Both of my parents, my mother’s three sisters, one of my father’s sisters, my brother, and I are all teachers. I guess you can say it runs in the family… I have learned so much from all of them over the years and I want to share just a bit with you today.
When I had to go on my first extended time away from our oldest daughter, I asked one of my aunts to come and watch Lilly for me. I was not very close to this aunt at the time, but trusted her and knew that Lilly (who was only about two months old–it was for a two-day conference and I came home at night) would be safe and happy with my aunt.
One of the first things I noticed about my aunt was that she talked non-stop to Lilly, giving a play by play of everything she was doing with/to her. I was amazed! I did my fair share of talking with Lilly, but I didn’t narrate her life for her! It made a great impression on me. Now, with my newborn, I am trying to do that as well, starting her even younger than I did with Lilly. Now anytime I am with my aunt and Lilly, I continue to observe and learn. They have such an amazing relationship, as they have spent many short and more extended period of time together in the last 3 1/2 years. I know that Lilly’s unique relationship with my aunt and Lil’s above-age vocabulary are in great part due to this skill of talking with/to Lilly.
Why do I share this? Because I have learned the importance of talking to my children about the world around them and teaching through communicating about and experiencing life. Children need to be talked to/with. It is how relationships are formed and developed. I have always talked with children as though they were grown up, even through teaching kindergarten for seven years. I define words that they may not know (while using other age-appropriate vocabulary) the same way that my parents did with me. I don’t change my tone and I never use “baby talk.” I will talk to them about everything. I know that has affected children/youth I have taught and interacted with over the years and hope that it will lead to deeper, trusting relationships with my own children.
My mom was my Sunday School teacher for a few years when I was a teen. She will never claim to be a Gospel scholar, but she is a teacher I don’t think any of my peers have forgotten. My mother would begin each lesson with a timed “share.” She would let us just talk. We would share about our week, eat candy from the basket she brought, and just BE for a few minutes. She would make sure she heard something from each student in the class and acknowledge each one’s presence.
When Pret and I were called to be Sunday School teachers right after we were married, we instituted the same strategy with our class members. Pret had been working with youth for a few years and was pretty adamant about this. Even though we only taught for about a year, and that was eight years ago and we left the ward over six years ago, I am still in touch with some of those youth and have even received wedding announcements from class members.
Again, why do I share this? I have come to learn that listening to youth is how one forms a relationship with them. But then, it’s not just youth. I quite literally interrupted writing this to have a conversation with Pret that more than anything was just him listening to me. I needed to share and thankfully he was willing to listen.
It is extremely validating for one to be heard. To be heard means that someone listened with the intend to understand and help if wanted/possible. That listening element can quite literally be life-changing: I have witnessed people’s countenance and whole body posture change numerous times through some of the healing work I have facilitated when they know that they have been heard.
My dad is quite a universal man. He has an interest/skill in almost any area of life one can think of. He is also incredibly smart! He shares his wisdom freely, but in a unique way. I think the Internet was created just for him so he could instantly find answers to questions he had at any time of day. He is a degree-earned librarian, so assisting others in finding answers is both instinctual and trained into him.
I remember as a child asking him questions and he would have me try to find the answer myself by asking me a question in return that would either make me recall what I already know and apply it to what I was asking about or force me to seek for the answer. I know that I learned much more this way than I would have had he just told me the answer to my question. I also know that I learned valuable skills in finding answers to my questions, whatever they may be.
For the last time, why do I share this? I am afraid, in the world and especially in this community, people want an instant, easy answer/fix to their questions and problems. People are afraid to try different things to see if they work. They are afraid to seek answers that may be hard to find. They are afraid to question whether something may work for them. They are afraid to question God to see what the next step should be. Maybe it’s because they are afraid of the answer they may get.
One of my favorite “scriptures” is the topic of “ask, seek, find.” I think this is one of the greatest lessons Christ wants us to learn as it is repeated, in one form or another, in three books in our canon. I believe that talking, listening and asking are all incorporated in these scriptures as well. We need to have that discussion with someone, whether that be a trusted friend or our Heavenly Father. In doing so, I hope we can all find the answers and relationships we are looking for.