The Secret of Learning…beware to the reader!

Sleep-learning I just finished a provocative video that was recommended to me via a person I respect in the field of communication.  I really feel that any teacher, speaker, communicator, even parent (any individual who has the role/function of teacher) cannot sit on whatever laurels they may have accomplished in reality or in their own mind over the years.  You see, it is easy to limit oneself when it comes to communication and teaching by falling into traps of familiarity and habit.  In fact, just like it is with many things in life, you can reduce yourself and your teaching passion/gifts to the "lowest common denominator"..which, truth is, is simply laziness.  In other words, it is easy to keep up your time-treasured, familiar and easy to navigate habits than to work hard at learning something new. 

What I've discovered over the years is that teaching is hard work…why?  Because the focus of teaching cannot be on the teacher but has to be on the "student"…in other words, are THEY getting it?  You see, many times in our culture, the teacher is the focal point of the learning process.  It is their expertise, their education, their ability to communicate (or other things like power, authority, etc.) that becomes the necessity in the learning process.  Unfortunately, that just doesn't cut it.  Now, that shouldn't come as too big of a surprise to you because you really know that in the depth of your soul.  You really do…because YOU learned and YOU grew when YOU owned the process.  That's the secret…how do we get students to own their own learning process and to do the work of growth and formation.  As parents and mentors, how do we get the child or mentee to monitor their own behavior and make responsible decisions?  That's really the crux of the matter, isn't it?  That is really the HARD WORK of teaching…getting the "students" to own their the process.  Now, I know that inspiration is all good…I love inspirational messages and teachings…I love good ideas and they spark my desire to learn and grow.  But eventually it is ME who does the work…or as the video link I provide below says, "work your a** off until you figure it out"…OR in other words, the secret to learning is working your tail off to build a new skill (the video shows the "skateboarding" principle to learning – he failed 57 times in order to do ONE TRICK well on the 58th try).  So, is what I am doing not only inspiring students but putting the work in their hands and within their own responsibility so they can take ownership for what they need and want to learn?  Am I allowing them to experiment, fail, get encouragement, fail again only to eventually learn and succeed (and apply, or grow, or transform, or learn)?  That's the question…

I had a great experience over the weekend that illustrated this for me…in other words, I saw it clearly AGAIN.  I was leading a morning study on a letter from the New Testament.  I admitted up front (at the beginning of the session) that I loved teaching…I loved the "sound of my own voice" and that it was easy for me to "take off" and head on through my agenda for hours because it pumped me up with enthusiasm and energy.  In other words, I fell into the "teacher's trap"…I was enamored with "me".  Unfortunately, I told the group, MY energy and passion for the material needs to be matched up with the group's ownership in the learning and growing process…in other words, I knew that in order for that to happen, I was going to have to be quiet for a bit and allow the group to work through the material in order to see how it was affecting/effecting their lives.  You see, sometimes you have to be reminded in the learning process that there are times to "shut yo mouth" and allow others to share. I think a hybrid of John the Baptist's famous words, "more of Jesus, less of me" is relevant in this regard – but it reads like this in the learning process if you are a teacher – "more of them and less of you".  Oh yeah, and I also saw this alive and well with my wife Vicky as she is learning a new "business" and computer program…I could help her by doing the work or let her learn on her own (with a few pointers here and there) and let her become her OWN expert.  Which do you think has the lasting result? 

So, I'm learning…I am working my butt off in being challenged on the communication/learning process and journey.  I've read a several books this year on communication, problem solving, change dynamics, etc…and I've got pages of notes and good ideas that I'm attempting to implement (all that take TONS of time, by the way…it would have been easier and less time consuming to simply stay with my "treasured" educational methods and habits).  Even so, sometimes you need to have a simple reminder – that learning and growth is something that eventually is the responsibility of the one who wants to learn and grow.  We can't continue to perpetuate what the video says is the "dehumanization" process of education (you can see that for yourself if you want to).  What is that old cliche – you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink?  Yeah, I've lead alot of horses…the question is, are they still thirsty? 

If you want to check out the video I watched on learning and education, here it is (CLICK HERE).  It is a good one for teachers, leaders, and communicators.  NOTE – you will need to watch it and "contextualize" it to your "discipline" or your specific educational/learning context (teacher, communicator, preacher, trainer, boss or parent) but ask yourself about its implications – it has implications for anyone in the "growth" business!  So, look for those application points and enjoy!

By the way, if you do watch the video, I'd love to hear what you think…add a comment below or email me (rdugall@apu.edu). 

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6 thoughts on “The Secret of Learning…beware to the reader!

  1. Awesome video. I especially like that point of letting people discover things even if it means they get it wrong. That’s when the teacher steps in to help point them in the right direction. Oh so many thoughts when it comes to contextualizing this to children’s ministry. So many times in ministry, our teaching is fear-based. We want to make sure people don’t ever get “it” wrong. So we don’t allow for discovery, which I believe is one HUGE key in people making something their own.

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  2. Exactly… the difference from my last year to this year of school….do things differently….you do get different results…probably even better because I/you, have had to reexamine information in a new format. You can’t just, “assume” ,that everyone got it or do it by rote .
    God Bless.

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  3. God, using you has made a difference in my life and I pray guidance not only for me, but for those in my church that have been contacted with your e-mails and words of encouragement–thank you!

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