While working in his flower garden, a stake president was thinking about a talk he was to give in an upcoming stake conference. He was planning to speak about strengthening families.
His neighbor, who seemed to have a special skill for coaxing magnificent flowers to bloom, was also working in her garden. He called to her and asked, “What is your gardening secret?”
Her answer was profoundly simple. She said: “I stay close to the garden. I go into my garden every day, even when it isn’t convenient. And while I’m out here, I look for little signs of possible problems, things like weeds and insects and soil conditions that are simple to correct if caught in time but that can become overwhelming if left unchecked.”
The stake president was inspired to liken his neighbor’s care for her garden to the care we should give our families. In his stake conference address he talked about his neighbor’s garden. He observed that if we want our relationships with family members to flourish and bloom, we need to “stay close to the garden”—to spend time with family members every day, talk with them, express appreciation for them, and look for little signs of potential problems that can be resolved before they become overwhelming.
A woman who had heard the stake president’s talk remembered it when she saw that a few of her plants had withered away. She had not taken time to check their progress daily. This reminded her that her children were growing up and that she should not waste the few years she had with them. Because of her stake president’s teaching, she became a better parent.
The stake president had followed the example of the Savior, who often compared spiritual truths to familiar, everyday objects and activities. You can do the same. You can find lessons of life in the things you do and observe each day. As you ponder and pray about a lesson and about the people you teach, your surroundings can come alive with answers to questions and examples of gospel principles.
The following two examples show how other teachers have found lessons in their observations of everyday life:
A Primary teacher noticed a family coming to church one Sunday. She watched as a boy in the family, who was a member of her class and had sometimes been inconsiderate to other class members, helped his sister. “That’s the example I need,” she said to herself. “It will teach the principle and help the boy.” Later she shared the example in a lesson about being kind. The children learned from the example, and the boy began to improve in his behavior toward other class members.
A father and his son were playing with building blocks. When the little boy failed in a few attempts to build large structures on top of small bases, the father saw a teaching opportunity. He explained the importance of strong, solid foundations. Then, before they continued playing, he read Helaman 5:12, which says that “it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that [we] must build [our] foundation.” Later that day, the family studied the scriptures together. In a short lesson that reinforced the passage they read, the father and son displayed the blocks and talked about the importance of building on the foundation of Christ.
Developing a Teacher’s Eyes and Ears
The following suggestions can help you discover teaching ideas everywhere.
Study lessons well in advance. When you are familiar with the lessons you are going to teach, you will be more aware of everyday occurrences that you can use to teach those lessons. If you are teaching a course that has a lesson manual, it is good to have an idea of the content of the entire manual. Then you will be more likely to notice when a certain observation can be applied to a lesson that you will teach several weeks in the future.
Pray every day for help in your preparation. Ask Heavenly Father to help you be aware of things that will make your lessons vivid, memorable, and inspiring to those you teach.
Always keep in mind those you teach and the lesson you are preparing. Think about those you teach. Consider their lives, the decisions they face, and the directions they are going. Be open to teaching ideas as you do such things as study the scriptures or observe the beauties of nature. You can even find teaching ideas in activities such as cleaning your house, going to work, or going to the store. Virtually any experience can provide you with just the example, enrichment, or clarification you need for a gospel lesson.
Keeping Track of Impressions That Come
As you become more aware of teaching ideas around you, it will be helpful for you to keep track of impressions you receive. Carry a small notebook with you, and write about things that strike you as potential teaching ideas. Record insights from talks you hear or lessons in which you participate. Write about faith-promoting experiences. As you develop the habit of noting these things, you will become more and more aware of the rich teaching resources that are all around you.
Do not worry about how you might use the ideas. Just write them down. Sometimes your observations will apply to a lesson that you will soon teach, but other times you will see wonderful examples or illustrations of principles that you will not teach for weeks or even years. You may forget them if you do not record them.
You may also want to make a folder for each of the lessons you will teach in the next few months. As object lessons, comparisons, and other ideas occur to you, put a note in the appropriate folder. When the time comes to prepare a specific lesson, you may find that you have collected a treasure chest of ideas and activities to enrich the lesson.