Five Ways to Improve as a Teacher

Here are some specific techniques you can use to improve your effectiveness as a Sabbath School teacher.

Record yourself on cassette. Listen for words or phrases that you overuse. I once counted myself using the phrase “you know” about 25 times in one sermon. Ask yourself, “Would I enjoy listening to this teacher, or would I be counting the ceiling tiles? Do my illustrations work? Is my train of thought clear, and does it lead the listener to a conclusion that requires involvement? Do I vary my tone of voice, or is it flat and monotonous? Is my lesson too short, or does it drag on interminably? Are my word choices suitable for my audience’s comprehension level? Do I permit enough time for group interaction?”

This can be a very painful process, but don’t be discouraged. Developing an awareness of your strengths and shortcomings as a teacher is a necessary prerequisite for improving!

  • Ask someone to videotape you. Watch for distracting mannerisms. Are you stiff and mechanical or relaxed? Are you chained to the lectern, or do you mingle with your listeners? Do you slouch or lean? Do you use your hands, arms, and facial expressions to their full potential? Do you make eye contact with your listeners? Choose a couple of things you want to work on, then practice in front of a mirror.
  • Seek feedback. Be sure to ask someone who will give you honest advice. You’re not looking for praise but for insight into areas you can improve. You can even arrange for someone to signal you when you get stuck in a rut during a lesson (like telling that fish story for the umpteenth time).
  • Observe gifted teachers and take notes. What intrigues you about their teaching content or style? What is their manner of delivery? What is the length of their messages? How do they use their voice? How do they involve you as a listener?
  • Get a book on teaching or public speaking and learn from the pros. The Art of Public Speaking by Ed McMahan is one excellent resource. Teaching to Change Lives by Howard Hendricks is another. Browse at your local bookstores or library. Be a life­long learner!

John Green
© 2006 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists