Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Teaching Primary

I have lived in four different wards in Idaho.

The first was our first year of marriage.  We were called to teach the Sunbeams.

Second was right after law school.  I was called to teach 10 and 11 year olds (mostly boys).

Third was after that stake was reorganized and we were assigned to a different ward.  I had three different callings in this ward (all at the same time), including one where April and I taught 9 and 10 year olds, although we only did that calling for our last month or two.

Fourth is now.  We've been in our house for almost two months, and we finally get callings.  5 year olds.

I accepted the calling, but it's frustrating.  I don't know anyone in this ward.  We don't have hometeachers assigned to us (as far as I know), and I don't have a hometeaching assignment.  And now that I'm being placed into primary, I won't get much chance to interact with other men in the ward.

What is it that makes Idaho bishops throw the new guy into primary, where he'll be isolated from other men, and as a result will have difficulty making friends?  You can tell me that every calling is inspired of God, but I've spent enough time in leadership positions to know that's not the case (unless things operate differently in Idaho).  Sometimes you have a need and a potential person to fill that need, and inspiration plays no part.  And sometimes the calling is just wrong.  (I spent six months of my mission in a ward where most of the leadership--Bishop, RS Pres, EQ Pres, etc--had, ten years before I got there, been excommunicated or disfellowshipped--do we really want to say that their callings were inspired?) 

But smart bishops should realize that isolating men by placing them in the primary is a good idea only if the man already has friends in the ward.

For the record, the only ward in Idaho where I've truly made friends is the last ward, where I had two other callings.  Being an EQ teacher, even if it was just once a month, allowed me to get to know other guys in the ward.  And having time to wander the halls due to a very active pre-nursery kid didn't hurt either, as it gave me a chance to talk to other hall wanderers.

So I'm dreading this calling.  Not the part about teaching the class, because I'm sure that will be fine.  But the part about not getting to know any other guys in the ward.  I've been there before, and it sucks.


alison said...

I teach the 5-6 year olds in my ward, and for the most part, I absolutely love it! But, I think regardless of gender, being in Primary just sets you apart from the rest of the ward. I only see the other teachers in junior primary, the chorister and pianist, and whoever of the primary presidency is teaching that day when I'm at church on Sundays. I really don't know who else comes to church, or doesn't, any given week--I just don't see them.

When we were in Arizona the second time, we were in a new ward, and the first week being there the bishop called me to be the organist and teach Jeremiah's "sunbeam class"...he was the only one. He wasn't able to sit through much of sharing/singing time, so, I went from playing prelude music before church, a little postlude after Sacrament meeting, run over to Primary to try to sit through as much as I could, teach and entertain my own kid for the rest of church, then run and find my other kids and take them home as quickly as possible.

Ideal? Not for me, in any way. But, the previous organist was also the YW president, and had been doing the same thing that I was for several years.

I think you can make of it what you want. Request a home teaching assignment (I know EQ isn't always on top of things, and my EQ pres--John--has definitely missed making new assignments in the past). Request home teachers/to know who yours are, and invite them to come (specifically, like for dinner, if they don't tend to be self-motivated). Get to know the families of the kids in your class. Go to your EQ and ward activities--you have to get to know people, and not just leave it to accommodating callings.

I know that having the same callings time and again can be frustrating (I've been the organist 4 times, pianist ...6?, and RS 2nd counselor 3 times, and have had few other callings), especially when it makes it hard to get to know people in a new ward. But, YOU make it what it is, and YOU can make friends regardless of where you serve.

Good luck, though. It's hard.

Tim said...


Thanks for the comment.

Imagine how isolating primary would be for you if the entire primary presidency, the pianist and chorister, and all the other primary teachers were MEN. I wouldn't feel isolated in that environment, but I imagine most women would. (No. Seriously. Imagine it. And imagine that you don't know any women in the ward yet).

I spent three years in Cincinnati in other callings (although I did become a part-time unofficial nursery leader when the official nursery leader was out for a couple of months and my boy was the only one in there). I had no problem in Cincinnati making friends, because I actually saw other men in church. Being EQP for 2 of those 3 years didn't hurt...

This is a large ward. I can request a hometeaching assignment and request my hometeachers visit, but that may or may not succeed, and if it does it will only introduce me to a handful of men in the ward (and no idea if they're the type of people I'd be able to become friends with).

As far as EQ activities go, they happen very rarely--maybe once a year--and all of them that are planned and don't conflict with work (at least most of them during the last 18 months) have been canceled.

So not a whole lot of opportunity, even if I do go out of my way to be social.

I like your idea of getting to know the families of the kids in our class. I imagine it's easier for a female teacher to get to know the kids' mothers than for a male teacher to get to know them, but I'll give it a try.

Katrina said...

It is hard. I haven't really been to RS for almost two years and so many new people have moved in that I feel like I don't know a fourth of the ward. Unless someone has a nursery-aged kid now, I probably don't know them. So, like Alison says, I've tried to make the most of it. Certainly, serving in the nursery here is way better than the same calling was for me in Cincinnati. I try to soak in everything I can during sacrament meeting (which, depending on my children's behavior, is easier some weeks than others)and then make it a point to notice all the good things that happen in nursery the next two hours. After being in Primary for a year and a half, and now nursery for a few months, I've come to appreciate how the simplest parts of the gospel can touch my heart in profound ways.

But as far as the social side of things go, I like you, often feel like an island during the rest of the week. I'm trying to reach out more and trying to remember that I won't be tucked away in nursery the rest of my life, so I hope I'm learning what I need to while I'm there.

I hope things improve for you!

Katrina said...

By the way, I forgot to mention that I know exactly how you feel because that's how I felt the year I was in nursery in the Norwood ward--which calling I received as soon as we moved in and I didn't know anyone yet. The only adult contact I had for those two hours was if a child's parent happened to come in. And this was after spending 24/7 with my own children while I was basically a single mom with Kirk in school F/T and working P/T. It was a hard, hard time for me.

Tim said...

So, the 5-year-olds are fun, and I have a new hometeaching companion. (I'm pretty sure we're the most politically liberal hometeaching companionship in Shelley...maybe even in all of Eastern Idaho--which doesn't mean that we're real liberal, just that everyone else around us is real conservative). So I think things will be okay. It'll just take a little longer to get to know people.

Katrina said...

I'm so glad to hear it!

alison said...

Well, 4 of our Primary teachers are men... I know it's hard moving into a new ward and just getting just about any "isolating" calling right away. And, are there not any dads of kids in your class? I sort of know my kids' mothers AND fathers, you know?

Cougarg said...

Maybe I've mentioned this story to you before, but it goes along with your "inspiration" of callings thoughts.
Just before Am and I got married we were in the singles ward here in Saratoga Springs. Being secretary in the EQ I had a lot more interaction with the bishopric than most, even in the singles ward environment. I had a conversation one Sunday after meetings with the First Counselor, whose career had been in the National Park Service.

He said that every new ward he moved into over the years had initially extended a call to serve in the Boy Scout program. Whenever that call was extended, he would tell the leadership that although he worked in the NPS, he was not an outdoors-y guy. He worked behind a desk and carried a gun. He told them that if they prayed about it and came back and still extended the call, that he would faithfully fulfill and magnify the calling. He told me that he never once ended up being called to serve in those callings.

He figured that they thought they had a guy that loved the outdoors and would be perfect for their Scout program, rather than being inspired.

Tim said...


Thanks for the comment. Maybe I should start saying, "Even though I have two young kids, I really hate other people's kids..." :)