Sunday School presidencies have stewardship over all teaching in the Stake, and yet many people are unclear about what kinds of things a Sunday School presidency actually does.
Its most crucial role is development and support of teaching, particularly individual teachers.
Here are six steps to better teaching support for Sunday School presidencies. Many of these ideas apply to auxiliary and quorum presidencies as well.
1. Resist the temptation to just ring bells.
Of course it’s important for classes to begin and end on time, yet ringing the bells is the not the presidency’s only role. It’s the only thing most people see, so many forget that the presidency can and should be a strong force for good in the development of powerful teaching in a ward.
2. Set a schedule to visit classes.
Regularly visiting all of the classes in the ward is key to development of teaching because it is only through personal visits that the needs of the ward and the teachers will be discovered.
We have a printable schedule presidencies can use to plan out when visits will occur, who will do them, and to record if follow-up to the visit was done.
During a visit, presidency members should:
- evaluate the invitation of the Spirit and the way the class is begun
- evaluate the quantity and quality of discussion
- evaluate needs (materials, help with difficult class members, etc.)
- evaluate use of time and materials (including technology)
- seek to identify the teacher’s strengths
We have a printable form presidencies can use to evaluate teaching during an observation that incorporates all of the items listed above.
It’s critical that presidencies follow up with teachers afterward in order for it to be a growing experience.
It’s also critical that presidencies look at the aggregate data you get – what overall is going on in the ward – and not just at individual teachers’ evaluations.
The pattern for following up with teachers is that you give a specific compliment, a gentle suggestion, and a broad compliment.
Here’s an example format:
“I enjoyed/appreciated the way you __________. It was really effective in bringing the Spirit in/stimulating discussion/explaining the doctrinal point. Maybe we could use more ____/do less ____ and see what happens. I really appreciate your service as a teacher/your great connection with the class/how dependable you are/how you are magnifying this calling/how much I’m learning from you.”
3. Facilitate teacher training.
- Make sure each teacher has a copy of Teaching, No Greater Call and the Teaching Guidebook
- Make sure they know where to find resources at lds.org and ldsteach.org
- Encourage attendance at all Stake training
- Decide on a teacher development course option that’s right for your ward and implement it
4. Make expectations of teachers clear and fair.
Every ward will have its own needs, but some general guidelines include:
- be well prepared
- rely on approved resources (extras should be condiments, not the main meal, always)
- make class attendance worthwhile
- attend training
5. Hold regular meetings as a presidency.
Regular meetings benefit everyone. They keep the presidency cohesive, they keep the needs of the ward and its teachers in the forefront, and they allow for training opportunities. Some possible things to be discussed (be sure to consult the handbook for details) are:
- divide visiting responsibilities
- discuss visits (and organize feedback)
- evaluate need for new teachers or changes in class structure
- discuss support of teaching in the ward in general
- discuss the materials center and its needs
6. Develop your own teaching skills.
If Sunday School presidencies are going to serve as teacher support, they need to be strong teachers themselves. Some suggestions for developing your own skills include:
- attend all the training offered
- substitute classes occasionally to hone your skills
- study Teaching, No Greater Call and use it to evaluate classes
Sunday School presidencies can be a powerful force for good. These straightforward steps can help you develop the teachers in your ward, bringing everyone closer to the Savior.