Friday, March 28, 2008

Notes from the Classroom: Disruptive Students

Randal Chase

I've chosen to focus my blogs on classroom experiences since my books are intended to be aids to both teachers and students of Gospel Doctrine classes. After 32 years of experience teaching this class, rotating through the entire curriculum 8 times, it's possible I've experienced just about every possible scenario. My post this week refers to an experience in my CES class last week, which consists of 168 eager adults who come out on a Wednesday nights to study the gospel in greater depth than is possible in the 40 minutes afforded us in Gospel Doctrine classes.

Our subject was Abinadi and his teachings to King Noah and his priests. Among those teachings was the notion that we are not saved by obedience to law but rather by the loving grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ. True, we are expected to demonstrate our faith in Christ by our willingness to follow and obey Him, but in the end we can never do enough to "save ourselves" no matter how hard we try or how well we do. Combined with the teachings of King Benjamin about how unprofitable we are despite the best we can do, the lesson tried to make the point that the blessings we receive are not fully earned or deserved. We are much more greatly blessed than our behavior could ever merit.

As I made this point again in my closing testimony of Christ, an older gentlement sitting near the front of the class blurted out, "I don't believe that." No raised hand. No attempt to gain further clarification. Just a spirit of contention and a desire to put me in my place. I said as patiently as I could, "Brother you are not required to believe me, but neither you nor I are going home to our Father without the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ," and tried to finish my testimony.

It's an age-old problem for teachers. How do you include class discussion and allow people to share their views and their feelings without turning it into a free-for-all of opinions. We must recognize each person's contribution but never allow false doctrine to go unchallenged or to waste the time of 167 others for the sake of 1 student who behaves disruptively. I meant to speak with him after class, but he very quickly exited. This was his first time attending our class, and I suppose it will be his last. I feel bad about that. But some students do not come to learn. They bring no scriptures, read no passages, and hear only what they want to hear. We must avoid being "teachers with itching ears" who are always more concerned with being loved and accepted than with teaching the truth. It's not a job for the faint-hearted or insecure.

1 comment:

Abel Keogh said...

Often the sign of a good teacher is how they handle disrptive students or troublemakers, like the man in your class. I personally find that the most difficult part of teaching whether in church or elsewhere. Too bad you didn't get a chance to talk to him.

Thanks for posting this.