About a year and half ago, our ward was split. I was taken from my calling in Relief Society and asked to be a primary teacher. I had never taught primary and I never wanted to. "I don't like kids, I only like my own kids." We have all heard that. And probably said it. But I love my Heavenly Father and I know that He is all knowing. So I accepted the calling and got to work.
At first, it was hard. I had these meticulously planned lessons. I had a big agenda of what we were going to cover and understand. Trying to wrangle a handful of 5 year olds and then coax the Holy Ghost to make an appearance is tricky. It usually doesn't happen. And I kept wondering why we were doing this. But I still did it.
For 2013, my partner teacher was reassigned and then Ethan was asked to teach with me. We got a new group of little students for the year and I decided to take a new approach. Instead of jumping right into the lesson, I was first going to get to know these little people. I figured that they would listen to us if they knew we cared. So we did just that. We would spend the first 20 minutes of lesson time just letting them talk. Talk about school, their new bunk bed, their toys, their cat. Whatever they wanted. We gave the kids nicknames and found out when their birthdays were. After a few weeks of doing that, I started to notice that they were absorbing what we were teaching and I didn't need some elaborate lesson. I just needed them to listen and the Spirit would take over from there. Because they knew that we cared about them and we listened to them, they in turn would listen to us. This was such a game-changer. I can't explain the joy and excitement that I feel when one of my little primary kids understands a gospel prinicipal. To see the lightbulb click on gives me goosebumps all over. Sometimes I get too loud and excited when they get it. I am sure the Relief Society class next to us can hear me.
Children have such tender souls. Once you spend enough time in a classroom full of them, you can feel it. Their innocence is almost tangible. They do not judge, they do not doubt. They just want to know. To be around that type of innocence can change you, especially if you have the honor of having a child in your class with special needs. We have a boy in our class with autism and I can barely talk about him without crying. For the first few weeks of having him in our class last year, it was difficult, I won't lie. Learning how best to help him was hard. But after a little while, we were able to figure him out and we came to adore him. One week, on the drive home, I asked Ethan, "What is it about him that is different? There is something about him besides autism that is different from the other kids." And Ethan said it perfectly. "He is innocent and perfect." And it's true. How honored I feel to be around someone so pure.
Over this last year, my testimony has grown and grown. I have finally understood the importance of teaching children the gospel. I can truly say that I love each of those kids. Recently, a friend told me a quote or story that if Jesus Christ visited a ward building, He would most likely be found in the primary room with the children. I get emotional just thinking about that. It really is true. He would be there, sitting right with the Sunbeams, singing along to "Once There was a Snowman" and giggling as they would all melt to the ground together. I know that Jesus Christ has loved us all from the time we were children, and His love only grows from there.
I am so grateful for this last year in primary. I know that my Father in Heaven was inspired to put me and Ethan there. I feel so blessed to be there every Sunday, to hear the funny things they say and to teach them the simplicities of the gospel. I am excited for what this next year will bring, as crazy as it will probably be with having 17 kids in our class. But I know the Lord knows what He is doing and He knows what we can handle. And most importantly, He knows that those little children can teach me.