Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why I Should Learn to Say No...

I've been asked to fill in as the ward seminary teacher for the next 4-8 weeks. Cue the slasher music from Psycho. To be fair, the previous 1.5 weeks have seen seminary held around our dining room table with no detrimental effects. That said, it's daunting to be teaching a room full of teeenagers. It actually wasn't that long ago that I was one! To be fair, I don't think I'm in any danger of becoming 30 and still maintaining that my teen days are only the recent past. I also freely admit that I was an emotional teenager much longer than I was an intellectual one.

I think my sudden bout of "Oh dear Lord, what have I gotten myself into!?" is brought on by a combination of three things:
1. A, perhaps unfounded, lack of confidence.
2. My natural tendency to overthink things and second-guess my own decisions.
3. A talent for hyperbole.

To expound on that a bit...every morning I taught last week I woke up dreading the start of class, despite my extensive preparations. Yet, from everything I've heard, the kids seemed to enjoy it. That information doesn't stop me from wondering what experience or talent other people seem to think I possess that makes me a better choice than other, older, more experienced teachers in the ward.

I'm also convinced that I'm not a natural teacher. As my sister will attest, I have a distinct lack of patience, particularly when it comes to teaching music. I also know I've had teachers over the years in school and in church and at camp whom I've loved: who have made their subjects interesting and kept me engaged. When I try to apply that to my own teaching, I can't think of a single example of specific tactics to be interesting and educational. This is where I become defeatist and throw my hands in the air. I don't know! Therefore, I give up, and like Eeyore, I'll gloomily go about continuing with my preparations in spite of myself because, what else can I do?

To be fair, it's not all bad. Sometimes the lesson material is incredibly engaging and I get on a roll coming up with interesting ways to make a point, or thought-provoking or laughter-provoking metaphors. Sometimes I even manage to crack a joke in the midst of a lesson, or make a coherent argument in front of 7 teenagers at 7 in the morning.

So what do I blame for my lack of confidence in the classroom? Me! I'm not *really* an extrovert. Or at least, if I was at one time, I'm not now. I enjoy doing quiet work on my own with occasional interaction with other people. Don't get me wrong, at home all day I can be bored to tears with no human interaction other than asking the lady at the gym for my change from the parking meter. Having *no* contact is depressing; I'm not a hermit. But a job that requires being the centre of attention, like teaching? No thanks. Or worse: when you're supposed to be the centre of attention, but you're so boring and un-engaging that no one pays attention. Ouch.

So why do I volunteer to teach when I seem to loathe it so? Well, I do harbour a not-so-secret dream that one day I'll have done it for so long that the Teaching Gods have waved their magic wands and turned me into a good (dare I dream, a GREAT?) teacher for all my efforts.

I also nay-say people's over-estimation of my abilities quite a bit, but I'm not sure I entirely disagree with them. I think I'm just cautious...and I don't want to sound like a pompous ass for saying, "Damn right I'm good at that, and don't you forget it!" So yeah, maybe I put a grain of truth into statements of my teaching prowess. If I really and truly felt I was awful, I'd have stopped volunteering for it a long time ago.

The other reason I don't follow Nancy Regan's advice and Just Say No? In an instance like this I think the Lord calls whom He qualifies. I still have to work at becoming a good teacher, but if it really is something He wants me to do, He'll do His best not to let me stand in my own way...if I let Him help.

On that note, I'm ending to go plan a lesson so I can beat my natural nervousness when Monday comes. I leave those misguided few who may still read this blog with an article I enjoyed from the blog By Common Consent. I tried teaching this to my seminary students the other week because I thought it was pretty profound in a way you don't have to have a PhD to appreciate.

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