At the end of the first year of implementing the new “Come, Follow Me” curriculum for LDS youths, I distributed a report card so the kids could tell us how we’re doing.
The following week, they brought them back — some stuffed into the cover of their scriptures untouched, most filled out thoughtfully and one with a handwritten, full-page addendum of suggestions for better implementation.
I plan to share the feedback with other youth teachers in our ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a teacher training session, but I thought I’d share some results here as well.
The list suggests that Jesus Christ “loved them, prayed for them and continually served them.” So my first question was, “Do your teachers love and serve you?”
Following that same format, other questions were:
• Do your teachers know you and your potential?
• From your perspective, were teachers prepared to teach?
• Did your teachers use scriptures to teach and testify?
• Did your teachers' questions help you in class?
• Did your teachers trust you enough to contribute?
• Did your teachers invite you to act on what you learned?
• How have your teachers been good examples to you?
Other questions asked how the “Come, Follow Me” lessons have helped them outside of class in the realms of strengthening family, preparing them spiritually, helping them counsel together, minister to other youths and teach the gospel.
I also asked the teens’ opinions on the 12 monthly themes and repeating the same topics in the same order during the coming year, which received positive feedback.
Then, for the rest of Sunday School class time, we went through the 12 monthly themes and each of the older kids picked a topic to share something they learned last year with the younger kids who were joining our class that day (the room was packed). Our Sunday School journals were invaluable at that moment as each student shared a one-minute overview of a memorable quote or list of notes he or she recorded last year on the topics of the Godhead, the plan of salvation, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, etc. Their impromptu presentations were especially effective when they ended with an “I believe ” statement.
In the margins of the anonymous report card, the students also scribbled a list of ideas for a new year of resolutions and areas of improvement for them personally and as a class. From what I can decipher, they personally commit to be more compassionate, more patient, more studious with their scriptures, more positive and more grateful.
Together they hoped to have more unity outside of church, honest adherence to principles taught in “For the Strength of Youth” and missionary moments that might recruit more boys to church (since the ratio of girls to boys in our ward is about 6:1).
As far as grades go, there were more A’s than any other mark. Points seemed to be docked mostly for personal applications of the lessons at home and with opportunities to strengthen their families.
They felt teachers were prepared when they shared videos as part of the lessons and/or brought quotes, stories and clippings from general conference talks for the students to teach to each other. They gave a thumbs-up for weekly goals, personal experiences shared by teachers and when everyone participates in discussions. Almost unanimously they felt loved and served when a teacher brought treats as an offering to “feed the hungry” as well as an enticement for friends and visitors to come to church with them.
I quote from the handwritten addendum:
• Good — I had a teacher who gave every student a portion of the lesson to teach and allowed us to add to the lesson and also gave us materials to use.
• Bad — The teacher basically wrote their own lesson each week
• Bad — Just because the students are supposed to be teaching doesn’t mean you don’t prepare or bring materials.
• Good — When the ratio of the teacher talking and students talking is fairly equal.
• Bad — Thinking that if we just answer questions, it is considered teaching.
• Good — My class was really missionary-themed and allowed us to teach in companionships and learn how to handle sharing the gospel in different situations.
• Good — We had a class goal to work on that week that coordinated with the lesson.
• Good — We had a teacher who gave us food every week (except Fast Sunday).
• Good — Switching up the materials and using videos, scriptures, conference talks, history books and personal experiences.
I considered these teens’ assessments of “Come, Follow Me” to be raving reviews. They appreciate the opportunities to contribute and actively learn rather than be lectured. They want to be challenged and want to be prepared for missionary opportunities. They want to comment thoughtfully and individually rather than merely answering the questions asked. And they want to dig deeper on the topics they learned about last year.
My experience last Sunday teaching all the kids in our ward ages 12 to 18 also reminded me how important it is to split the classes into appropriate age groups. Those just graduating from Primary were less engaged than those high schoolers brave enough to teach and testify. On more than one report card, I found entertaining doodles that included the words, “I don’t understand any of this.”
My 12-year-old son was in my class for the very first time and his only comment was, “Why did we have to write so much? It felt like school.” So more than ever, I am in favor of dividing up age groups in Sunday School wherever possible so that the challenge of gospel learning can be geared appropriately.
To all of my fellow youth teachers across the world, both the inexperienced and the seasoned, I encourage you to embrace and trust the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum. Your students will respond better than you ever imagined and you will be changed as you witness them grow in the gospel.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company