Twelve-year-old Aaron had a big surprise this last week during Sunday school immediately following his simple opening prayer.
“Thank you for your prayer Aaron.” I said. “You have reminded us of a very important part of coming to Sunday School. You said, ‘…please bless us that we will learn a lot…” I repeated. “How do you learn?”
The new Sunday school teaching style for the youth suggests that at the beginning of class the teacher discusses things the youth are studying in their personal and family studies.
I have found that the majority of youth in my classes have problems recalling what they are studying, so I often start discussions off of their prayers and casual comments at the start of class. All things relate back to the gospel. This last Sunday we began our class by talking about how to learn thanks to a very common, but profound prayer.
How to Learn: Step One
Learning is a three step process that applies to gospel studies as well as secular and school studies.
Step one is to have a desire. When a person doesn’t want to learn, they will not take the time set aside for learning seriously. In fact, the person will probably become easily distracted and can even become very bored, which will lead to behavior problems. It is difficult to keep a class progressing and feeling inspired when there is someone in the group who doesn’t want to be there, and doesn’t want to learn.
There is a feeling of disconnection which drives the Spirit of learning from the room. The only hope for a student with no desire is that they will accidentally pick up some facts for information here and there. But, really learning is more for transformation than just information. No teacher is needed to transfer information. A computer or book can do that.
But, a teacher is required to touch the heart of the child and lead the child to transformation through inspiration. When a student has the desire to learn, they follow inspiration. That is the only way they can be sure to study the right things for their personal journey.
How To Learn: Step Two
Step two is acknowledging the teacher. I don’t mean the adult that is trying to structure the classroom environment. I mean the only real teacher we know of, the Holy Spirit. The purpose of the Spirit is to teach our hearts and minds what is true and false. This spiritual teaching applies to all truth no matter the field of study.
What does it mean to acknowledge the Spirit as a teacher? Well, it means inviting him into the learning environment. What point is there of having a class if the Spirit of truth is not there to instruct the hearts and minds of the students?
When I notice that the teacher cannot be felt, I stop the class to pray again for the Spirit to be invited back to the class. I also do this at home. A parent can’t teach a child, or lead him towards goodness, if the Spirit of all goodness isn’t part of the teaching. A parent or teacher who calls upon the Spirit to be present when they have a stewardship to teach will be inspired to know what teachings are best as well as be able to connect the student with the real teacher.
How To Learn: Step Three
Step three is to participate. I know this sounds simple enough. But there are multiple ways we should participate in order to have a full learning experience.
- Listen: The student will not learn without connecting to the teacher and knowing the teacher’s language and vocabulary.
- Do What is Required: Learning to play a piano takes hundreds of hours of time. But, a student cannot learn the piano if they are not willing to do the required practice. The same principle applies to all learning. A woman will not be able to quote scripture unless she has taken the time to study it first.
- Discuss: The most motivating and life changing learning environment is discussion. There is a reason that classical colleges and universities center the learning experience around discussions. Educated, honest discussion leads to great freedom. Set up an environment to free the youth spiritually. Lead them into discussions and help them develop discussion skills and find truth.
- Respect: Behaviors do impact how well we learn. This is why countless hours are spent training school teachers about how to manage students who have unique behaviors. Students who understand the learning process know that they have to respect the process and the teacher. The student herself needs to carry a good feeling with her in order to continue to feel the teachings of the Spirit. So, feeling respect and showing it becomes vital to learning. It is important to mention that negativity which is a product of disrespect creates a darkness and pride that completely stops the learning process. Respect is the tone of participation.
Why Is This Important?
You may be wondering why knowing how to learn is helpful. Just like knowing how the body functions is essential to diagnosing a illness, knowing how the learning process works helps a parent or teacher diagnose learning environment problems as well as create the proper learning environments for learning success.
Think how wonderful it would be to understand this process when you are wanting to make family scripture study time meaningful, or family yard work time more unifying.
As with any skill, the teacher needs to set the example. So, as you become an authentic student your children and students will begin to share in your excitement for learning and desire to be students too.
This learning process is effective when learning a new communication skill, behavior or topic of study, etc. Like Aaron’s prayer, the process is simple and profound. Simple because we do and talk about learning all the time, and profound because the simple action of one person deliberately doing the steps to learn will transform hearts, minds, and the world.
“We just talked about all that from one prayer?”, said Aaron with astonishment as he looked at the board after our lesson on learning.
“Yup” I replied. “We were deeply engaged in learning right then. I don’t think we could have learned about learning if we weren’t ready to learn.”
Find Nicholeen Peck’s books and audio classes here.
Her website is http://teachingselfgovernment.com