Dealing With Criticism

Have you ever dealt with Sister So-And-So or Brother What’s-His-Name who is openly and repeatedly critical of how you are handling your calling?  They’ve made it their mission to inform you of the “correct” way to do things, what changes you need to implement and how you can be better?  And all it makes you want to do is run to the Bishop to be released?  Well, let me tell you that you are not alone!

I’ve seen music leaders who have asked to be released, not because they don’t enjoy teaching singing time, but because of the judgement and criticism they receive from the other adults in the room.  And I won’t lie, I’ve been a singing time critic before.  LONG before I was ever in the calling, I was a primary teacher.  I was a newlywed and my husband and I were called to teach primary.  We enjoyed teaching the kids each week.  But then the dreaded singing time came.  It was so boring.  I was dying and so were the kids.  The music leader just posted word charts on the board EVERY. SINGLE. SUNDAY.  I’d talk to my husband about how I’d change things if I were ever in the calling, yada yada yada.  I never expressed my feelings to her but I definitely thought there was a better way to do it.  And maybe there was but she was doing her best.

Fast forward to a few years and I found myself with the calling.  I was SUPER excited!  I could finally implement my own ideas and do things the “right” way!  I prepped all week for my first Sunday.  I created a big music sheet with removable notes and the words.  I was not only going to get these kids to know the songs, but teach music theory right along with it all while feeling the spirit and keeping everyone engaged!  Boy were these kids lucky to have me and I was going to be awesome!

Needless to say, it was a HUGE flop!  I went home so discouraged and embarrassed.  I wasn’t sure I could face the next week in primary.  This calling was harder than I ever imagined.  I had so much compassion for the previous music leader I criticized years before.  The following week, with a humbled heart, I prayerfully went back to the drawing board and scoured the internet for any help I could find (this was WAY before the primary music leaders FB group was around!).  I eventually landed on a little singing time blog, the author being from Wisconsin (at least I think – it’s not around anymore and I wish I could remember her name or website).  She came to my rescue and emailed me TONS of resources.  I remember praying and stressing over this calling and I truly feel she was an answer to my prayer.  She helped me over the course of a few months, helping me get my feet under me.  I eventually learned the ropes and what my teaching style was.  I also had some amazing stake leaders who put together annual stake trainings which I gleaned so much from.  Even the simple fact of coming together with the 8 other women in the stake who had our calling was so helpful!

If you are familiar with my website, I’ve been collecting, creating and posting all my ideas out there for everyone use, share and hopefully love for over 10 years now!  I never intended for it to grow into the space it has become.  It was just meant as a place to store ideas and share them if anyone ever needed help.  Just like I once needed.  And it’s just me – I don’t have a team of employees.  I’m no professional blogger (just take a look at its overall layout – it still screams 2008!).  But it gets the job done and has become an enjoyable hobby-jobby where I’m able to serve in a somewhat odd but wonderful capacity.

I know that putting myself out there opens myself up to criticism – it just comes with the territory so I’ve learned to be pretty thick-skinned and let a lot brush by me.  And honestly, I don’t get too much grief from readers – mostly everyone is way too kind and generous in their comments making it easy to keep running things over here.  

And the kindness still comes even when occasionally my ideas or lesson plans don’t go as I had envisioned.  But I do try and be as open and honest as I can about lesson plans that I would or  wouldn’t repeat.
So anyway, to the point…I received these 2 messages recently and I’m assuming they are both by the same “loving” sister who is set on correcting my ways.  I haven’t responded to her mostly because I just want to say mean things back (hey, I know I’m online but I’m still a human with feelings).
Here’s what she had to say in a comment directly on my blog:
“Please read the manual and helps authorized by the church. We are not supposed to be doing holidays,ie Valentine’s Day, st Patrick’s day etc. this is a church calling not a preschool or school. Everything should be pointing the children to Jesus and Heavenly Father. Our culture in Utah has Moved away from gospel teaching and tries to integrate worldly fluff instead of pure doctrine. Please sisters read the manual to teach these children. Use the spirit and it’s guidance instead of easy things so you don’t have to work too hard. Fluff and fun can be had at preschool; heavenly fathers children need to feel the spirit and to have the songs teaching pure doctrine.” 
Then this email that was sent directly to me:
“You are the new gospel doctrine teacher for primary.  Unlike last year the songs and the shortened sharing time are the gospel instruction. However our chorister is getting distracted and the children are very irreverent using your helps. Driving a car, mowing a lawn, word nerd might be fun but the screaming laughter and irreverence makes it difficult for the spirit to be felt. I know you mean well but as a teacher who watches and has to teach after sharing time I know these kids can learn the gospel without it being a game. Our chorister uses your helps and many weeks god and Jesus aren’t even mentioned.  Please prayerfully encourage choristers to read the manual. The church has outlined what you should be doing and the decorum and reverence that should be there.”
(I’ll leave her anonymous)

I mostly feel terribly bad for the primary music leader in her ward.  Her words initially upset me (don’t worry though, I’m over it now) and they’ve only been sent to me digitally!  I’m assuming that this sister has verbally mentioned her issue with my content directly to her primary’s music leader – who I’m sure is doing her very best, as are most of us.

Unfortunately, I see similar comments pop up all over the primary music leaders FB page and I CRINGE when I see them.  I know we all have different styles of running singing time and I personally think that’s great!  But it’s NOT something to criticize!  I think the intention of the new Come Follow Me curriculum is to help us study the scriptures that are given then how you teach is left completely up to you and the Lord. 

My ideas here as just that – ideas!  Use the ones you like and leave the ones you don’t.  No problem!  I’m just here to give you a boost if you ever need.  I have adapted following the new Come Follow Me program in my own way, and the best way I can.  I love the program and have embraced it, even though this particular sister feels like I’ve strayed far from it.
When I put together singing time plans, I always try to keep these questions in mind:
  • Will we feel the spirit? Yes!  But 3 year olds will definitely feel the spirit differently than an 11 year old or an adult!  And it’s my job as the music leader to take that into consideration.
  • Will we sing? Yes!  I always try to mostly sing, while talking very little
  • Will we learn gospel principles while singing? Yes!  We might be incorporating “mowing the lawn” as a fun “dad” action on Father’s Day as we sing a few songs about fathers but I see no harm in that.  Movement is a wonderful way kids learn.
  • Will the kids get rowdy?  Possibly.  But that’s okay!  I can’t blame kids for acting like kids!  As long as we bring it back in.  The gospel is meant to be enjoyed.  Only then will it be embraced and loved.

Let’s learn to love our differences instead of feel inadequate by them and critical (which, if I’m being honest, is hard to do)!  This calling would be ineffective if we were required to teach using the exact same methods each week.  I think that’s why there is so much freedom with the new curriculum and our lesson plans.  We are able to read the simple curriculum, follow the directions of the spirit and then use our own talents to magnify our calling.  It’s wonderful!

So, if you are every feeling down and out about this calling (or any calling for that matter!) because of other’s opinions, know that you are not alone.  Then let’s try to not ever be the one who criticizes others – let’s just build each other up.  We’re all children of our Heavenly Father trying to serve Him and his children in the best way we can.


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15 thoughts on “Dealing With Criticism”

  1. I was just thinking yesterday that I needed to thank you for all that you do on your blog. It’s amazing, truly. I have four small children, including a new baby and your blog has been a lifesaver for me. I’ve been able to have fun, engaging, and spiritual singing times that I think/hope/pray the children are enjoying. I definitely couldn’t do it on my own at this time in my life. Thank you so much for all the work you do!

  2. I too want to thank you for all of your helps. I have used them for years and look forward to what you have ideas for. We all need support in our callings. I love all the hard work all the choristers do!! Thank you so much!
    ps. Love this post!!

  3. Camille,
    I want to add my thanks to you, too! I really need the ideas that other people have to assist me in our Primary. We live in a small inner-city Branch in Luanda, Angola. In addition to planning how to teach the Primary songs, I also must memorize the words in Portuguese. Without the help of other people, I would be way overwhelmed. Our Primary has really grown over the past several months and many of these children are not members of the church nor are their parents. Primary may be the only gospel teaching they receive each week. By teaching these sacred songs that teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, I feel I am helping to gather Israel one little child at a time. If I have used a more "active" way to teach a song, at the end of singing time, I always have them stand and we talk about singing with our hearts. Often I have them sing with their eyes closed so they can better feel the words of the song. I want to incorporate placing their hand over their hearts, too. It is a perfect time to bare testimony to them of our Savior and Heavenly Father and the principles taught in the song we learned. And I have found, that if we are active in our singing time, the children are always ready to sit reverently during the lesson–something much appreciated by the Primary Presidency. Thank you again for everything you are doing!

  4. Camille,
    You are a wonderful, brilliant and extremely generous individual! I am so grateful for all of your efforts. Please know that you are cherished by many who benefit from your sharing.
    Much Love,

  5. I depended upon your site when I held this calling, and when my daughter was called (with MUCH trepidation) I was so happy that I could give her your link. I appreciate, so very, very much the time and effort you put in to this site.
    God bless you for your service.

  6. I think you are amazing! Thank you for your wonderful ideas. I am able to do exactly as you intend. I take your fabulous ideas and incorporate them into my own teaching style. I honestly don't know how I would survive without you. I check your blog almost daily!

  7. I also want to add my gratitude for all you do. I know you're not looking for compliments, but your website has improved my teaching tremendously, and I do feel like you constantly point to the Savior and your testimony is obvious through all your lesson ideas. Thanks so much for all your hard work!!!

  8. Camille- it breaks my heart when I hear that someone has been critical of how you (or anyone else!) does their primary chorister calling. I have never posted my comments on the fb page (which I look at every week for ideas and uplifting/spiritual thoughts) or on your site. I took a huge step back from FB 2 years ago and I rarely post anything on my own page! Perhaps I should from now on. We all need to have those positive reinforcements from each other. So often it's the Lord's way of answering our prayers. We do need to be very careful of what we say, especially online.
    So- THANK YOU!! Your labor of love is appreciated. You are creative, engaging and so clever! I often use your ideas and sometimes just look to see if we are on the same wavelength when I have my own plans. I do believe that singing time should be fun and that we can teach gospel principals in lots of ways. I love to give them a "serious" moment just before closing where my testimony is shared and I remind them of my love for them and more importantly- Heavenly Father and Jesus' love for them. I often feel that I "messed up" and that I can't possibly "measure up" to some amazing women I have been fortunate to watch in action. Still love it and wouldn't trade it for any other calling out there. I keep praying every year that I don't get released.
    I'm happy you've developed that thick skin and you let those negative comments roll right off you. If we see comments like that online- I hope we can all respond positively. Sometimes people don't realize they are being critical. It may be how they were raised or how they were taught.
    Please keep helping all of us who need you. We may not know each other face to face, but we are part of an amazing group of men and women who love our "kids" and want to help them grow their testimonies and see, feel and know that they are loved!

  9. And this is the part where we tell that sweet sister, if you think you can do better, have at it! Maybe she’ll get the opportunity to do it her way and see that it’s not so easy to suck the fun out of the room and try to teach. Thank you for the ideas you provide. As a school teacher who teaches all week and my brain is zapped by Sunday, you help me present great content. And I feel like it’s appropriate for Sunday. I haven’t encountered anyone yet being snarky about how I do things (this is my 5th time as primary chorister…aahhh) but if I did, I would gladly say: This is a volunteer position, let’s see you take a crack at it!

  10. For several years I have been our primary chorister here in Louisville, Ky. I get a lot of positive feedback for my singing time activities. I owe it all to you! I feel like you have become a friend to me over the years (I know that sounds creepy!) but I enjoy your personality that shines through your blog. Thank you for your service and thank you for this post. It was needed. Here's to many more years of singing time success!

  11. I needed this post so very badly. I have been dreading Primary singing time lately where I used to be so excited to sing and teach. I keep telling myself that the gospel is about Jesus Christ and not the people in my ward. I have wanted to run down the hall to the Bishop's office but I have refrained because I love the kids so much and that always wins the battle with my discomfort. I appreciate your ideas so very much and you were an answer to my prayers so thank you very much!

  12. I agree with your thoughts whole heartedly! Although we all want the to children to feel the spirit through our entire lesson, they are different ages and I think it's so important for them to just enjoy being there. When I was younger, fresh out of college, I was critical when people brought treats etc. etc. etc. because I thought they should love the gospel for just that, the gospel! Now I am older and I've seen my own children struggle with a desire to even be at church, I realize the importance in loving them, making it enjoyable, and building upon the spirit as often as you can. Singing time should be all those things, but you can't always do them all-in-one week. I sure appreciate all the work you do and how many hours you have saved me! Love your help, love your willingness to serve, love that you magnify your calling!

  13. That sister is an idiot, and I’ll repent for that soon! Thanks for working hard to make things a bit easier for some of us whose lives aren’t easy all the time to plan out school for our kids, daily chores and tasks, raise families, be a bishop’s wife (and be called everyday all day by women like this looking for your husband) carry out our other 6 callings and still get to church with our hair half done! Jesus please help that woman so I don’t have to find her and do so myself! You rock Lady Camille (that’s my name for you) Keep it up! Sorry this is coming years later I just recently got called back to primary chorister and was browsing your website!

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