When I first began teaching, I kept hearing people say that teachers should "teach with the Spirit". What did that even mean? It's not like I can control when the Holy Ghost testifies or if another person can hear or listen to him, right? Does teaching with the spirit mean I should scrap the manual and wing my lessons? A lot of teachers I observed didn't feel a lesson was successful unless someone had cried. Was that an indicator of teaching with the spirit? Isn't this emotionally manipulative?
I spent a lot of years very confused about how to "teach with the Spirit". I've since learned what teaching with the spirit means to me, but I turned to the Seminary Teacher Facebook Group to see what insights other teachers could share
"Pray, pray, pray that something in that hour will touch the heart of even just one of your students. Sometimes you won't know that a student received truth from the Holy Ghost, but the[y] will, and won't forget." - Wendy R.
"Pray -sometimes individually for my students- don't be afraid to ditch my lesson plan and go another way." - Ricki M.
" In my prayers (including the prayer I say again in the vehicle as I am on my way to the church), I ask that I just may be a conduit for the Spirit to reach them. Because, really -- who cares what Sister H.r thinks? The Spirit teaches them. I ask that what I say will be something that resonates and is what they need to hear. I ask that our lesson will be pleasing to Heavenly Father -- not pleasing to me. It's what He wants that counts. And I ask that my kids may be strengthened and edified to face their challenges that day. Prayer is essential." - Marilyn H.
"We have a group seminary teacher prayer meeting a few minutes before seminary.... It has been a wonderful way to unite us in purpose, exchange information and invite the Spirit even before seminary begins." - Carla B.
"As I have prayed all week over concerns in my seminary class, the answer came so strongly last night at what I needed to say in seminary today. The result was a fully engaged class that participated, read and felt the Spirit. I know that the Lord truly loves these youth and will help us as teachers reach them and touch them. " - Connie L.
"Pray -- and HARKEN!" - Coleen C.
Carefully prepare your lesson material.
"While I'm going over the lesson (still planning), I'm marking, underlining, and writing in the margins things I want to say or do. I keep it simple. I pray every morning for the spirit to be with me to guide me in teaching and I pray for the spirit to be with the students while we all discuss/participate in class." Donna H.
"[R]eally focusing on what my students need to learn in the scripture block or lesson [without] worry[ing] about covering everything [helps]." - Ricki M.
"[I read] the lesson and scripture block to see what stands out and the thoughts that I receive. If I act on those, the Spirit gives me more." - Brenda H.
"Teachers should keep in mind that teaching by the Spirit does not remove their responsibility for diligent, thoughtful lesson preparation, including using the curriculum that has been provided. On the other hand, teaching by the Spirit requires more than merely following every curriculum suggestion without prayer, thought, or possible adaptation." - Gospel Teaching and Learning Handbook
The teacher's attitude.
"I think it starts with the mood/tone of the room and in how we greet the students. Are we upbeat? Positive? Happy to be at Seminary? We invite the Spirit through hymns and prayer. And we must be prepared. Did we do our reading last night? Are we setting the example we want our students to follow? All of these things will invite the Spirit." - Khipi P.
"[Y]ou gotta love those kids. THEY need to feel the spirit and if you don't love them, I promise they won't feel anything." - Liz M.
"[I]t really helps me as I drive to seminary to keep the radio stations off. I listen to and sing to uplifting music as I drive to class. I know that this really helps me bring the Spirit with me to class." - Lolly L.
"Love softens hearts and invites the influence of the Holy Ghost. When teachers love as the Savior loves, they see others as He sees them. Christlike love inspires a teacher to never give up in helping each young man and woman to become truly converted." - Gospel Teaching and Learning
The student's attitude.
"Students should understand that they are attending class to come to know Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and to progress toward eternal life through a study of the scriptures and the words of the prophets. They should believe that through approaching the Lord in an attitude of inquiry and prayer, they can be taught and edified by the Holy Ghost. As teachers and students approach the study of the scriptures with the expectation to learn through the Spirit and from one another, they cultivate an environment that invites revelation." - Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook
"When a student or a group of students is misbehaving, it can be frustrating for the teacher and other students. At such times, it is especially important for teachers to keep control of their emotions and to seek the influence of the Spirit. How teachers respond to any given incident may be more important than the incident itself and can either increase or decrease the respect and trust of the students. As teachers correct improper behavior, they need to be firm but friendly, fair, and caring and then quickly return to the lesson. To ridicule a student publicly may correct a student’s behavior for a time but will not edify either the teacher or the student. It may also result in other students fearing or distrusting the teacher. Teachers should remember the righteous influence of persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, unfeigned love, and kindness (see D&C 121:41–42)."
"I put relevant quotes to the lesson around the room, reverent music and I actually have a small lamp that I keep with my seminary stuff and use it every day. It seems silly but the kids love the lamp and they feel like it really warms the room up. If I dont have quotes I will do gospel art pics or mormon ads. I change the picture of Christ every so often. When they notice a new one I believe they think about Him more. Of course hymns and prayers but as a home decorator, physically creating a warm space for them to feel comfortable definitely contributes to the spiritual things we do as well." - Kimberli W
"Except for very unusual circumstances, every student should have a comfortable place to sit, a place for their scriptures and study materials, and a place to write. The seating arrangement should allow students to easily see the teacher and any visual resources the teacher uses. Where possible, different seating arrangements can be used to support different kinds of learning activities." - Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook
"I have started playing music in my room before seminary starts and it has seemed to help.." - Ricki M.
A safe place.
"Teachers can learn students’ names and seek to know of their interests, talents, challenges, and abilities. They can pray for their students, collectively and individually. Teachers can personally welcome each student to class and give every student an opportunity to participate. They should listen carefully as students ask questions or share their thoughts or feelings.... Most teachers will have students in their classes who, to some degree, have limited abilities or physical or mental disabilities.... Teachers need to be sensitive to all students and consider their individual needs and abilities as they prepare and present their lessons." -Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook
"The acceptance and love [students] feel from others can soften their hearts, reduce fear, and engender within them the desire and confidence necessary to share their experiences and feelings with their teacher and other class members." - Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook
During the Lesson
Joan M. says, "The tricky part can be listening as you are busy teaching and noticing which of all the students needs attention and what can you do for them." Here's what teachers are doing to follow the spirit more closely during a lesson:
"[State] gospel doctrines and principles simply and clearly." - Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook
"For me, it's simple: teach the truth. Since the holy ghost's mission is to testify of truth, he will testify when I speak truth.... I think as long as I teach truth the holy ghost will preach the sermon the student needs, irrespective of my topic." - Jenny S.
Be willing to teach students, not your lesson.
"[M]y main goal is for the students to feel the spirit (not to be entertained) while identifying the doctrine and principles." Donna H.
"If students seem bored or restless, it may be because they are not involved or they do not understand what is being taught or how the lesson applies to them. To help the students focus, the teacher may need to change something in the lesson presentation." - Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook
" Don't be so ingrained to the lesson that you can't follow the spirit and discussion." - Brad B.
Make Space for Testifying
" I ask for stories or testimonies of the doctrine/principle being taught." - Brad B.
"Relate the scripture verses to a personal story in your life and bear testimony." - Aimee E.
"Sometimes we as teachers get in the habit of hurrying through topics in order to get through all of the lesson, or we have planned so much that isn't even necessary. However, if we pause to allow answers to flow from their mouths and let them think through their scripture study experience this alone invites the spirit." - Tamara P.