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What I Never Thought I Would Teach a Student...

I had a student contact me via text a few days ago. Yay! I am always excited when students make the effort to reach out for help. While the text probably should have been an email instead of a text for its length, the gist of it is represented in the image below:

We set up a time to chat on the phone and what started as a lesson on I-Learn navigation ended with me as the instructor saying:

"Stay close to your elders quorum."

As I hung up the phone with a good feeling inside, I reflected on how I got to that last phrase. I don't need to fill in the gaps for any of you who are teaching online for BYU-Idaho. We have all been there. We help with the logistics or mechanics of the course and then we start asking questions that really matter and we learn the challenges that our students face in their lives. It was a sweet moment for me the other night with this student who, in the face of very challenging odds, wants to succeed online at BYU-Idaho. These moments are the intangible benefits of teaching for this university.

God help us as we strive to help students.

Share what unexpected lessons you have taught in the comments below.

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Jerrod Guddat teaches GS 111 Intro to BYU-Idaho online. You can read more of his blog posts on his community profile.

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  • I never thought I would teach a lesson about the Priesthood Proclamation. We were having a conference about the final paper due in FDENG301. My student has been a member of the Church for less than a year. As our discussion drew to a close, he asked, "Sister, can I ask a personal question?" The question was a surprise and before I could consider it, my auto-response took over with "Of course." He then asked, "Do you know why black people could not hold the priesthood?" I am here to say I was speechless.  One, I do not consider it a personal question. Two, I remember the announcement when it happened and I recall crying a bucket load of joy-filled tears. Three, he hails from a Hispanic country to the south of us.  He really had me on a spot. I could not recall the exact teaching on this revelation and had to do some quick scrambling and research.  After telling him my personal witness of the Revelation and providing a couple of scripture references, I suggested he contact his Priesthood leader for additional clarification because I do not hold the Priesthood. I suggested my thoughts might only be the beginning of learning "the whys" of this is amazing event. I felt inclined to ask him to favor me with a more complete answer when he had time to do so.

    • Incredible story Karen. Many members have had to do some soul searching regarding this topic. I appreciate knowing your experience when hearing the announcement (having not heard it myself). Many of us have to experience it through the written accounts not having lived in the moment. Great thoughts shared regarding this student and how you assisted him.

  • I had an online student from Mexico inf my FDENG 101 course. I could tell from Discussion Board and the first essay that her English was barely passing. I encouraged her to drop the course and take some basic ESL courses, but she begged to stay in, would I help her - of course! She promised to work hard and really apply herself, she felt the course was her best way of learning English. I recommended her to the Writing Center and we did a lot of virtual office meets. I often encouraged her to pray and let the Spirit direct her writing, help her find the words. Over time I also came to say, I know Heavenly Father is proud of you, you should be pleased with yourself. You have great life resilience and determination. She passed the course with a B+ eventually. She never missed an assignment due date and she made progress surprisingly fast... She later told me all she needed was someone in her corner to encourage her. We never talked much about her home life so unlike Sarah, I don't know what she was up against, but she was sure tenacious and her own success helped her to keep going forward with her education.

    • What an amazing example of "sticktoitness" for this student. Could you imagine if this student simply withdrew and gave up. How different their life is today because of an online teacher. Great job Janet!

      • Thank you Jerrod - you're right though, the student worked hard; I got to just be the guide, what a privilege!

  • Your story was very reminiscent of an experience I've had with a student who was in my class literally years ago. He struggled. His mom was a drug addict and struggled with mental health issues, as did he; his dad had abandoned him and his family long ago. He had no GED, was living in semi-poverty (he remarked often on the cupboards of his home being bare), openly admitted to being addicted to video games, and wasn't sure if he had a testimony. And yet, because of the help and guidance from a faithful seminary teacher from his youth, he took a leap of faith an enrolled in Pathway. 

    He emailed me often throughout the term and the emails soon turned to calls and meetings in my virtual office. He wanted to quit my class every step of the way, but I kept telling him that I knew he could do it and that he was worth more than he thought he was. I always wondered why I used those words with him, "worth more." I would always say to him, "John, you're better than this. Heavenly Father has better plans for you than this. Never think that He can't turn you into something incredible if you will just allow Him to." 

    Strange words to say to a student who basically doesn't want to be there, doesn't believe the church is true, and is just taking your class to appease a persistent seminary teacher. 

    John has continued to email me back and forth every few months or so since taking my class in 2013. Throughout these emails, he has mentioned to me often how those words I said about his self-worth and Heavenly Father having bigger plans for him than just to turn out like his parents have helped him greatly along the way. 

    A couple weeks ago, I received another email from John. I was sitting at a piano in an obscure room of my church building, playing some missionary hymns to pass the time in the interim between an early morning meeting I had and the sacrament services, when suddenly my phone alerted me that an email had come in. As I opened it up, I saw that John had sent me an email with the following words:

    "Hey Sister Jackson, my goodness, I can't believe it's been that long since I emailed you. I wanted to let you know about my progress. Last night, I received my Endowments. :) I am 2nd Counselor in the YSA Branch Elders Quorum Presidency. :) I've got a job, I have a smartphone, I'm taking a two week trip up to Utah in October to visit people and go to General Conference. I'm planning on putting my papers in within the next month. I'm in charge of the Friday night unofficial YSA Activity. So much has happened and I wanted to share it with you. :) I hope that you are doing well! Forever your faithful and grateful student, ....."

    I don't pretend to assume that I played a hugely significant role in John's growth over the past three years, but this email felt like a payday to me nonetheless. 

    I never thought I would teach a student of his own spiritual worth and potential. 

    • What a wonderful memory for your Instructor's Journal!

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