Avoiding the Spirit of Contention

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2000

What is the Spirit of Contention?

That is the spirit that presides over a class when the teacher or the learners are being aggressive, contending with each other, or verbally abusing each other.  When this happens the Spirit of the Lord leaves and so does the love for each other.

Keeping the Spirit in the Classroom

·        Teach learners how to keep the Spirit and learn what the Lord wants them to know by…

·        Listen carefully to each other.

·        Participate in discussions.

·        Offer personal experiences and insights.

·        Bear  your testimony.

·        Only one person may speak at a time.

Never ridicule, belittle, or embarrass others for their contributions.


Providing A Learning Atmosphere

·        Bring the Spirit with you.

·        Speak in a pleasant and courteous manner.

·        Make each learner feel they are of worth.

·        Dress appropriately.

·        Greet the learners warmly.

·        Smile!

·        Begin class by getting the learner’s attention.

·        Encourage mutual respect.

·        Encourage enthusiasm for learning the gospel by showing that it helps solves life’s problems.

·        Teach of Christ.

·        Share your feelings, experiences, insights, and bear your testimony.

·        Set and maintain class standards and reverence.

·        Focus and reward good behavior while trying to ignore lesser infractions of  the class standards.

·        Give breaks periodically.  A change in technique or subject is as good as a break.

·        Be understanding.

·        Help everyone participate.

Use a variety of teaching methods to prevent boredom and lack of attention.

How to Reach Out To Learners

·        Greet each learner sincerely and warmly.

·        Make participation inviting and safe.

·        Allow the learners to prepare part of the lesson.

·        Use  the learners talents.

·        Invite the Spirit to be with you and the learners

How To Show Our Learners We Care

·        Pray for them.

·        Know their interests, achievements, needs, and concerns.

·        Tailor the lesson to meet their needs.

·        Let them know that we missed them when they are absent.

·        Recognize them when they are present.

·        Offer help as needed.

·        Do no harm.

·        Look for and promote the good in them.

·        Promote their eternal welfare.


How to Stop a Contentious/Disruptive Class Members

“A soft answer turneth away wrath.” Prov. 15:1

·        Select a person who is disruptive in your class and show him/her that you care about him/her in five different ways.   Average results:  When the individual knew that the teacher cared about him/her disruption stopped!  Openly caring about the person made all the difference!

·        Instead of trying to make the learners conform to the rules, help them to become disciples of God

·        Wait for silence before continuing.

·        Move closer to the disruptive person.

·        Never be sarcastic or embarrass the learner!

·        Help the learner participate in a positive way.

·        Redirect unwanted discussion back to the lesson topic.

·        Speak privately with the person.   See: D&C 212:41-44

41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile-
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

·        If there is a pattern of disruption with an adult then seek the help from the Bishop.

·        If the problem is with a youth then see him/her with his/her parents to collaborate together in a spirit of love and understanding to find a workable answer to the problem.

·        Be patient!


Understanding Your Learners

·        Consider all the reasons why the learner is acting the way s/he is.

·        Is there something you are doing that is causing the problem?  See:  Evaluate Your own Efforts p. 84 in Teaching No Greater Call (1999).

·        Is there something going on with other learners in the class that is causing this individual to act out?


Principles of Transferring Knowledge

The principles of transferring knowledge are: persuasion, long suffering. gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, and pure knowledge.

Love Can Conquer All

When we show love to others they become more receptive to the spirit.  They want to learn to please us because they know we care about them.  They are open to the ideas we present.  They feel a sense of personal worth because we think they are of worth!  Since we have a desire for them to choose they choose the right more often.

What Goes Around Comes Around

One of the simplest and most effective things a teacher can do, is to extend himself/herself to each of the learners.  In doing so the learners are inspired to do the same for the teacher and the other learners.


A Measure of Success

Love each of your learners and measure your success as a teacher by the progress your learners make!


Note: Major parts of this article were taken directly from Teaching No Greater Call.


Teaching No Greater Call (1999). Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Salt Lake City, Utah: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Annette Nay Homepage

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