400,000 Hours a Week

A bishop looks at that much Church teaching and wonders, “What did we do before teacher development?”

A four-year-old boy once old me he no longer wanted to go to Primary because his teacher just read the lesson from a book. That boy’s statement struck home to me. He was one of my own sons.

Another young man, having problems with activity in the Church, told me some of his teachers had not been as prepared and knowledgeable as they should have been, and it contributed to his inactivity.

As a bishop and as a father, I realize that young people will attend church even if they are not yet truly converted, as long as they are being taught well. Teaching is the key—but it can either open or lock the doors to progress. Approximately 400,000 hours are spent in teaching throughout the Church each week; and as a bishop, I have discovered that making all 400,000 hours effective may lie in the teacher development program. Here’s how it happened:

On December 22, 1972, I entered the General Church Office Building for a meeting of a Teacher Development subcommittee. I had been asked to represent the bishops of the Church and give suggestions for a filmstrip to be made on the teacher development program. I had some knowledge of the program and had even taken the basic teacher development course. But I had a lot to learn.

For one month we met at least weekly, sometimes for hours, sometimes all day. I gained a great appreciation for the dedication and concern of the committee, often thinking, “If this much time, effort, and prayer goes into the development of a 20-minute filmstrip, what effort must go into the whole program!” At one point I remarked that we should just make the committee’s work into the filmstrip, because I had gained so much insight as a member.

Teachers are key people. It is important to call a dedicated teacher development director so the program can be implemented effectively, each phase—basic course, inservice lessons, and supervision in teaching—is important.

The bishop or branch president and his counselors can start the whole process of having good teachers by calling them properly. We asked our ward youth leaders to write the first impressions they had on being called to their present assignments. Some of the enlightening remarks were: “Bewilderment about where to start and which way to go. What really is expected of me—where my job ends and someone else’s begins.” “I felt like I was going to do it all alone, that no one would want to help.” “Frustration at not knowing what was expected of me.” “Scared because of more responsibility than I am accustomed to.” “Feeling left out, that I’m there in my calling just to be there.”

Although we felt we had called them effectively, in many cases we had not. It is so important that a call be issued in a proper, private place and at an appropriate time, so the person knows he has been called after prayerful consideration. It is important that he be told the major duties of the position, as well as necessary meetings he should attend and which reports to make. He should know that the teacher development program will help in training. He should know he is not “just a teacher,” but someone who is really going to affect the lives of the students. He should never feel he was called “just to be there,” or that he just happened to be available.

I am grateful to have served on this committee so I could develop a deeper appreciation for teacher development. I recognize that it can be utilized not only in large wards but also in small branches. Some Church programs are flexible and need varied emphasis in different wards or branches, but teacher development is universally needed. Whether only two or three classes are taught in a Sunday School or whether a ward needs 10 or 15 classes full of students, every student is precious to our Father in heaven. Our goal, after all, is to save all souls. The scriptures tell us it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance. To help others gain knowledge we need prepared teachers.

How grateful I am for teaching in the Church and for those who prepare for and teach those 400,000 hours each week. As the Lord said, “If it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring save it be one soul unto me how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my father.” (D&C 18:15.) That laborer may be a missionary, a father, a mother, a bishop, a stake president, a Primary or Aaronic Priesthood teacher, a neighbor, a friend, or a Scoutmaster—every one is a teacher.

Dr. Pingree is bishop of Holladay 12th Ward, Salt Lake Mt. Olympus Stake.