Sunday, March 3, 2013

Grace & the Person in the Pit analogy (at Feast Upon the Word)

In order to reach both YW and YM leaders, I have posted some notes about the March curriculum over at Feast Upon the Word. For those interested, here is the link:

http://feastuponthewordblog.org/2013/03/02/grace-and-the-person-in-the-pit-from-the-new-youth-curriculum-for-march-2013/

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Come and share your thoughts

Those of us who have been writing for this blog for the past few years have all felt called elsewhere, but I feel like I can't just leave the blog alone when we have a community built up and comments still coming in. So, for now, please take the blog as your own and leave comments galore so that we can still have conversations going on between thoughtful YW leaders across the globe -

- And, I'll make sure that we don't forget the comments already made on the using the curriculum by linking to the last post, which had 13 comments: http://beginningsnew.blogspot.com/2012/11/share-teach-act-questions-on-getting.html.

So here's an open post, talk about anything connected to the curriculum or any other question or comment you have for other YW leaders:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Share, Teach, Act: Questions on getting Youth more involved with the New Curriculum

Like many of you, our ward is spending several Sundays getting ready to teach the New Youth Curriculum. I am really looking forward to seeing how this change will be played out throughout the next year! I like the emphasis in getting the youth thinking and talking. I'm a big believer in the equality of intelligence, and I also believe the Spirit can talk to them just as much as it can talk to us! 

I am teaching this week and I was asked to let the youth know what I will be teaching so that they can read it too. Or, at the least, give them some assignment by mutual this week that they can do for Sunday. Now that I'm in the middle of getting ready to teach, I can see some advantages and disadvantages to this and I was hoping some of you would help me think through them.

Advantage: giving an assignment has the potential of having everyone on the same page and focused together before we even get to class. In other words, it creates unity.

Advantage: giving an assignment helps youth learn on their own.

Advantage: giving an assignment makes me as the teacher think through what I want to do much sooner.

Advantage: giving an assignment may make the youth more ready to talk and participate.

I like these potential advantages a lot. But, here are some disadvantages I've thought about as I've begun to prepare:

Disadvantage: giving an assignment means that you lock yourself in a little bit to a "plan" and aren't following the Spirit in the moment (unless you are brave and honest enough to just tell the class that the Spirit isn't leading you that way any more, if that's what happens)

Disadvantage: giving an assignment means that you can't set up a context in the classroom for what they are reading. This of course would be more important in some circumstances than others.

Disadvantage: giving an assignment means that everyone comes to the class with their own ideas of what it means, which could actually create a very un-unified class discussion. I've seen this happen in study groups and book groups. Sometimes when we've already had our ideas, it's harder to engage with someone else's; it's easier to just share our idea and hope everyone likes that one instead. :) When that's happened in my study groups, it takes a good half hour before anyone really starts to engage with each other's ideas.

Disadvantage: giving an assignment means that I spend one or two days deciding what to teach instead of an entire week (or more!)

What other advantages or disadvantages do you see?

My purpose here is not to determine whether or not assignments are always good or always bad. My purpose here is to think about the advantages and disadvantages of giving assignments, so I can be better at listening to the Spirit to know when to use them and when not to.

So, any ideas to help us think through this question?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Training Video for the New Curriculum: Determine What to Teach

I'm starting to explore the material on lds.org about the new curriculum. I think these videos will ideally be used to train teachers and leaders before the new year starts.

This one is about how to choose what to teach. What are your thoughts on the video?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Welcome to the new curriculum!

The time has finally come!!!! I wish we could hold some celebration of sorts together!

Here's the link to the new material:

https://www.lds.org/youth/learn/yw/godhead?lang=eng

Every month of the year has a topic. January's topic is the Godhead, for example. Each topic is meant to be covered as quickly or slowly as the YW leader(s) decide, based on the YW's needs.

Each topic has several possible "outlines." The instructions say: 
Seek the inspiration of the Spirit as you select from the outlines below. Let the questions and interests of the young women guide you as you decide which outlines to teach and how long to spend on a topic.
These outlines are not meant to prescribe what you will say and do in the class. They are designed to help you learn the doctrine for yourself and prepare learning experiences adapted to the needs of the young women you teach.
So there are "outlines," but they're there in a way in which no one in the church can say they have to follow them word-for-word or they aren't following the "approved manuals." We can finally get away from that idea, that was never meant to happen in the first place. Yay! 

And as stated already, these outlines are supposed to be guided by the YW's past background, their questions, and of course, by the Spirit. One way in which teachers will be forced to recognize this is that there are more outlines than weeks in the month; each outline is too long to do in one Sunday; each outline is filled with multiple ideas for a lesson. In other words, there is WAY too much material to cover, which means you absolutely have to think and decide what is best for your girls. :) And hopefully pray, too...

I also loved this paragraph at the end of one of the "outlines": 
Ask the young women to share what they learned today. Do they understand the nature of the Godhead? What feelings or impressions do they have? Do they have any additional questions? Would it be helpful to spend more time on this doctrine?
I hope (and I have high hopes!) that having this sort of direction in the "outline" will help teachers see that teaching is more of a "journey" than a "performance." It's about learning and enjoying the scriptures, doctrine, ideas, life-changing epiphanies, etc., rather than stressing over a perfect presentation. I think that is so crucial.

While no lesson material - and I mean that, no outline, manual, whatever - can make a good teacher, I do think that the way that this new curriculum is presented about as close as we could get. A lot is communicated in the written instructions and also in the way the material is presented that will (I hope) go a long way to creating a much, much better teaching environment for our Young Women.

My only real concern is that for all our changes, we can't make the Spirit enter into teachers' hearts or into YW classrooms. I think this curriculum is fantastic, and will make incredible improvements teaching in the church. Incredible ones. (I can't wait!!) But, in the end, it's only real gospel teaching, in the "Lord's way" (see D&C 50), if it's by the Spirit. My concern is that we will, like so many missionaries with Preach My Gospel, end up proudly assuming "we've got the Spirit because we've got this great new program. We're not like those old missionaries who didn't teach with the Spirit." The Spirit doesn't come or go away depending on a program, it comes when we seek it and give ourselves to it.

But, since we certainly can't control the Spirit (or control teachers' lessons in a way that would force the Spirit to be there!), I really do think this new curriculum is about as close as we can get to providing a model of how teaching by the Spirit should be done. So, it's all the outward appearances of the Spirit; it's what teaching by the Spirit looks like. It's a collection of hints and ideas and explanations written by someone who has spent years teaching by the Spirit. It's fantastic. I love it. But it will, of course, ultimately only be as effective as it should be if we are doing all this by the Spirit.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Best thing about Girls Camp this year?

What things can you share with us from your Girls Camp that you were excited about and/or would help others in the future? Share about any aspect of camp!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Youth Media - Pure and Simple Faith

Happy summer!  Today I'm posting the newest video from youth.lds.org.  It is called "Pure and Simple Faith" and highlights an experience one young woman had in receiving answers to prayer.



Among the videos from/about the leaders of the Church, I love that they also include experiences from regular youth.  Maybe the young women can't relate to her specific situation, but they can relate to the process she uses to get answers and the beautiful faith she (and her mother!) exhibit.  This particular story, I think, can also help the youth appreciate the blessings they receive every day.  Even for me, trying to decide whether or not to buy a Nintendo DS for my daughter's birthday seems so trivial after watching what this family is up against on probably a regular basis.  I like it.

On a side note, as I was watching this, I was thinking about the many many prayers of the youth that probably seem to them to go unanswered.  I wonder if the Church could put together a video with a young man or young woman talking about an unanswered prayer and how they keep faith even when those prayers seem to go unheard.  Stories in the New Era and Ensign about how Heavenly Father has answered prayers and blessed them are wonderful, and they build my faith, but I think stories of those who press on in trials even without seeing any immediate blessings or answers may be the ones that strengthen my resolve and my faith even more.  Does that even make sense?  I need to go back and look at more videos to see if they have already done one like that.

Anyway, what a sweet girl and a beautiful story and a well-done video.  Your reaction and comments? What kind of lesson/activity would benefit from showing this video?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Teaching to Understand

I've been reading, off and on, Elder Bednar's book Increase In Learning: Spiritual Patterns for Obtaining Your Own Answers. I'm already convinced of the idea that as teachers our job is to help students realize one, there's a lot of fascinating stuff to learn out there, and two, they have the intelligence and ability to go learn it. And I think Elder Bednar is saying much the same, but from a gospel perspective.

What I want to share here today is a part on understanding from chapter two. On page 69, he reviews the command in D&C 68 for parents to teach their children. Then he says, "These verses do not simply recommend or suggest that we teach our children. Rather, they outline a law unto the inhabitants of Zion -- that we must teach our children to understand. Understanding is a spiritual outcome; it is a result. Simply engaging in the activity of teaching is not the responsibility we have been assigned. Rather, the charge is to teach children to understand."

How does this apply to our role as teachers in Young Women's? Imparting correct and uplifting knowledge is crucial, and is often the message of posts on our blog. And I think that is certainly part of what Elder Bednar is encouraging us to do as teachers. But I hear Elder Bednar also asking us another, further question: how do we teach our young women to understand?

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Think Before You Pass Out

Why, why do Young Women leaders persist in doing this?
Treats are lovely, everyone loves sweet things, and YW leaders love to dress them up with tags, ribbons, and extra meaning. But the gospel doesn't need this kind of embellishment.
Just say NO to crap.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Youth Media - Our True Identity

President Uchtdorf has a way with words.  I find so many of his talks to be poetic and powerful, and they almost always hit a chord with me - something I need to hear right then, in that moment!  After his (now infamous) Forget-Me-Not talk, I heard similar comments from many of the women and young women I know and I realized I am not alone.

Today I picked an older video, but one of my favorites.  The words are taken from President Uchtdorf at a CES Fireside in November of 2009 and the video is called "Our True Identity".


So what do you think?  What do you like/dislike about the video?  I like it because it is reassuring and confidence-building.  Most of us have heard the story of the ugly duckling before, but I like how President Uchtdorf talks about how turning into a swan has to do with our understanding of who we really are.  It's not necessarily that one day (in this life, at least) we will be as physically beautiful as we'd like to be, but that we will see ourselves as God sees us.  That with that knowledge, when we look at our reflections, we can see past imperfections and doubts and see our potential.  I liked the different cameos with the youth because I felt like they were pretty real.  Our young women, especially, go day after day with the possibility of feeling like the ugly duckling or being told they are an ugly duckling.  And we as women struggle with this probably almost as often!  President Uchtdorf's words are a great reminder of the power we can have by looking at ourselves the way our loving Father in Heaven looks at us.

If I could add anything to the video, it might be some little scene with multiple youth together, showing somehow that once we understand our divine reflection, we need to recognize and remember the divine reflection of all of Heavenly Father's children.

What do you think?  Love this video, and it would be a great one to show young women!