What I Learned As A Gospel Doctrine Teacher
I recently finished serving as a Gospel Doctrine teacher in our church (we're LDS), and let me tell you, it ended up being a great experience! I was incredibly intimidated to teach the gospel and scriptures to a group of adults, especially being so young and perhaps not quite as knowledgeable as most of those who would be attending my class. I spent about a year and a half teaching this class and I learned so much and really wanted to share what I learned with others! So, here's some of what I learned, in no particular order:
Pray! Pray before you prepare your lesson, pray after you prepare, pray before and after you review, and definitely say a prayer before you present your lesson. You will be amazed at how much comfortable you become as you include prayer in your lesson preparation and presentation.
Prepare! Alright, I know life is crazy, everyone is busy, and it seems to be so very hard to get things done sometimes, BUT, preparation makes a huge difference! I would typically prepare my lesson on Monday and put together a PowerPoint presentation on Tuesday. There were a few weeks that I waited to prepare until Friday or Saturday and I could tell the difference, I was more nervous, less organized, and just less comfortable. Please, please, always prepare your lesson ahead of time, I promise you won't regret it in the least bit!
Know your class! Get to know everyone's names, get to know who they are as individuals, their strengths and weaknesses, and carefully observe who is okay with being called on to read or say prayers - many people struggle with reading aloud and even with praying in public (I used to be one of those people!). Occasionally I would write out the scripture verses and/or quotes we would be covering on slips of paper and would ask who would be willing to read during the lesson, that seemed to be a great way to get folks to participate.
Use doctrine! This one is huge! The teacher's lesson manuals are fantastic and are full of great resources but every now and then you may want to bring in a video clip, or a hymn, or a quote, or even other related scriptures and that's great! Just be sure to stick to doctrine, lds.org has great media resources, always check that quotes you use are actual, credible quotes from church leaders. You CANNOT go wrong if you stick to doctrine! And do your best to keep class discussion on topic and centered on doctrine; you are the teacher, you ultimately have control over class discussion.
Visuals! I am a big fan of visuals! It doesn't have to be anything elaborate, you can easily get a picture or two to display from your ward library, or write out some quotes or scripture verses on your chalkboard. My favorite way to display pictures and information was to put together a PowerPoint presentation then connect a HDMI cable to a TV, it was a great way to help everyone know where we were in the lesson and who doesn't love looking at a lovely gospel art picture? It really helps most people to be more engaged in the lesson if they have a way to follow along and visualize what is being taught.
Testimony. Always bear testimony of the gospel truths you cover in each lesson. It really solidifies what has been taught and allows the Spirit to bear witness to the individual class members. Ending each class with your testimony is powerful and you definitely shouldn't skip it.
Teaching in the Savior's Way. Your ward should be regularly holding special classes for teachers to go over what is taught in this book and you should really make every effort to attend these classes. I would also strongly suggest that you read and this study this book on your own. Remember, you have been called to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and this resource will teach you how to do that. You will learn how to teach as our Savior taught, and as He wants us to teach others His gospel.
Invite the Spirit. Always begin and end each class with prayer, never underestimate the power of prayer! Be organized and prepared - being organized and prepared really allows the Spirit to be present and to be felt by all those in the class. If possible, play some prelude music, I have the LDS Music app on my phone and put together a play list of some of my favorite hymns and would play them while everyone filtered into the room, it was a wonderful calming source for me but I also firmly believe that music is a great way to invite the Spirit to any meeting. Also, be okay with silence! This one is a biggie! When you're teaching and you ask a question 5 seconds of silence can feel like 2 minutes! Learn to be okay with silence! You never know how the Spirit is working on your class as you allow them to sit and think about the question you've asked. Please, be okay with silence.
Hope and Joy! Some lessons are going to be a struggle to teach, some chapters of scripture can be rather dark, dreary, and just plain heartbreaking. BUT, I can guarantee you that you can find a way back to hope and joy in EVERY lesson. I remember sobbing when I had to prepare a certain lesson, it was a topic that brought up a lot of painful memories and I dreading teaching that lesson, I prayed constantly that week for help teaching and as I reviewed the lesson I suddenly noticed the bits of hope and joy that were in it and I focused on that...I cannot fully express to you how grateful I was to realize that you can always find hope and joy when teaching and studying the gospel! The whole gospel of Jesus Christ is centered on hope and joy, so always come back to that, always end with that! This world needs more hope and joy, and I'm sure each of us could use a bit more of both in our day-to-day lives.
Be personal! Don't be afraid to share personal experiences! You can bring a power Spirit of truth to your class as you share personal witness of a gospel truth or principle. It also helps class members better identify with the lesson material when you, the teacher, are able to make it personal.
I hope this has been a helpful list! I really was terrified of this calling but as time went by I found myself learning and growing so much and I really ended up loving the calling. I actually cried when I was released. It was a wonderful experience and I'm actually finding myself hoping that it is my calling again some day. If you have any other tips or ideas feel free to share them!