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A boy got diarrhea in his pants as I was taking him to the bathroom
A boy threw up into his lap during Singing Time
Kids cry for their parents
We broke a urinal
Several kids routinely throw themselves out of their chairs and onto the floor
They ran down the hallway like shrieking fire monkeys during drink/bathroom break
We have fetched parents to come sit with their children & help them behave
A boy head-butted my teaching partner (and sister-in-law, whee!) in the face
The thing is, even though right now I want to shoot myself in the face, I know that Primary is good and true. And the more I think about how we do things in Primary, the more I wish that some of these principles were applied a bit more in the rest of our classes and in the general church membership. Here are a few of the guidelines we follow in Primary:
Kids come from a variety of family/life situations. It's important that we are sensitive to their feelings.
When we ask get-to-know-you questions, we find that not everyone likes the same things. That's okay.
Some kids will make really random comments in class. We smile and move on.
No matter what the lesson is about, some kids will try to bring it around to Disneyland. Be kind, but get things back on track.
Some kids want to do all the talking. We try to give everyone a turn.
If we aren't the one teaching, we support the teacher and help make the lesson go well.
We don't make fun of anyone.
We don't talk about other churches and why they are wrong.
We don't talk about people who don't believe the same way that we do and why they are wrong.
We don't talk about politics.
We talk about Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father.
We talk about how to be nice to people.
We read from the scriptures.
Some kids take longer to feel comfortable being in class. This is okay.
Some kids may never feel fully comfortable. This is okay too.
Some kids aren't there every week. We tell them that we miss them and how happy we are to see them.
When a kid is having a hard time, the best solution is not for them to leave. We try to find a way for them to stay with us.
Elder Marlin K. Jensen spoke at Utah State University recently about the fact people are leaving the Church right now at an alarming rate. There are many reasons for this, and I think one thing we can do for each other is to be kinder, to be more welcoming and inclusive. We can accept the fact that people have differences, or struggles, or questions that they aren't getting easy answers to. Sometimes we will be the one with the struggles or questions. We can think before we make dismissive assumptions or judgmental comments, so that we can avoid causing pain or creating an environment where people feel like they don't belong. If we are present when something like that is said, we can find a kind way to share a different viewpoint, rather than letting our silence imply agreement.
ps. Here are a few of the podcasts and articles on the subject I've come across lately. It's really interesting (and sometimes sad) stuff.
Post at Mormon Chronicles that links to several discussions regarding the current "apostasy"
Changing Mormon Demographics in the U.S. at Mormon Stories
Joanna Brooks interview at The Cultural Hall