5 Questions: Tyler Griffin

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Tyler Griffin is an assistant teaching professor in the Ancient Scripture Department of  BYU’s Religious Education.

How long have you been at BYU? What’s been your experience thus far?

I just barely completed two years, so I came August of 2010. I have loved it. I came from Church Education where I taught six years of seminary at Box Elder High School and seven years of Institute up in Logan at Utah State. I had 100 percent job satisfaction working for CES, I loved it, and since coming to BYU I’ve now realized I’m at 150 percent job satisfaction. I didn’t know it could get better, but it did.

What is your favorite course that you teach?

Holy cow. That’s hard. I teach four, first and second half of Book of Mormon and first and second half of New Testament. I can’t narrow it down to my favorite. If I could only teach one I think I’d just cry.

So, I’m sorry, but I can’t narrow that one down. I’m in what they call a teaching track — it’s different than the research professors. In the teaching track, we have to teach more students and more classes. I have seven classes, 1,200 plus students every semester.

What projects are you involved in?

We’re working on some 3D animation of Herod’s temple and the surrounding area in Jerusalem, which is a lot of fun. We’re going to have students be able to have an interactive experience walking through and around in a video game format in the temple at the time of Jesus. In Fall semester of last year I had three BYU animation students approach me and say, “Can we work on a project together?” My first thought was “Oh, sure, this is going to be a nice little project with slow-rendering pixels,” but at the end of the semester what they showed me blew my socks off. So it’s expanded and they’re working on Phase 2.

The whole idea is that when students read the Bible, for instance, when they read about things associated with the temple, it feels kind of distant and locked up in history. But when they get their hands on an immersive learning environment like this where they can actually walk around the temple — like they’re in a video game, but you don’t have to shoot anyone — it gives them a better sense of place. The scriptures come to life more.

What is your teaching philosophy?

To enable and empower and encourage studetns to do what President Hinckley had repeatedly invited us to do, “try a little harder to be a little better.” It makes it so they can feel empowered to go in and understand scriptures better, and feel more confident in their ability to idenitfy and understand the doctrines, the truths and the principles that are sometimes buried in the words on the page. They can find them and be able to apply them in their lives, to actually become a better person. So the summation answer is my overarching goal is to help students become what they were sent to this earth to become.

Do you have any advice for those considering religious education or who teach as a calling?

If I could give one piece of advice that I think would help teaching in the church, it would be not to have people read a big block of scripture and then ask them a question at the end, because most people zone out when you read a big block of scripture. So the adjustment is, take the question you were going to ask at the end and ask it at the front. Say, as we read this particular block of scripture, be looking for or watch for or see if you can figure out why or how it is that or what do you think… whatever that question is, put it at the front.  That way, when people read through it they’re more likely to stay focused and actually learn something from it rather than just reading black words on a white page, zoning out and sitting in uncomfortable silence because no one really knows what the answer is because they didn’t pay attention.

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