Sunday School General Presidency Asks Leaders to Orient New Teachers

Contributed By Brother Devin Durrant, Sunday School General Presidency

  • 7 June 2017

The new teacher orientation program will help those called to teach in the Church learn the skills necessary to be successful.

Article Highlights

  • Follow Church guidelines at the back of the Teaching in the Savior’s Way when orienting new teachers.
  • A proper orientation helps new teachers fully understand their calling.

“I’m excited now to use the teacher orientation resources to train all my current teachers.” —Kathryn, ward Primary president

Do you remember the time you baked cookies following a recipe but forgot one or two of the ingredients? The cookies may have even turned out okay but not as good as they might have if you would have included all the ingredients. With that image in mind, let me ask you a second question. When you received your current calling, what was your orientation experience like? I'm guessing the answer would be one of the three outlined below:

1. I did not receive any orientation when I was called. I was given some materials, but that was it. (You might remember how this was demonstrated humorously by Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President, and Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, in the November 2016 Worldwide Training Broadcast on teacher council meetings.)

2. I met with my priesthood/auxiliary leader for five minutes who gave me a class roll, and we briefly discussed those I would be teaching.

3. I was oriented by my priesthood/auxiliary leader following the new guidelines at the back of the Teaching in the Savior’s Way booklet.

Which one was it for you? My hope is, if you received your new calling in the last year, you were oriented following the guidelines, or recipe, on the back page of Teaching in the Savior’s Way. Unfortunately, based on my conversations with Latter-day Saints around the world, that probably wasn’t the case, but my hope is that it will be the case in the future.

For a few minutes, let’s look at how teacher orientation may have taken place in the past and what new tools are now available to help us orient teachers in the future.

The “old“ new teacher orientation

My sister Kathryn was recently called to serve as a ward Primary president. I asked her how she orients her newly called Primary teachers. She explained that she first meets individually with newly called teachers before they begin teaching. During their meeting, she, second, gives the new teacher the class manual and a class roster and, third, helps the new teacher become acquainted with his or her class members. Fourth, she shares a list of the other teachers in Primary.

Brother Devin Durrant of the Sunday School General Presidency

I realized my sister was following the teacher orientation guidelines in Handbook 2 almost perfectly. The only thing she had overlooked was the handbook instructions that state the leader doing the orientation should “give each teacher a copy of Teaching, No Greater Call and share a brief overview of its contents.”

I commended my sister for being diligent in orienting each new Primary teacher. I then asked her if she had seen the new videos and counsel included in the new teacher orientation section in the Teaching in the Savior’s Way booklet. Like many leaders, she had not but expressed a desire to see what was new. We then took some time and discussed the “new” new teacher orientation.

The “new” new teacher orientation

So how is the recipe for the “new” new teacher orientation similar or different from the “old” new teacher orientation?

The new guidelines are found in the appendix (the last page) of the booklet Teaching in the Savior’s Way. Similarities that you will find include an invitation to discuss your specific organization and its needs as well as basic information about the new teacher’s class members.

The main difference that you will see in the orientation outline is the emphasis on four principles of teaching in the Savior’s way. Each of these principles is accompanied by a brief video that makes it easy to discuss the principle as it applies to the newly called teacher and his or her class members.

Before you end the orientation session, be sure and give the new teacher a copy of the booklet Teaching in the Savior’s Way. Also, let your teacher know he or she is invited to attend all future teacher council meetings and that you are there to support them in any way with their new calling.

Who orients the new teachers?

That brings me to the last question I have for you. Who is supposed to orient the new teachers? Handbook 2 gives us the answer in section 5.5.3. It states, “Priesthood and auxiliary leaders meet individually with newly called teachers in their organizations, preferably before each teacher’s first lesson.”

In other words, the Sunday School presidency orients the Sunday School teachers. The Primary presidency orients the Primary teachers. The elders quorum presidency orients the elders quorum teachers, and so on.

The Sunday School presidency is also available to orient priesthood and auxiliary leaders before they begin doing orientations for new teachers in their organizations.

Finally, let me update you on my Primary president sister. She tried out the “new” new teacher orientation after our initial visit. She noticed two things. First, teachers were grateful (and maybe a bit surprised) she took time to orient them because they were able to see a more clear vision of how they might help those they would be teaching. Also, the Teaching in the Savior’s Way videos helped the teachers feel more prepared to begin teaching.

Second, my sister noticed a change in herself. She said, “I could feel the Spirit working in me. I realized the importance of teaching the children as best we can. I now feel a greater stewardship and love for the kids I teach in sharing time.” As we concluded our conversation, she said, “I’m excited now to use the teacher orientation resources to train all my current teachers.”

As the Sunday School General Presidency, we desire that each new teacher receives the blessing of being oriented by their organizational leader, as outlined in Teaching in the Savior’s Way, before they teach their first lesson. Remember, the cookies always taste better when the recipe is followed and all the ingredients are included.