Sunday, May 27, 2007

Another Year. Disclaimer: I've been swimming in the deep end. Bring your Water Wings if you want to join me...

I am getting ready to end my fifth school year of teaching Seminary. I've been all around the courses of study and started over. I found out today in two ways that I will for sure be teaching again next year. It was assumed, but nothing official had been done yet. Anyway, the first was during the opening song in church today. It was, of course, "I'll go where you want me to go...I'll say what you want me to say...I'll be what you want me to be..." I think I actually heard the words "A Seminary Teacher" in the bass line at the end of that third verse. Did anyone else hear that? The second way was when I mentioned it to Eric the Bishop, he said, "Did we talk about this already? We just made the decision this week, but I still need to get you the paperwork." Seminary is not a calling, so it doesn't go through the usual channels and procedures. That's why he could just come right out and tell me. Basically, I am asked to volunteer each year.

Part of me is so relieved because I am so in my little zone when I am teaching teenagers. I just love them to pieces. Even when they're asleep.

Unfortunately, part of me is timidly suggesting from the corner of my brain in the teeniest, tiniest little whisper that maybe I'm not up to it anymore. Five years hasn't turned me from a night owl to a morning person, and frankly, I'm not sure I get enough sleep in the summer to square up the sleep debt. I find myself thinking that someone more exciting, more interesting or more fun would surely be better. I'm not witty. I am tragically unhip. I'll still be listening to the All American Rejects long after I'm supposed to be. None of them have ever heard of my favorite U2 songs. When we play games I never remember to buy treats the night before and I usually rig them so everyone wins. I cry just about every single day. I make them sing all the verses of the hymns at 5:50 am. I'm not a scripture scholar-just a scripture seeker. I still have to sing the Primary songs to know the order of the prophets and books of the Old and New Testaments. I'm terrible with the administrative stuff. I want to give everyone an A+ just because they never give up.

More worrisome for me is that it is very difficult to form relationships with kids in seminary because I have 50 minutes that has to be devoted to teaching while a fourth of them are drooling on their scriptures, then they are out the door for another day. I don't get to interact with them as happens in other settings. So, it is really hard to know if I'm reaching them. With 23 of them completely under my stewardship and nothing like a presidency to share the load, it will be nearly impossible to try and attend their activities to try and form those bonds. Plus, it's just plain lonely sometimes to have no one to bounce ideas off of or offer a little tiny bit of reassurance that one is on the right track. I think they trust me and know I love them and all, and I feel blessed that this next year 23 kids will be entrusted to me, but oh, that whisper from the corner gets my attention sometimes.

I'm not fishing for compliments here, and I know from whence all these doubts come, but they do round my shoulders a bit at times. I know the way to dispel them, but sometimes it helps just to get them out. Sort of like Ron's slugs-better out than in. I know my purpose, which is to give them the opportunity to feel the spirit confirm truth. I try hard to create an atmosphere of safety and trust where everyone is kind and attentive. We do pretty well at kind (I have ZERO behavior problems) but not so great on attentive. I think I shoot par for the course on that one though. Considering 100% of other teenagers are still asleep, the fact that I have 75% of the local mormon teenager population awake is really pretty impressive. I have occasionally wondered about the word of wisdom ramifications of coffee-flavored candy, but I've never gone that far. I have, however, shot at sleeping youth with a nerf gun. It was fun. I usually aim for the open mouth but when the head is completely back, it's hard to hit. The kids actually tell me I should do more of that, but the moment is not often right for it.

The bottom line is that the overwhelming responsibility I have been blessed with sometimes, well, overwhelms me. Just like a wave that catches you by surprise in the surf. I still love to play in the surf though, no matter how scraped up my legs get. I still get happy every morning when they start coming through my door. They always show up. I can do that.


  1. I love what you've written, particularly about the slugs and having 75% of the Mormon population awake! I never did seminary because I was at boarding school, though I did do home study. I can tell you that having a TEACHER makes a huge difference. Not that they will teach you the doctrine in this dramatically insightful way every time, but just to have that example of someone who cares about the gospel and lives it, especially someone willing to get up in the morning to do it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on seminary and all the good/hard/scary things about it. I know I would happily entrust Leah to your class! But I bet you're hoping to be onto new adventures by then:)

  2. Wow! That's a lot to do for 5 years! I love the slugs comment. And _I_ don't think you're tragically unhip, but that's coming from me, and I'm finding out that I'm just not quite that cool either. Darn. When did I stop being a teenager??

  3. I only did early morning seminary one semester, we were fortunate to have a large enough LDS population at our HS to have a building adjacent to campus. But oh the memories of that early morning class! Mostly it was the ordeal of catching the ride to school.

    I admire your dedication, and I wonder if you couldn't have a team teacher or something, it's amazing what just one other person can do. I remember feeling similarly about my SS class of 12-13yo: you only have so much time to reach them, and how do you know if you really are??

  4. I can relate to this: "I just love them to pieces. Even when they're asleep." That's how I feel about my Sunday school class (16-17 yo)! I'm so sad that next Sunday's my last with them! I guess I'll just say ditto to what Holly said.

    I wish all seminary classes could be "release time" worked into the regular school schedule. Especially considering that teenagers are biologically wired to stay up late and sleep late. High schools in the Seattle area have changed their schedules to start at 9:30, instead of 7:30, and I guess it's making a really positive difference in attendance and performance.
    Anyway, I guess that doesn't help your situation much! All I can say is I am in awe of volunteer early-morning Seminary teachers!

  5. How I would've LOVED to have you as a seminary teacher. I really appriciated reading this - I forget sometimes what a hugely challenging and overwhelming job teaching seminary can be. My mother-in-law just was asked to teach it again (she taught it when Clint was in HS) and it hit even stronger that it's like having a JOB - every day of the week, being in charge. You're doing incredible and I am so amazed by the work that you do :)

  6. Speaking as a mother of an incoming freshman, I am so glad you will be her teacher. I cannot even begin to express my relief at this fact. I would not be surprised at all, if you were kept there for one more year, because my daughter needs you to love her. Having new things come her way, has always been difficult. I always worry, and pray she will get through it. I know you were one of the answers to my prayers. So when that little corner of your brain starts acting up, I hope you will know I love you and am so grateful you are willing to do this.


Thank you for sharing your insights!