Teaching Each Child in My Class


It started out as an ordinary Primary lesson. I was standing in front of my class of eight-year-old boys and girls, telling them a story about one of the latter-day prophets. When I finished, I began to question them about the moral the story taught. Everyone in the class wanted to answer my question—everyone, that is, but Robert.

I thought nothing of it. He was new in the class, and I thought he was probably just shy about speaking out on his first day. But as the answer was given and as we talked about it, I noticed that Robert’s face got more and more troubled. He wasn’t understanding the idea.

The week before, I hadn’t had time to finish the lesson I had prepared. I knew there wasn’t much time again now, and so I told myself I couldn’t make the other children wait until I had explained it again for Robert’s sake. I decided to go on. After all, I told myself, we will probably go over this idea again some other time.

I made one quick look around the room to make sure the rest understood. As my eyes passed by Robert’s, my heart froze. In an instant it seemed as though his face faded away and in its place I saw that of my three-year-old son, Sam. Startled, I just stood there, staring at Robert as if I expected the transformation to happen again. It didn’t then, or ever again.

Later that evening as I thought about the incident, I began to feel guilty about what I had done. Suddenly I was looking ahead five years from now; Sam was sitting in what had been Robert’s chair, and I had been replaced by another teacher. She was telling the same story I had told and was getting the same response from my son that I had received from Robert.

She looked at Sam and saw that he didn’t understand. But she proceeded right on with the lesson anyway, saying to herself, “We will probably go over this idea again some other time. Maybe he’ll understand it then.”

I watched Sam sitting alone on his chair, his feet not even touching the floor. I watched him as the rest of the class hurried on with the lesson, leaving him bewildered.

Then I realized the impact of what I had done. I had passed over a child of God simply because I couldn’t be bothered. I had lost an important teaching moment. I had been given the opportunity to place a child closer to his Father in Heaven, but had turned my back.

I’ve never forgotten the lesson I learned that day—that only when I have done my best on behalf of all the children I teach can I pray for the best from another teacher on behalf of my own child.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Mark Robison