Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Me? A Teacher?

Some times, I think the only reason I signed up for this adjunct online faculty thing is because I've got that Homer Simpson Syndrome. Respect. Authority. And then I remember that I'm the kind of guy who'd fit in well at Super Weenie Hut Junior's:

So why do I want to do this? Why do I want to go about babbling about the Spirit of Ricks for? Well, maybe this:
I currently teach a group of ten-year-olds in Primary. We’re learning the Old Testament this year, going over the old, familiar stories: Adam, Noah and the flood, Moses and the Israelites. Thanks to previous lessons at home and at church and, in a few cases, to Hollywood, my Primary kids know these stories well.

That’s only half the battle.

We’re told as adults to liken the scriptures unto ourselves. We’re supposed to look at the stories and the lessons and the doctrine and figure out how it applies to our own lives. That’s the approach I take with my Primary kids. They know the story well, for example, of the Israelites tiring of eating the manna God sends them and, as a consequence, being bitten by the fiery serpents and being asked to look at the brass serpent on the pole that Moses has built, following God’s commands. But they struggle, sometimes, to see how these stories apply in their own lives. I try to help them figure that out.

I am not a scriptural genius by any definition of the word. I do not prepare the curriculum from which I draw my lessons – the church correlation committee does that for me, and amply so. I do, however, have to know my students well enough to figure out what church-provided enrichment activities work the best in communicating the “how does this apply for me” message to the students. I have to know the curriculum well enough to be able to not only answer questions, but to answer them in line with the doctrines taught and the curriculum offered. I ask them questions, and, as a student discovers a way that a doctrine or story applies to their lives, I help them explore that idea. That prompts other students to offer their own suggestions. The classes are often noisier than most Primary classes, but I get the feeling that they go home having learned a bit more about how “church life” applies to their own lives.

I see the same role for BYU-Idaho instructors. We will not prepare the curriculum. We will, however, be expected to know it enough, and to know our areas of expertise enough, that we can find connections with the students we teach in order to help them see the application of what they’re being asked to learn in the careers they’ve chosen. President Bednar, in the material we’re to read for this course, explains that in being asked to build a ship, Nephi in the Book of Mormon “was commanded and instructed to build something he had never built before in order to go someplace he had never been before.” I felt the same way when I was in the MTC, preparing to go to France for my mission. The students we’ll encounter are being asked to build the knowledge base for careers they’ve chosen.  Our job is to help our students take what they’re being asked to learn and to positively apply it to the careers they’ve chosen to pursue.
Yup. That's me. Odd thing is, I believe this stuff. It sounds odd, coming from me, doesn't it? Just thinking aloud here.

The above, of course, is for an online course I'm taking this week and this week only on the learning model at BYU-Idaho and all that entails. As far as the actual job goes, I think I'm in limbo. I had an interview last week, and they said "they'd get back to me," but here I am in the class, babbling along with everyone else, all of us thinking we've got the jobs. I don't know what to think of it. I suppose, however, they wouldn't waste money on us if we weren't at least somewhat capable of doing what they want. They're not exactly just looking for mouth-breathing warm bodies. Or at least that's my assumption. Anyway, I suppose by the end of the week we'll know one way or the other.

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