson, put extra copies of handouts or crafts into the folder, as well as a copy of your lesson plan, and perhaps even a photocopy of the lesson itself. If the manual is discontinued, you may still want to refer to it for explanations, scripture references and other useful tools.
Remember that this does not need to be another stressful thing you need to do but don't have time for. I started my file a year ago, and it still does not have much in it. I began by putting in whatever I had. I add things when I have time to find them and when I teach. Over the years, you may gather a surprising amount of material. Simply having the box and the file folders is a start. You will be more inclined to add to the file if it is already created.
When using the materials in your folder, keep in mind the purpose of the lesson. You should first use the materials the church has already provided for you in the lesson. Often, the materials in my folder are used just to remind me of the facts of the topic or to provide easy access to visual aids. I try to be selective about which materials I actually bring into the classroom. No enrichment topic or teaching aid should be used solely for entertainment purposes. It must further the purpose of the lesson.
Creating a teaching file doesn't take much time or money, but it will simplify your teaching career throughout your life.
Project: Organization--52 Weeks to a More Organized Life