A few weeks after Jeff was released from the Singles Ward Bishopric we were asked to teach the 10 and 11-year-olds in Primary. This hindered our social lives some, because going directly into the primary didn't help us meet people our own age or really get to know much of anyone who was over the age of 11 in our ward. There were honestly some Sunday mornings when I complained to Jeff about how I didn't want to go, I was sick of having to teach every week. I would really drag my feet getting there. But then we'd get there and teach and the kids were so wonderful that I would always leave in a wonderful mood, laughing at their craziness. They were not always reverent, but they all had such wonderful spirits and bright personalities.
After we accepted the calling we had interesting reactions from people who found out we were taking the class. These ranged from exclamations of our bravery and having our work cut out for us, to heartfelt comments about how hard they had been praying to find someone who would be right for that class. I felt like Maria in The Sound of Music, apprehensively asking "What's wrong with the children, Captain?"
Nothing was wrong with them. It was two classes combined into one, and I think it's the hardest age for primary kids to be. They're the oldest there, and quite frankly they are bored of primary. All of them would talk excitedly about going on to mutual, and were not shy about telling us how done with primary they were - even when we'd tease them and act devastated that they were so eager to leave our class. We did the best we could to try to satisfy that longing they had for the older program, and also to hopefully make the transition smooth for them.
Often when we'd plan our lessons we'd read the suggested activity in the manual and realize it was really geared for younger children. Our manual was for 8-11-year-olds, and we thought this was part of the reason why church had gotten boring for so many of them. At the same time, sometimes we'd try activities with them that we thought would be more grown-up and have an impact, just to realize once again how young they really were.
For example, early on we were teaching a lesson about the iron rod. Jeff and I came up with this great idea that we thought would just really teach them something. I remember Jeff saying something to me that morning about how he just hoped this would really have an impact on them and be hard-hitting and life-changing. (Ah, the naivety of our teaching goals back then.) We brought a long extension cord and took the kids down to the cultural hall. We had a serious talk with them about not saying anything about what someone else might do during the activity, but just to worry about themselves. The cord was stretched across the room and each child held on to it. We'd read out things they may have happened to them within the last week - things like "did you fight with a sibling?" If they had, they had to let go of the "rod." After letting go of the rod, if they had to answer yes to another question they had to take a step away. We threw in some positive circumstances too along the way which would let them step back closer to the rod. We wanted them to realize how important even their little actions were in the long run. At the end they all agreed to say their prayers that night and come to the tree of life.
We walked back to the classroom, and they were surprisingly quiet in the halls. I thought to myself, "Yes! We've really given them something to think about!" Then we got up to the room, and someone mentioned what they had eaten for dinner the night before. Suddenly everyone had to tell us what they had had for dinner, and try as we might we could not get the discussion back to the iron rod. Fail.
On Fast Sundays we would set aside the last five minutes or so of class to have a mini-testimony meeting with the kids. We wanted to help them get used to that idea so that when they went on to mutual, camps, etc. they would understand what was going on and feel a little more comfortable. They were shy about bearing their testimonies in front of us, but a few did and hopefully they will feel more and more comfortable with the idea as they get older.
One thing I learned from this experience is that the reason Jeff is so good with kids is that he's always the fun guy - never the disciplinarian. The first Sunday there we had a game plan for Senior Primary, which kids needed to be separated and who couldn't sit by who. Unfortunately there were really more that needed to be separated from sitting by each other than we could accomplish with just the two of us, but we prioritized. Jeff didn't follow through on the plan. He ended up sitting on the end of the row, and things were rowdy. I asked him afterward why he didn't sit in between our talkers. "I asked if I could sit there, and they told me no," he explained. I rolled my eyes. I grew up with brothers. You don't ask! The next week, I showed him how it was done. I went right up to our little group of boy talkers, and announced that I was sitting in between them. They seemed ready to stand their ground (or rather, sit it), so I just turned and started to sit - making it exaggerated and drawn out but making it clear that I was claiming my seat. They moved out of my way, just like I told Jeff they would. He got a little better as the year went on. He'll need to really get the mean face down before we have kids of our own, though.
We threw a pool party for the kids a week or so before we moved, and that was a ton of fun. They surprised us with little notes each had written on that started with "I love the Farnsworths because..." that were so sweet. I was delighted to find that one of them actually wrote about the iron rod lesson, saying it was his favorite one. So hey - maybe we taught them more than I think. They are sort of at the age where you can't tell if they are really listening to you. (Christian is at that age, too.)
The pool party was great because we got to play around and go crazy. We ate the best cookies Jeff and I have ever made (seriously, they were amazing. I don't know why) with ice cream and said our goodbyes. I'm really going to miss our kids. Yes, I'm the annoying type that now refers to them as "our" kids, although they are not ours in any sense.
The kids (minus two who were unable to make it to the party.)