"Admittedly, what happened was unusual. But it showed what really mattered to the nine-year-olds I was teaching. Without realizing what they were doing, they took over the class discussion on their own."
"Such a shift took time, but more important, it took trust that the students really needed and wanted the nourishment of the gospel and that the presentation of the food through the scriptures and the Spirit really was what would sustain them. Over the next few months a gradual change took place wherin the students began to bring their scriptures regularly, began to discuss the gospel more freely and willingly, and began to sense the wonder of the message."
People ask how I can "handle" 14 kids in one primary class with so few problems. We love our primary class and have had some great gospel discussions. We even have weeks where they want to stay in class instead of going to sharing time. However, it wasn't something that just happened because we are such great teachers. It took time to get to this point. We have an unusual advantage, in that this is the third year he have taught many of the children in our class (the Valiant 11's). The first year we taught them, they were eight years old. At the time the class consisted of eight boys and had a reputation for being a "difficult" class to teach. Some couldn't read very well, and most didn't bring their scriptures to church.
The second year we taught them was last year, when they were ten-year-olds, combined with the eleven-year-olds (that was the third year we taught that group, which had also become an all boy class). They had already improved a great deal. They knew to bring their scriptures, and they were used to reading aloud in class. We were able to do more straight from the scriptures than we could that first year. We noticed it made a big difference to both groups of boys to be together in a situation where the older boys set the example for the younger ones.
This year our "younger" boys are now the older ones, setting an example for the new children in the class. I have noticed that it didn't take long at all for the newer students to fall into place. One girl, who was so difficult the first week I didn't know what we were going to do with her, is now one of our most enthusiastic learners. She loves learning about the gospel.
This is an advantage I think you have built into priesthood quorums, especially where you have an established program and leaders and teachers with tenure. When things are running smoothly, the younger boys will fall into place, following the example of the older boys, and the older boys will benefit from being an example.
You can even get a little of this in the Cub Scout program, because of the way it is set up in the Church. I know we often complain about how the boys advance on their birthdays instead of at the same time, like in other packs, which can make keeping track of everything tricky. However, you can take advantage of the fact that you have older boys who can set the example as new boys enter your den, just like in the priesthood quorums. You can increase their opportunities to lead each other by making use of the denner program, and if you can arrange for a den chief, that will give them yet another boy to look up to.
What if you don't have an established program and/or your leaders are all new? It can be hard to start from scratch, especially when you see someone else's program that is running smoothly. Maybe you know of, or have been in before, a great boy-led troop, and you don't see how your ward can ever get to that point. Sometimes it is hard, when starting at the beginning, to have patience and take thing slowly (I am currently having this challenge with the adults in our packs - in some ways training adults takes even more patience than training kids).
I remember Charles Dahlquist's description of his early days as a Scoutmaster:
"I told them, 'Boys, I have a feeling we do not have long to accomplish all we must in this quorum. For the next couple of weeks, I will be doing some things that, after you have seen how it's done, you will be doing, so watch carefully!' Within several weeks they shouldered their proper share of the load, but only after they had seen it done and caught a vision of how things should go." (I don't know whether this talk is online anymore, but I quoted a lot of it here.)
Hopefully, after a lot of time, patience and training, things will smooth out. The other day I was taking to someone who has been involved with young men and scouting in our ward for a few years. He was telling me how much the program has improved over time. When he started, it wasn't much of a program at all. Then they had a couple of good leaders who really got things organized and going. Then they all took training and things really got better. It sounds like things are going pretty well now, and they have a new committee chair who I know will make things even better.
If you can get your own program to grow that way, then we just have to hope the bishopric will follow the wisdom from the new Handbook:
"When possible, leaders should be allowed to serve in Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting callings long enough to become fully trained, establish strong activity programs, and effectively touch the lives of boys and men."
(Note: I found this lesson so inspiring, that it has given me way too much to talk about in one post. I would like to let you ponder on this for a while, and I will continue the discussion of the same lesson in another post.)