My goal for this semester has been to pray and read my scriptures every morning before logging into my course. But not just "read" as I've mindlessly done many times; I wanted to search, specifically for "growth mindset" messages that could enhance my teaching practices and inspire my students. Also, because I'm basically obsessed with this concept. But many of you already know that. :)
January passed and I was checking that goal off my to-do list every day, but I didn't feel like I was experiencing much new insight. Then yesterday I had an impression: pick up Elder Bednar's book Increase in Learning, which I "won" a copy of at the Fall Faculty Conference, but promptly put in my to-read-eventually-when-I-have-tons-more-free-time pile. If you haven't picked up his book, he quotes generously from The Book of Mormon, full chapters. Suddenly, I saw 1 Nephi 11 with new eyes.
Behold, what desirest thou?
I've looked at plenty of research underscoring the importance of motivation in educational achievement. But in reading that the Spirit asked this question twice of Nephi, I realized that I too need to ask this question more. Every semester, at least a couple of students let me know early on that they've already taken many family studies classes and are unlikely to learn anything new in mine. Every teacher's dream! But what if I took more time at that initial contact point to find out: what desirest thou? What are you looking for out of education? Out of life, in general? Why do you do what you do? Perhaps I could find ways to tap into their motivation even if it's not initially to learn in my class.
Look! And I looked...
There are at least 7 repetitions of that exact phrase in this chapter alone. I think in my growing up years this was often emphasized to me as a sign of Nephi's obedience (it may or may not have had something to do with my own natural inclination toward disobedience -- I'm not telling). But what if, in addition to obedience, this is a signal of Nephi's own growth mindset, his willingness to look for learning opportunities wherever they arise? Maybe some of my students who claim "there's too much reading in this class! there are too many activities!" could be inspired by a reminder that Nephi kept looking and looking and looking (for at least 4 whole chapters!).
Nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
This morning I read this a bit wistfully: if only all of my students could enter my class with this attitude, acknowledging that there are many things they don't know, even about a topic like family life that has been taught so ubiquitously to them since Primary. As I pondered how I could help my students to exhibit this type of humility, and prompt them to greater seeking, I realized that over the course of teaching this class 8 times, my students have literally asked hundreds of complex questions, ranging from "If none of my family makes it to the Celestial Kingdom, won't we all be in the Terrestrial Kingdom together?" to "Will I get to see my baby again even though I miscarried so early in my pregnancy?" What if I compiled a list of these to show them the sheer number of thought-provoking questions that previous classes have discussed and pondered together? If these don't prompt each of us to say, I do not know the meaning of all things, I don't know what will.
I'm so grateful for these new insights gleaned from 1 Nephi 11 and Elder Bednar's book; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. What insights about teaching have you found in these 1 Nephi chapters? How have you tapped into your students' motivation? How do you help your students acknowledge what they don't know in a non-threatening way?