(Part 2- Tailor Teaching to Students with the Spirit)
Nephi states, “For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved” (1 Nephi 6:4). His main goal was to bring people closer to Christ. As we study the content of the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum, it’s easy to see that its main goal is to help point our lives and the lives of those we teach toward Christ. So how do we take this content and deliver it to those we teach? Let me share an analogy that’s been on my mind.
Have you ever made a meal that you just couldn’t get your kids to eat? Maybe I’m the only one with this problem, but sometimes it’s hard to get my kids to stay at the dinner table to eat their food. Does that mean I just stop trying to feed them and never serve a meal again? Of course not. Similarly, we as parents and teachers need to keep in mind how important this “spiritual food” is and do our best to keep our families or students actively engaged in consuming and internalizing the spiritual nutrients they need in order to keep their spirits strong.
The “meat” of the gospel, the whole point of the gospel, is to bring people closer to Christ and help them learn how He and only He can save us and help us become like Him. Children of any age are SO reliant on us to serve them this meat. If they don’t learn this now, their spirits are being deprived of power and strength that could help them throughout their lives. The “meat” is already there, and it’s amazing and delicious. But it doesn’t do a bit of good for our kids if they’re not eating it. Our job as primary teachers and parents is to find ways to help these kids stay at our “spiritual dinner table” and come closer to Christ.
Types of Plates (Catering to Different Learning Styles and Ages)
As a parent of two young girls, I’ve learned that the color of plate that they get their meals served on can sometimes make a world of difference in helping them stay at the dinner table. Just by making sure they like their plate color, they’re about ten trillion times more likely to stay at the dinner table and eat the food that their bodies need. Would the nutrients of the meal change at all if I served it on a purple plate instead of a yellow one? No. But do I try to let them use the yellow plate if that’s the one that, at least on that particular day, gets them the most excited about eating? Yes. Because that’s what helps to keep them at the dinner table so they get the most out of the meal.
Spiritually speaking, if our goal is to help our families and students stay engaged in the learning process so they can draw nearer to Christ, we need to find ways to “serve” the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum so that it is appealing to them and helps them get as much as possible out of the content by being engaged in it.
No kid is the same. Some love art, some love acting, some love music, some love reading, etc. The “Come, Follow Me” manuals have great ideas for activities that we can use to aid our teaching and help keep our kids engaged (acting out stories, looking at pictures, watching a video, singing, creating things, object lessons, role-playing, reading a scripture, repeating activities, etc.). When we can figure out which of these methods help keep our own kids engaged, things go a lot more smoothly.
There are SO many different types of plates out there: plastic plates, china plates, paper plates, plain-colored plates, plates with sparkles, animal-shaped plates, plates divided into separate sections, the list could go on and on. Only you know which plate your kids would do better with. Similarly, there are many methods that can be used as we participate in the “Come, Follow Me” program. You know best what “spiritual plate” is most likely to help your family or class actively “eat” the spiritual food of the gospel. And again, the Spirit is what can help guide these decisions.
Do your best to find the “spiritual plate” that can help you serve the meat of the gospel, and use the methods of serving it that you feel best suit the needs of your family or class.
If you see people learning and implementing the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum in different ways than you are, don’t think that means that they’re better than you. And, vice versa, don’t think that you’re better than other people if you do this differently than they do. Your neighbor might be completely convinced that serving this curriculum on a sparkly, pink plate is the best way to do it because that’s what works for her own kids. And, as far as her family’s concerned, she’s probably right. However, your family might be made up of kids who would roll their eyes if you gave them sparkly, pink plates and happen to prefer eating off of animal-shaped plates. Use what works for your own kids.
There are about a trillion ways this can be done. Incorporate ideas and methods that the Spirit tells you are right for you. Add your own flare to those methods and personalize them in ways that you think will best benefit your family or primary class. And don’t stress about trying to make your methods look exactly like someone else’s.
The bottom line for all of this is summed up pretty well in the “Come, Follow Me” manual when it says “…in our efforts to live, learn, and teach the gospel, we should first and foremost seek the companionship of the Spirit.” Use the Spirit to help you learn the content yourself, and then use the Spirit to help you decide how to teach it. What the Spirit guides one family or primary class to do might be completely different from another family or primary class. If videos are what the Spirit prompts you to do, use videos. If hands-on activities are what the Spirit prompts you to do, use hands-on activities. If the Spirit prompts you to just read and discuss scriptures, then that’s what you should do.
I don’t always get things perfect. I’m still trying to figure out the best ways to implement the new curriculum myself. But I love the plethora of resources that are out there, and the push to study and understand things better myself. I hope people continue sharing their ideas because they spark my thoughts of ways I can better help myself and my family.
Are our kids at the spiritual dinner table? And are they eating? There are plenty of spiritual nutrients available in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our job is to find the best ways to help kids internalize and use these nutrients to give them the strength to do whatever will bring them closer to Christ. Nothing needs to be done to change the content, or the meat, of the Gospel. We’re just in charge of learning and internalizing it ourselves, and then serving it to those we’ve been trusted to serve it to. As we rely on the Spirit to help us find ways to show how appealing the message of Christ is, I know that we will be blessed and better able to enjoy this “spiritual feast” with those around us.