Teacher Council Meetings Help Connect Teachers with Heaven
Contributed By Brother Brian K. Ashton, Sunday School General Presidency
“I think I finally get it!” exclaimed a teacher who, along with her team teachers, was struggling with a very active class of eighteen 14-year-olds. Through tears, she then explained to the rest of the teachers the revelation that she had received just moments earlier in a teacher council meeting.
The most effective teacher councils connect teachers with heaven so that they receive revelation on how to improve their teaching. Recently, I attended a teacher council meeting that was particularly effective at connecting teachers with heaven. Here’s what happened.
A few weeks before the teacher council meeting, the Sunday School president met with members of the ward council. Together they discussed this youth class of eighteen 14-year-olds and the challenges the teachers were having in helping the class be reverent and pay attention. They concluded that the next teacher council meeting needed to focus on teaching youth. They also decided to ask a member of the ward to lead the discussion who had particular expertise with teaching youth.
The ward member asked to teach the class began praying about which topic in Teaching in the Savior’s Way would be most helpful to address the needs of the youth in the ward. The answer that eventually came was that the teacher council should focus on “Loving Those You Teach.”
Because revelation comes “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30), the brother who was asked to lead the discussion began preparing his lesson early. He reviewed the lesson “Loving Those You Teach” and the related videos in Teaching in the Savior’s Way multiple times, all the while praying that he would know how to present the material in such a way that the teachers in the council would be connected with heaven. He also searched the scriptures, both those in the lesson and others that he found in his own study, to determine which ones would be most helpful.
Once he had finalized his lesson plan, he sent an email to all the teachers who were to be in the council, asking them to come prepared to discuss who was the most impactful teacher in their lives and what that person did to have such an outsized impact.
On the Sunday of the teacher council, the brother leading the discussion arrived early, set up the chairs in the classroom in a circle, made sure the video that he had previously downloaded was working, and greeted class members as they came into the room.
Share and counsel together
After the opening prayer, he took about seven minutes to let the teachers discuss any urgent issues that were on their minds. He said that he did this so that those who had something on their minds could address those issues quickly, which helped prepare them to focus on the topic at hand. After a brief discussion on one issue, which the council agreed to discuss in greater detail later, he began the lesson.
The discussion leader began by asking the teachers who had been the most impactful teacher in their lives. After several teachers had shared their thoughts, he asked what the Spirit had taught them as they listened to these experiences.
As the teachers shared their thoughts and experiences, the discussion leader said very little. Mostly he just listened, occasionally asked a follow-up question, or simply said, “So what I think you are saying is …” This was his pattern throughout the council meeting. He said later, “If I talk too much, I get in the way of the Holy Ghost teaching the council members.”
The discussion leader asked the council to read three scriptures that described how the Savior loved His students and what His motivations were in teaching. He asked the council members how these scriptures applied to their own teaching situations.
The council members then watched the video entitled “Love Those You Teach.” Before the video began, the discussion leader promised the teachers that they would receive promptings as they watched the video about what they could do to show their students that they loved them. Why did the discussion leader make that promise? He said that during his preparation for the council meeting, he had watched that video multiple times. Each time he watched it, he received revelation about how to help the teachers in the council. As a result, he felt confident promising the teachers that they would receive similar revelation. The revelation he received during his preparation also helped him to understand that using the video would be an important part of this teacher council meeting.
The discussion leader gave the teachers a 3x5 card and a pencil so that they could record the promptings they received. As they watched the video, everyone felt the Spirit. Several council members made notes.
At the end of the video, the leader asked the council members to share what the Spirit had taught them. The teacher who was struggling with the class of eighteen 14-year-olds said through tears, “I think I get it now. Reaching the youth in my class will take some time and repeated effort, but if they know I love them, I will be able to reach them.”
Her team teacher said, “When I taught Primary, I used to greet each member of the class as they came in. I’d get down on my knees to do it so that I would be at eye level with them. When I was asked to teach the youth, I stopped doing that because I thought the youth didn’t need to know how glad I was to have them in class. I now know that I need to go back to being myself.” Others also shared promptings they had received.
Practice and invite
About 10 minutes before the end of the council, the discussion leader asked the teachers to write down the name of one student in their class who needed to feel their love and come up with one idea about how to help that student feel that love. He then asked the teachers to get in groups of two or three and practice what they were going to do to show love to that student. Afterward, he asked them what they had learned. Several teachers and leaders shared that they had received additional revelation during the practice. The discussion leader pointed out that practicing invites revelation.
Finally, he invited the teachers to act upon the promptings they had received and shared his testimony, and the council closed with prayer.
Teacher council meetings should connect teachers with heaven. Not every successful teacher council will look just like this one. However, this example highlights ways we can help teachers receive revelation. As you prayerfully consider how to improve your teacher council meetings, the Holy Ghost will guide you. I promise that as you follow those promptings, your teacher council meetings can be Spirit-filled experiences that invite revelation.