Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Word On...Involving Teachers

I have to say, I'm a little nervous about this one!  But I have wanted to do this post for a long time, since before I was released last year.  This might become a series of posts that open the proverbial can of worms.  The last one was about memorization.  This one is on the touch subject of...teachers.  What to do with the teachers in primary?  I think primary teachers are AMAZING.  Especially the older ones, the newly married ones, the pre-mish ones, the moms with little kids at home that could probably use a break but love their calling anyway, the dads that try so hard to participate and still look like a dignified priesthood know...the teachers.  But what to do with them?  Here's a few thoughts, just for your consideration.  But keep in mind, these are only my opinions!  No haters, please!!  And for the record, when I say participation, I do not mean singing.  I do believe that each teacher should be singing all the songs all the time (this is in the handbook that they should be singing!).  "Participation" means being called on randomly, asked to sing alone, asked to come up to the front - things that are above and beyond singing. 

Wait, before I start, I want to highlight what the Handbook 2 says are the duties of a primary teacher:

Primary teachers and nursery leaders remain with the children during the entire Primary time on Sunday, including sharing time and breaks. During sharing time, they sit with their assigned classes, sing the songs with the children, and help the children participate reverently.

OK, here we go...
1.  DO encourage participation, and even require it - but you DON'T necessarily need to test the teachers to see how well they know the songs.  Test the kids, not the teachers.
2.  DO use the teachers as reverence referees.  Remember the handbook - the teachers are to help the children participate reverently!
3.  DO sit the teachers against the walls whenever possible.  This gives you a clear view of the kids, and the teachers can lean over if they need to address any behavioral issues.
4.  DO have a conversation with each of the teachers in your primary.  Ask them to what extent they are comfortable participating, and be very respectful of their answers.  Some teachers are game for anything, other teachers wish they were invisible.
5.  If you do need the participation of the teachers, call them in advance.  Let them know that tomorrow during singing time you're going to need them to stand on their chair and sing a solo.  Then, if they decline, you can change your plan or ask someone else.
6.  DO provide your teachers with copies of the music if necessary.  Your primary may not need to do this,  and I admit I never did, but I've been in primaries where it is helpful.  Either make the songbooks available to them or make packets with copies of the music.  Even if you type the lyrics out that would be immensely helpful.  Sometimes old brains just don't pick up on things as quickly as the young brains do.  Think of how much time you put into memorizing the songs before you get to primary - sometimes hours!  Return the favor!  If the teachers aren't singing because they don't know the words, take that excuse off the table.  Just remind them that the words are for them, not for them to share with the kids.  We really do want the kids to memorize the words!  (and as a side note, the teachers will end up memorizing them, too - they just need a little more help at the beginning!)
7.  DO enlist the help of your auxiliary leaders and church resources.  Primary presidencies, stake primary presidencies, bishopric, inservice meetings, training materials, Handbook 2, the primary page of - all of these and more!  The key to good participation from teachers is in the training.  When a teacher is called, the president or counselor over teaching could have a quick training meeting, which could include counsel about how to conduct themselves during sharing/singing time.  Make sure your presidency has a strict "no cell-phone" policy.  They are distracting to the teacher and the children.  But your presidency really has to enforce this one.  If teacher reverence/participation is a problem, notify your leaders and they can make it a topic of training.
8.  Remember - the only person required to make a fool spectacle of themselves in singing time is YOU.  You are called, set apart, and sustained to do it.  They are teachers.  Their job is very different.
9.  Also remember - the teachers have already been through primary.  Even if they didn't have the whole primary experience, none of the teachers are under 12.  I guess you could say they are not in primary they are of primary.  :)  They are there to sing with the kids and maintain peace.  You are not there to teach the teachers - you are there to teach the chil-dren.
10.  Don't ask the teachers the hard questions.  Just because they're grown up doesn't mean they know the answer!  I've been in primary when the president held up a picture of a gospel story and asked a certain teacher that was recently coming back into activity to tell the story the picture represented.  The teacher was horrified!  Just don't put them on the spot.  The better way to handle that may have been to call the teacher that morning or the day before and tell them that you would appreciate them coming prepared to tell the story of Daniel in the lion's den tomorrow.  That gives them some time to study and prepare!
11.  If you wouldn't be comfortable doing it, chances are they wouldn't be either.  'Nuff said.
12.  Try not to single teachers out.  It can be embarrassing and has the potential of having the opposite effect of what you intended.
13.  If your teachers are total duds, then move on.  As long as they're not detracting from the spirit of singing time, they are better left alone.  If they are detracting, that's a presidency issue - not yours.  Encourage them, be kind, give them incentives, whatever you feel like you need to do - but just don't push it too far.
14.  I only thought of 13, but I will use #14 to reiterate the fact that primary is for kids.  Not grown ups.  Kids.  Not grown ups.  Focus on the kids.  Not on the grown ups.  Mm-kay?

For those of you whose whiskers are prickling right now, I KNOW that teachers are a valuable motivator in primary.  They can bring fun and whimsy to singing time like nothing else.  I AGREE.  You will know how to work with the teachers in your primary.  Sometimes the teachers are having more fun than the kids!  You may have a personality that can get anyone to do anything and love it.  You may feel like your teachers are your only leverage.  Your kids may LOVE IT when you "pick on" the teachers - it may be the best motivator you have!  You have stewardship in your calling, and the Spirit will prompt you in the way you should conduct your singing time.  Just be considerate, provide them with the right tools, plan ahead, ask permission, and know the limits.

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  1. Well said. I have been in all callings in Primary and as a primary teacher my first priority was my lesson and what was going on in the classroom. Sometimes by the time I got into sharing time I was exhausted depending on class behaviour etc. The last thing I needed was to perform in singing time or get blamed for class irreverence because sharing time was boistrous and loud because of the activities chosen. It's all team work.

  2. I was a primary teacher before I was a chorister and I must say teacher participation helped ME stay better focused (yeah I uh sorta get bored easily). I love using my teachers. I've been in long enough to know which teachers love to help and which want to be left alone. I also often ask for a teacher volunteer when I need one at times that way it's up to them. The kids love to see their teachers up having fun with the music as well. And I often ask them who in there class sang really well before choosing a kid to come up. This helps me choose some kids that are singing but I maybe don't notice.


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