Sunday morning before the church meetings I was met in the hallway by our bishop. He was holding in his hand a printed article five or six pages long. He held it up to me and asked “Did you write this?” It was something I had written a while back about teaching, and I confessed to it. He told me, “I have been studying this for weeks and am going to teach it during the 3rd hour today to the adults and youth of the ward. Now that I know you are the author, you are going to help me.” My wife and I have vowed in the mission field to only be ‘yes’ people: anything we are asked to do, we will agree to do it. So I told the bishop that I would help him but I preferred not to diminish his preparations. He said for me to just come to the front when he started and we would do it together.
I thought that this was a good thing because he has told me that he wants to strengthen the teaching in the ward at all levels. I was a little nervous as this is a Portuguese speaking ward and we’ve only been here a few weeks and I am still knocking the rust off of my language skills after 45 years of inactivity with the language. It’s coming back though and I thought I would have a good shot at being understood for an extended time. There is an additional language challenge in this ward in that 90% of the members come from Cape Verde and they speak Creole, which is a variant of Portuguese. And most of them understand English to some level. It is really a 3 language ward.
The bishop started the class and said a few things, then I did some teaching in Portuguese. When the bishop took it back from me, a sister in the back of the room said “We need this either in Creole or in English,” so we agreed and proceeded with each of us in our native tongue.
Here is where it got tricky. This was a class about teaching and improving your teaching so that students can improve their learning. Our good bishop was so excited to have a resource to help him teach about teaching that he wanted to share the whole thing. So he started simply reading it. I knew that this was a recipe for boredom among the members of the class, so I jumped in each time I thought it appropriate and modeled what he had just read and then, to the extent possible, had them practice a bit. It all turned out well and the bishop thanked me for the help and I thanked him for his desire to improve and share it with the ward.
Here is what was re-emphasized again to me: if you want to teach about teaching, you have to teach well. You can’t just talk about it and hope it will help. Talking just won’t help all that much. The teacher teaching about teaching needs to teach with excellence and that includes explaining, modeling, practicing, and giving feedback. It takes time. It is a process. It is well worth the effort but the effort has to be real and meaty and true. We rarely learn anything simply by listening.