Friday, April 19, 2013

Coming back to seminary

I’m teaching seminary again.

I’ve been asked to assist in our ward’s early morning seminary class. We have an awesome teacher who has been at it for six years, and she is terrific. But in her six years, she’s learned that the last quarter of the year is tough – tough for the students and tough for her. Everyone has been at it for a long time, and by the fourth quarter, it’s just that much tougher to keep getting up day after day.

So to mix things up for the students, our teacher invites other ward members to come in and teach from time to time. And she’s asked for a helper: me.

I taught home study seminary nearly 30 years ago while I was in grad school, and I’ve substituted in seminary from time to time during the nineteen years I’ve had kids in seminary. I also taught a couple of years of a YSA institute class in my stake.

Now I’m going to early morning seminary twice a week, which is a challenge for me waking-up-wise. I’m preparing more lessons, and I’m reading scriptures with more purpose. And it’s a blast!

We have a pretty big group in our class – over 20 kids attend most days – and they are well mannered and as attentive as a bunch of sleepy high schoolers will be. Our regular teacher has lots of tricks to keep them awake – make them move, make they speak, make them draw, make them read. I get to learn a lot from watching her.

We’re studying the epistles in the New Testament – not the lightest reading of the scriptures, but not Isaiah, either. It’s challenging that there are fewer story-based lessons, but it’s fun to dig into some of the dichotomies that Paul presents (grace and the law, for instance) and to see how those differ from one epistle to another.

I carry the mantra that I heard repeatedly when I taught back in the 1980s – we teach the scriptures; we do not teach about the scriptures. The New Testament is our primary text, not student or teacher manuals, not commentaries, not cute online resources. Of course we’ll use those other resources to support our teaching, but in the end, it’s all about the scriptures.

And it’s a blast.


  1. I'm envious! 20 students, that is fabulous. I teach Seminary too, my two students are our two youngest sons. It would sure be fun to have some other people here to interact with. On the other hand we have seminary in our living room and I'm still in my jammies (don't tell anyone!). I do love reading and studying the scriptures with my boys. We have some great discussions about the gospel and living it. Have fun!

  2. We've had all sorts of configurations with our kids. When we lived in Venezuela, one son attended once a week in our mission president's home (the MP's daughter was the other student), taught by the mission mom. The toughest year was when one son was one of four who met in the basement of their teacher. She was awesome, but all four students were less than energetic, so class was pretty sleepy for all involved! When we had a boundary change, our number of youth went way up; we've had as many as 30 in some years, and most go to the same school. That said, our stake has its share of small classes, too.

  3. Speaking of seminary in pjs -- we have more than one school district in our seminary class now. The days off do not always align. Some kids come to seminary even if they don't have school that day, but they come in pajamas so they can go home and go back to bed. :-)

  4. Paul -

    The students are lucky to have you. I'm the seminary teacher in our ward this year and as you say, it's a blast. (Even if getting up at 4:30 is not...). I can appreciate what the regular teacher feels - after 6 months, it can get a bit rough.

    But Jen is away next week and I find it painful to get a sub. I regret the scriptures I won't get to cover. I think part is that I agree entirely about teaching the scriptures, and miss in advance the scriptures I won't get to cover with them. I must admit, the manual mainly just gathers dust...

  5. My daughter is in her first year of early morning seminary. Thank you to everyone who teaches. She really enjoys it. She doesn't know the other kids well (they are all-but-one in one other ward) and she wishes they would participate more. She wakes up my husband every morning and hopes he drives her on time because she doesn't want to be late.
    At least the seminary teacher is good and interesting even if the other kids are sleepy and a bit exclusive because they all interact during other times.

  6. Leonard, I'd love to be in your class. :-)

    Anon, your daughter is why seminary teachers enjoy it so much. Good for her.