Anderson - Department of Teacher Education
Deep down I think I always wanted to be a teacher. Not that I
didn’t have other dreams—working in the sands of Egypt digging
for as-yet-unimagined treasures that would change man’s
knowledge of history, or maybe spending years at my Smith Corona
portable electric typewriter, capturing in words the essence of
life in such simplicity that it would become the next great
American novel. Oh, I had big dreams.
At the same time my real-life experiences were building within
me an awareness of what I truly admired. Influential mentors
showed me the learning process has meaningful and lasting
results. My vision of teacher was beginning to be defined.
Years later, I was ready. Armed with two degrees certifying that
I knew content and pedagogy, two student teaching experiences
that attested to competence, on-the-job decision making practice
that comes from being the mother of six young children, and a
conviction that I could make a difference in the world, one
child at a time, I anticipated that first day of school even
more than the children who were assigned to my charge. I was
ready for anything and everything...or so I thought.
But my vision of public education and the reality of public
education rarely proved a match. Commitment, hard work,
perseverance, and dedication were all traits that I worked to
embed into my persona of teacher. But they were not enough! Over
the next thirteen years, I continued to pursue the scholarly
approach to learning and teaching. Yet something was missing
from my intellectual education.
• I had been taught classroom management skills...but wasn’t
sure what to do when a second-grader was inextricably wrapped
around the legs of a classroom table, holding his teachers and
classmates at bay with his profanity, and daring me (now an
administrator) to do something about it.
• I had been taught the importance of accessing prior knowledge
and setting the stage for learning...but didn’t know how to
relate the student’s tale of a drug raid and the cops and the
whizzing bullets and hiding under the mattress for hours until
it was safe to come out to our study of the weather.
• I had learned about diversity and cultural identity...but
realized how little I truly understood as a student I loved sat
next to me in my office, waiting for the police to arrive and
explaining that I didn’t understand—he had to beat another
student with the metal pipe because if he hadn’t, he could never
return to the projects where he lived. (The other student had
made a negative comment about this boy’s mother.)
• I had been trained to work with parents for the benefit of
children...but no one had mentioned how to respond when, during
a conference, a parent stated in front of her child, “I don’t
want him.... I never wanted him,” and I was looking into the
eyes of that child.
So now I am at BYU–Idaho, working with other faculty to send new
teachers on a journey that will bring them some of their
greatest moments of satisfaction and accomplishment blended with
their greatest moments of frustration and sadness. To prepare
them for this journey, we teach our students content... we teach
pedagogy...we teach language and management and motivation. Yet
because we are at BYU–Idaho, we have the right and the
responsibility to teach and model those things that transcend
secular knowledge and embody the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of our missions at BYU–Idaho is to “build testimonies of the
restored gospel of Jesus Christ and encourage living its
principles.” Having worked “in the world,” I do not take for
granted the privilege of praying in class, the freedom to
discuss gospel doctrine within the context of my discipline, the
blessing of inspired leadership, faithful colleagues, and
honorable students. Believing that each of us has been prepared
to be at this university at this time for purposes beyond our
own, I want my students to learn from my experiences. What do I
want them to really know?
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye
have love one to another (John 13:35).
How easy it is to love those who share our beliefs, our values,
and our desires—and how critical it is that we learn to love
unconditionally each of our Heavenly Father’s children. As
simple as it may sound, it truly does not matter how much we
know until others know how much we care. I want to always
remember the feelings I experienced when meeting with the family
of a bright, handsome young boy who had been a near-drowning
victim and was now severely disabled. During the meeting this
boy’s father, an executive officer of a major corporation in our
community, looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Thank
you for loving my child”—not “Thank you for teaching my child.”
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your
good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven (Matthew
There exists an indefinable attraction toward individuals whose
lives reflect the example of the Savior. I have seen it occur
over and over again—teachers reporting that they quickly
identify which of their students’ families are Latter-day Saints
simply by watching them, teachers asking other teachers, “What
is it about your life that I want to have in my life?” And they
are equally apt to report that a Latter-day Saint acquaintance
was observed doing something inconsistent with the principles of
the gospel. I must teach my students that what we do has much
more of an impact than what we say—and that a powerful influence
for good is generated when these are consistent.
And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which
ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do
not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge
ye shall also be judged (Moroni 7:18).
I was raised in a community not known for its morals, modesty,
or tastefulness. I attended thirteen years of public school with
classmates of differing races, religions, and cultures. I have
worked with families and colleagues representing diverse
socio-economic statuses, philosophies, backgrounds, beliefs, and
lifestyles. I have learned that people are innately good, that
they try to do the best they can with what they have been given,
and that no one makes the right decision all of the time. I
realize that I have become who I am in part because of my
interactions with other members of mankind. Is it then
conceivable that others become who they are in part because of
their interactions with me?
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto
thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he
shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5,6).
In spite of my best efforts, I will not be able to adequately
prepare my students for every challenge that they will encounter
as they enter this chosen profession. I can provide role-play
and simulation activities, practicum and student teaching
experiences, but I cannot provide every real-life parent and
every real-life student and every real-life life situation that
could possibly occur in an educational environment. I can
provide strategies and techniques for good instruction and
classroom management, but I cannot anticipate the myriad
variables that together create each unique learning environment.
However, I can help instill within my students a testimony that
their Heavenly Father knows them by name, that He knows their
hopes and their fears and the righteous desires of their hearts.
Armed with this knowledge, our students can seek understanding
because they will know that He will direct their paths. After
eight semesters (hopefully), our students leave the safety and
security of this formative and nurturing environment to assume
their rightly earned roles within the vast realm of education.
If we have done our job of adequately preparing them for what
lies ahead and they have done their job of availing themselves
of the learning opportunities provided, what can they—and
we—expect? As Elder Henry B. Eyring prophesied:
"The day will come that that capacity to influence people around
you for good will have you singled out as one of the great
leaders in whatever place you’re in. They will not quite know
why, but you will know that the reason you are being singled
out is not because of your innate gifts as a leader but because
you have done what the Savior would do—learned how to, and did"
(“A Steady, Upward Course,” BYU–Idaho Devotional, September
18, 2001). SM
Excerpts taken from an article that first appeared in
Perspective: Expressing Mind & Spirit (Volume 4, Number 1,