Rules Of Teaching

I remember a few things from my undergrad studies very clearly. As I studied music and studied the theory of teaching, I knew there was only so much that I could learn as a student and so much more that I would learn once I was the teacher. As we studied methods of teaching and talked about different situations, I remember one time being told to never let the students see you cry. Once they have seen you cry, they know they have power over you and you have lost that class forever.

When we were in Idaho, a guy Ches worked with had apparently cried because of frustration in front of a class once. It was several years before we were there, but I’ll tell ya, the kids talked about that for years and years afterward. Those kids lost all respect for that guy. I don’t recall ever seeing one of my teachers cry, but I think I, as a student, would have reacted in the same way (after being afraid of whatever beating was waiting for me at home once my parents found out I was involved in whatever happened that would make a teacher break down like that). I’ve seen teachers lose their tempers. I’ve seen band directors throw batons, bullhorns, and stands. I didn’t lose respect for that. I was intimidated as crap, but I can handle someone losing their temper and yelling or throwing (I never saw anything thrown at a student). As a teacher, I work really hard at keeping my (very) short temper in check. It’s important to me that my students don’t see me lose control.

Teaching is tough. A lot of you guys are teachers, so I know you know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter if you are teaching in high school or elementary, in public school or private, in Sunday School or preschool. Teaching is just plain a hard gig! I do love it. I just know that it’s not the thing I should be doing right now, and so I’m counting down the months (soon I’ll start with the days) until the end of the school year.

I also teach at church. I’m the primary music leader. I get to teach all the children between the ages of 3 and 11. I have 20 minutes with the 3 through 7 year olds, then 20 minutes with the 8 through 11 year olds. I’ve never been that comfortable with this calling, but I do what I can. I work hard to find ways to teach these songs the kids need to learn, to keep their attention, and to have fun ways to learn and sing, too. I’m just mostly not comfortable because I’m not any kind of a singer AND when I do sing, I have a pretty low voice. Children’s songs are written kind of high. I cannot sing these songs! Add to this the fact that kids in that “tween” age are actually quite rude and mean. I’m learning to not ask open-ended questions, such as, “Do you think you can do that now?” because they will always answer with “NO!”

Things have been kind of culminating for me for a while there. I’m still trying hard, but I do not enjoy this calling at all. The bishop actually asked me recently about how it’s going and I answered with “I hate it.” I then corrected myself. I don’t really hate it. I’m just having a hard time and don’t feel like I’m doing a good job. I know there are so many other people that could do a better job, relate to the kids better, and actually get the kids to sing. So a few weeks later I was informed that they are currently looking for someone to replace me, but it might be a while. No worries. I’m still trying my darndest.

Today was one of those days for me. I’m not feeling in top form, I’m super emotional, and I’m still not enjoying Primary. I made it through Junior Primary okay, and then it was time for Senior Primary. The kids are always a bit tough, as I described above, but today they just weren’t in to being at church or something. They were very irreverent and very rude. I’m trying to teach them a specific song, and I just couldn’t get and keep their attention. It finally was just too much for me. I couldn’t give any more warnings. I couldn’t do anything. I knew if I opened my mouth, I would just start crying. I was done. I tried to pull myself together, but I felt like I was going to explode inside. I turned around and said to the Primary presidency, “I just can’t.” I couldn’t say anything else. I put down my book, and I left.

As soon as I left the Primary room, the tears started to flow. I left the building and leaned against a pillar to pull myself together, although that took quite a while to do. Not only did I lose it in front of the kids, I started to feel SO stupid for just leaving. I remembered the “Never let them see you cry” rule, and it just made me cry even more.

A member of the primary presidency found me and I immediately started to apologize, but she cut me off. She said that the kids were extremely rude and she apologized. She also said that they were being talked to now, it was deathly quiet, and many of the kids are quite emotional about it themselves. It was really good to have her talk to me and she really made me feel better about the situation. I didn’t feel great, but she helped me feel better.

I still feel like an idiot for just losing it like that, but I can’t go back in time. I will go in there next week. I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do, and I don’t want the kids to think that I hate them, because I don’t. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t want to let them know just how badly they get to me, but I’m sure they know now. I hate that they’ve seen me lose control. Did I ever have control in the first place?

I’m trying to come up with a positive outcome in all this, but I’m having a hard time doing that. I know the kids will be super quiet and obedient next week now, but how long will that last? How will they treat the new music leader? And now how am I going to face going back there, even when I’m not in Primary? I’m sure it’s not as big a deal to anyone else as it is to me, but I still feel horrible. Foolish. Ashamed. Idiotic. Just typical Sariah.

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5 responses to “Rules Of Teaching

  1. Oh Sariah, I had all these things I was going to tell you but as soon as I read your last line my heart broke and I forgot everything! That is NOT “Just typical Sariah!” You are altogether too hard on yourself. The children in senior primary can be brutal (we are currently dealing with behavioural issues with our own senior primary and your presidency and those children’s teachers need to be more on top of discipline.)

    When you return next week just calmly tell them that you know they can do better, that you do not deserve the disrepect they were showing you, and that neither does the Lord. I know you had a really rough day, but next Sunday will be better, I’m sure. You can do it — you’re SARIAH! You’re awesome!!

  2. So…I was one of those kids. Me and my friend made a sunday school teacher cry when I was about that age (maybe a little older). Of course at the time we giggled and though it was funny. Then the SS presidency called our parents and I got in *BIG* trouble for being disrespectful (to the tune of stacking firewood for 12 hours and going to bed hungry at midnight). I never *EVER* behaved like that to a teacher again.

    I think you should ask the Primary pres to send an email or call all the parents of the Sr. Primary and let them know that their kids are being excessively rude and it will not be tolerated anymore.

    I think a lot of parents assume their kids are behaving fine in primary because they just aren’t told anything otherwise. I think if the parents know exactly what their kids are doing, they’ll make it stop. Or maybe let parents know that if their child can’t behave properly they’ll need to leave their class to sit with their child.

    Sariah, this problem has NOTHING to do with you. These kids are being rude and it’s the job of their teachers, the Primary presidency, and their parents to step in and correct the behavior–This shouldn’t be you trying to run a 3-ring circus all on your own every Sunday!

    I love ya. I hope you feel better about everything soon. I think they are privileged to have someone who loves music so much. I hope things get better.

  3. Your post made me think of something our Sunday school teacher said once. People always asked him why he wasn’t a pastor – why he didn’t go to theology school and become one, because his personality and interest in his Christianity seemed so perfect for it. He is also such a people-person! His answer was that he does not (yet) feel compelled to do so by God. That he could not say (yet) what he might choose in the future, but at this time, he was not called by God to be a pastor, and so a pastor he would not be. …And felt that he should not be.
    If something we’re doing is not our calling, we *are* aware, if our ears are perfectly tuned to hear God. And following His will, even if it seems that it’s going against what looks the best to us, is always the better choice. We cannot, as humans, see the bigger picture – only God can.
    It’s *possible* that you aren’t called to be the primary music teacher at church, as you said you felt you weren’t. (I know you don’t like to hear that! I wouldn’t, either! lol) – I only submit this as a possibility to think about. Possibly your calling actually lies elsewhere, in some other capacity. The only way to find out is to pray to Him, and then to listen for the answer.
    I am only in recent years coming to the point where I can submit myself fully to God’s will alone, without listening to my own self. (Hard to explain!) One says that one is willing to allow themselves to be led by God alone, but often without realizing it, one picks up the burden of choice again, and trudges on, making choices on one’s own will – without remembering to constantly consult God. But when I absolutely without question, allow God alone to lead me where He wants me to be, believe me when I say that the path becomes easier and more pleasant. He knows where to put me.
    Having said that, I love ya.
    I’m so easily frustrated! My patience is not what it should be. I hope that I’m cut out for this teaching thing. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m still going to school towards it, and I will pray on it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    -Angel

  4. I bet it’s hard to teach the older kids in primary, I remember being in primary and being one of the older kids, I hated it, I never sang or paid attention, not because I hated the teachers, I just felt like I was to old to be there, I’m sure they feel the same way, I bet your an awesome music teacher you just don’t give yourself enough credit for it. kids that age are rude and some are actually proud that they are and that they can get reactions out of others.
    I remember a lesson we had in Relief Society, a few months ago about callings, they said God gives you callings that will challenge you, not something that will be easy, and do your best to bring something new that will help someone else. And when you do get released it’ll probably be a relief to you, but I’m sure you made a difference in someone, you may just not know it:)

  5. Primary is not always cute and sweet, is it? I had a very similar Sharing Time last week, and I was shaking by the end. You don’t want to think that kids at church can be so rude, but it can happen anywhere. But I realized that what happened in Sharing Time was not a reflection on me as a person, a teacher, or a daughter of God, and what happened in Singing time is not a reflection on you in any way, shape or form, either.

    Hugs for you, and prayers that you will have the opportunity to somehow turn this into something positive, both for you and for the kids.

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