Discovering Cows, Scriptures, and Teaching

“It is hard to talk about teaching without talking about learning as well,” explained Matthew Richardson, Second Counselor in the LDS Sunday School General Presidency, in a recent Power of Teaching presentation. “Teaching and learning are like two sides of the coin—we need the whole coin for it to be worth something.”

Beginning his presentation, Richardson projected a large picture onto the screen. The audience looked at what first appeared to be a mass of black dots.

“What do you see here?” Richardson asked. The audience first had a hard time determining what the optical illusion was. Soon a few members in the audience exclaimed, “It’s a cow!” Richardson then directed those audience members to explain to their neighbors how to see the cow among the dots. One even walked up to the screen and pointed out the nostrils, eyes, and ears. After some time everyone in the audience could see the cow.

Richardson explained that the learning process comes in various ways at various times, like it did for audience members in “discovering” the cow on the screen. Similarly, “Sometimes there are many layers and many ways to look at something. Often our experience will change how we see things,” Richardson said.

This continual process of learning and discovering is why Richardson says he chose to go into teaching. “Sometimes as learners all we need is someone to lead us, guide us, walk beside us—to help us find the way,” he said, quoting the LDS hymn “I am a Child of God.” He related the scriptural passage where Philip finds the Ethiopian soldier reading scriptures in a chariot. Philip asks the soldier, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” to which the soldier replies, “How can I, except some man should guide me?”

Like the soldier who had access to the scriptures, we too may have the tools, Richardson explained, but need someone to guide us in using them. “That is where teaching comes in,” he said. He then shared personal experiences with mentors throughout his life who, in different ways, helped him find his way as a religion professor at BYU. One of these significant guides was a fourth grade teacher, Ms. Jones, who saved every newspaper clipping about Richardson, even years after he had left her class. “I learned a lot about teaching when I discovered how much I mattered to her,” he said.

Concluding, Richardson remarked that God works through teachers and guides who draw us out of our own limited perspectives and away from the world’s critical one, to help us see ourselves—what we really are and what we can become.

6 December 2010