Life lessons learned during first year of teaching

For part of my Mother’s Day gift to my wife I agreed to write a blog post. I know it has already been a month but don’t worry my wife has not let 5 minutes pass without telling me to write this post.

I was thinking about what I could write and I decided to share a couple life lessons I have learned from the first year of teaching. Hopefully I can explain these well enough that they make sense.

1.     Teaching religion is hard.

I know all you teachers out there will say any type of teaching is very difficult and I agree. But I feel being a seminary teacher can be especially difficult due to a couple things. First you can never ever ever can use the same exact lesson plan…even when you teach the Bible or the Book of Mormon over again in 4 years from now. The world is constantly changing and a religious educator teaches to meet the needs of the students…so the principles they learn out of the scriptures now will be different from what students need to learn in 4 years from now. I wish I could just look at my calendar and say well it looks like tomorrow its Pythagorean Theorem, or World War II, or gravity and acceleration…but I can’t. So preparing a new lesson plan for 180 teenagers every day of every year can be tough. Second… sometimes teachers get frustrated with classes. Well try teaching God’s word by the power of the Holy Ghost when you are upset, frustrated, and perhaps angry at students!!! Can’t be done. I know. Third…there is no discipline in a seminary classroom. There are a lot of kids who don’t do the religion thing and they’ll let you know it. The best I can do is ask my student “Hey WWJD?” (what would jesus do) and hope the guilt will eat them alive. It works about 3.4% of the time. 

2.    Electronics are good and bad

I am very passionate about electronics. I love phones, tvs, ipads etc. I feel they can be used for so much good but also so much evil. I echo the recent words of apostle Elder Richard G. Scott who in April said,

“You live in a world where technological advances occur at an astounding pace. It is difficult for many of my generation to keep up with the possibilities. Depending on how technology is used, these advances can be a blessing or a deterrent. Technology, when understood and used for righteous purposes, need not be a threat but rather an enhancement to spiritual communication.

For example, many of us have a personal electronic device that fits into our pocket. We are seldom without its company; we may refer to it many times a day. Unfortunately, these devices can be a source of filth and wasted time. But, used with discipline, this technology can be a tool of protection from the worst of society.”

As a teacher that has to allow electronic scriptures in the classroom I have been able to see how they can bless the lives of many.  But even more and especially among youth and the rising generation, I have seen how destructive it can be. From family events, to social gatherings, to church, to school…the phone is out everywhere. I spend so much of class time as a teacher telling kids to get off Facebook, to pull the iPod out of their melon holes, and to stop tagging things on Pinterest with the words “vintage and L.O.V.E.” I feel sorry for my kids because they probably won’t get a cell phone until they are 60 (not really but seriously). My wife disagrees and of course she is right, but if you are going to give your kid a phone TEACH THEM HOW TO USE IT PROPERLY AND AT THE PROPER TIME. In fact learn yourself too. I am not perfect at this myself, but I have seen too many of my teenagers turn a blind eye to God and put specifically the idol of the phone before him in class. And when the dark times of life come, and they will, that “vintage” skirt on pinterest is not going to part the clouds.  Technology in the proper place, proper time, for the proper things…then it “can be a can be a tool of protection from the worst of society.”

3.    The gospel of Jesus Christ CHANGES lives through GRACE

This last semester I grew very close to some of my students as I heard them explain the change in their lives as result of allowing Christ in and doing those things he has asked us to do. They had learned in one of their first lessons in Romans that this changing power comes through the atonement is called GRACE. We define this word as “divine means of help or strength given through the bounteous mercy of Jesus Christ” We used a talk by a well known leader and teacher in our church to learn about this difficult, confusing, and sometimes controversial subject. Here is a snip it of what Brad Wilcox said,

I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.”

I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it (see D&C 78:7). We are practicing for it.”

They ask me, “Have you been saved by grace?”

I answer, “Yes. Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully—yes!”

Then I ask them a question that perhaps they have not fully considered: “Have you been changed by grace?” They are so excited about being saved that maybe they are not thinking enough about what comes next. They are so happy the debt is paid that they may not have considered why the debt existed in the first place. Latter-day Saints know not only what Jesus has saved us from but also what He has saved us for. As my friend Brett Sanders puts it, “A life impacted by grace eventually begins to look like Christ’s life.”

I write this because I had students step foot into the classroom that wanted nothing to do with God and Christ. One of the greatest miracles and tender mercies of being a religious teacher is that you can literally see changes take place and light come into lives as teenagers take steps to come to know the Savior of the world. I saw teenagers come to know that Jesus Christ saved them through his infinite love and grace. And because they knew that they were willing to take steps to act and allow that same power to change their lives into a life more like Christ’s…and they would get up at the end of the semester and say I no longer desire the things I used to…and I could see it in their eyes. They had become and are continuing to become more like Christ. That change only comes through GRACE. Many of these same students are now heeding the Master’s call and are taking the good news they recently learned to the entire world. The good news that Jesus Christ has redeemed them personally, that he has changed them personally, and that he can do all of the above for any person as they have faith in Christ and are obedient to those things he has asked us to do.

4.    Having children is the best choice ever made

If you are still reading this blog post this next life lesson comes from my home. Before I had a child I rarely heard anyone I knew state that having a baby was the greatest thing in the world. I was so tired of hearing the negative things about having children from every person. Say goodbye to sleep, how are you going to afford it, no more fun time, no more time with your spouse, dirty diapers, medical bills, I want to save up a lot of money first, I want to go on trips first, I want to be well established etc…  Overall it is all about “I” and “Me” while children are just “tagged” on the end of all your   accomplishments…

The first commandment God gave to Adam and Eve was to multiply and replenish the earth. If God asked Adam and Eve to have children you would think that he would be ready to bountifully pour out blessings upon them for listening to him. God stands ready to keep his end of the promise if we refrain from selfishly thinking ourselves and what we want instead of what he wants. The most stated verse of scripture by the prophets of our day is that God’s “work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Today many tell themselves I will take my work and glory first and then I will get to God’s when I feel I am ready. Elder Anderson taught that having children is between the couple and the Lord. When Kamille and I prayed and felt it was right to have a child we did not have a job. We did not have medical insurance. We did not have a home. We had faith.

Many might be asking what does this have to do with my first year of teaching. If I have learned anything this year about life and God’s plan it is that it is focused around family and bringing children into this world. Then raising them in righteousness and teaching them correct principles.  Since Winston has come into our home there has been a light, joy, and love that is indescribable, incalculable, and so incredible. After the first week I have never been more filled with love and closer to God in my life. Friends ask how is it having a baby? I say absolutely amazing. Completely natural (almost like God created us to create families). And most of all I tell them don’t believe the junk you hear from the world. They don’t understand the big picture. God created us to be creators. Marriage and children are essential to our happiness and learning to be more like him.  And as we take steps of faith I know God opens doors and gives blessings beyond what our eyes can see. We couldn't have dreamed of what would happen to our family after we found out Kamille was pregnant. I used to think life couldn't get better than just being married to my dream girl. Winston opened our eyes and we are eternally grateful for all the lessons he has taught us since he was born.

Last of all, after a year of studying the New Testament in depth, I have come to know more than ever that Jesus Christ is our perfect example. He is the way to God. That just as in times of old God speaks through living prophets today. That is because he loves us. He has given us more scripture to make clear the path we should walk.  He is more involved in our lives than we know. He is in the details of our lives. All things he has created and calculated to help us learn, grow, pick ourselves back up, and return to dwell with him. That is what he wants for every one of his children. 
That is his work and his glory.