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Substitute Teacher Finally Admits She Doesn’t Know Subject Matter

Have you ever tried to stand and teach, and there you are in front of the class, and you realize all of a sudden that you are out of your depth and that you haven’t got a clue as to what is going on and what to say? That makes for some pretty interesting learning. I remember back in my junior high school days that there was one substitute teacher that the school system just kept calling to our school. Her specialty was physical education, and she looked like Godzilla and sounded like a country-western singer. Quite a creature.

Well, she may have been a pretty decent physical education teacher, but they kept throwing her into all these other classes as a substitute. She tried to wing it through algebra; and that sort of worked because there was a step-by-step teacher’s manual that she used. And she slugged it out through American history, primarily by reading the textbook to us. But one day she showed up in Science class, and the poor soul tried for a half an hour to make sense out of the idea of molecules to explain why water "berled," as she put it (thank goodness they never, never put her into an English class). She valiantly tried, one hand holding her book and the other hand mopping her fevered brow, to sound like she knew what really happened when you "berled" that water! Of course we worldly-wise eighth-graders snickered and grimaced and got her own "berling pernt" up.

Suddenly she slammed her book down on the windowsill; she stared out the window for a moment, and then turned to us and said, "Hey, I don’t know this stuff either. Maybe you can explain it to me and then we’ll all understand"

Well, the atmosphere in that classroom changed all of a sudden. Now we were all learners. Now we were all trying to figure it out together. And we learned something! I submit to you that it took courage for her to say, "I don’t know." But then we all learned. And I submit to you that since you’re going to be in the world anyway, and since you don’t know it all, just go ahead and recruit some fellow learners, make some disciples, and learn together.

I’ve always liked the Stephen Leacock story about the fellow who thought that he was not spiritually prepared to invite his lady love to be his bride, and so he spent some two years of his life toning up his spiritual life, doing things like memorizing the names of the Kings of Israel and Judah in chronological order, so he’d be good enough for her. The only trouble was that by the time he had finished all of that she had married a fellow who didn’t know the difference between Ahab and a hole in the wall!

You know enough already to get started. You know enough already to make disciples. And since you’re going into the world anyway, you may just as well make disciples, teaching. You may not be able to preach like Peter and you may not be able to pray like Paul, but this one thing you can do: you can tell the love of Jesus and say “He died for all.”

From a sermon by Joseph Smith, Since You’re Going Anyway, Teach, 11/6/2009

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