When I was a child living in a small California town with few LDS girls, my mother had me accompany her to stake inservice meetings and to the Primary class she taught – not as her book carrier or crayon-passer-outer, but explicitly to teach me how to teach. She would explain to me during our preparation what she was going to do, and why, and we’d discuss afterwards what had worked and what hadn’t. Eventually she had me teach parts of her lessons. I was snagged as a Primary teacher myself when I was just 11, and have been teaching in church and in the workplace off and on ever since.
I remember Mom’s classes and often think of how she would present the lesson I am preparing. One thing she liked to do – sparingly, so it still had the value of surprise – was to begin a class with some attention-getting object lesson. I remember her rules: Keep it brief. Engage as many senses as possible. Don’t let it be a stunt – make it directly relevant to the lesson.
I remembered those rules as I prepared a lesson on overcoming our fears of sharing the gospel. When the Relief Society president turned the time to me, I stood and faced the sisters. Then, as if something had just occurred to me, I excused myself and reached under the podium to bring out a small crystal bowl, filled with sliced strawberries and topped with whipped cream. With a shining silver spoon I took a bite. “Mmmmm … this is sooo good … I didn’t have time for breakfast … mmmmm!”
As if I had forgotten the class and was speaking to myself, I exaggerated my blissful reaction to those sweet red berries. After three or four bites, I put the bowl back under the podium, then caught myself as if I had just remembered the sisters who by now were drooling and following my every motion with wide eyes. “Oh, I’m sorry! Did you want some? I would have shared with you, but I was afraid to offend you by offering.”
The lesson went well as we discussed our missionary hesitations and ways to conquer our fears. As I walked toward the chapel later that morning, I glowed with daughterly pride at how well I had remembered Mom’s lessons.
And then I remembered one more thing.
It was Fast Sunday.
1. annegb Wed, Oct. 11 @ 10:31am
Chuckle. . . good story, Ardis. That actually happens a lot. Last week in Sunday School our teacher handed out cookies.
Your story could be descriptive of a lot of other situations besides fast Sunday. Just that faux pas moment.
So, did you get razzed?
2. danithew Wed, Oct. 11 @ 10:46am
Ardis, I enjoyed the “it was Fast Sunday” punchline. Like annegb I’m curious about what happened afterwards. Did you ever get any reaction from anyone or just silence?
3. mw* Wed, Oct. 11 @ 10:59am
Arids, stop! I am laughing so hard everyone in the building will know I’m not actually working!
4. jjohnsen Wed, Oct. 11 @ 11:37am
Very funny, please follow up and give us some reactions.
5. Ardis Wed, Oct. 11 @ 11:38am
Sisters commented on that lesson two or three times in the following months, but I never had the nerve to ask just exactly what it was that they found so memorable!
mw* — at least you’re not laughing in the library. (I don’t get it. The same old lady across the aisle who lets her cellphone play Yankee Doodle at high volume, then discusses her lunch plans in full voice, glares at me for giggling. Nyah!)
6. pdoe Wed, Oct. 11 @ 11:57am
Ardis, if I bring you another bowl of strawberries and whipped cream (on a non-Fast Sunday of course!) can I get you to do a series of posts on your teaching techniques? I teach the Valiant girls in our ward and most days I just do what the book says. I’d like to be able to spice things up and engage them a bit more, but I don’t have the money or materials to do the stuff they showed me at the Primary Teaching Seminar this summer. (Seriously, the paper mache “Mouth of Truth” rocked but I don’t see most people juggling job, family and calling having the time to do it. The person presenting is a teacher herself and I suspect it only worked for her because she could use it at church and at school.)
7. Susan M Wed, Oct. 11 @ 7:14pm
I’d love to hear some tips too. I just got called to the same class as pdoe.
8. Anonymous Sun, Oct. 15 @ 8:00pm
Once I got to the punchline, I forgot all of my other commentary. Hilarious! What a smart and caring mother you have! I’m taking notes over here. Thus far the most involved my children have been in church service is helping pack the Nursery lunch bucket (oldest plucked grapes this morning while youngest sloppily smeared mayo and slapped slices of cheese onto sandwiches), coming with to deliver meals, and doing very menial jobs on church cleaning days. But then they’re only three and almost two, so I have some time to take notes.
This appeared on another blog on 11 October 2006