The Art of Teaching

In Career Readiness, Character Education, Learning & Mindset by Trent RhodesLeave a Comment

Example 1:

Student: What’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom?

Teacher: Here’s the textbook. And you can Google the definition. I have the dictionary here too. You can read both of the definitions. Memorize them. That will help.

Example 2:

Student: What’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom?

Teacher: *Gives the student a pair of scissors.*

Student: What do scissors have to do with knowledge and wisdom? I’m asking you a direct question!

Teacher: Knowledge is the pair of scissors.

Student: Okay, forget this. I don’t get it.

Teacher: Look at the pair. The blades are made of metal. The color. The handle, how it’s designed.

Student: Yeah, so?

Teacher: This is knowledge.

Student: What?

Teacher: Describing this pair of scissors, its details, the information. This is knowledge of the scissors.

Student: Okay so knowledge is stuff I know about. That’s simple. If that’s the knowledge, then what’s the wisdom?

Teacher: It’s how you use the scissors. You can cut clothes, thread, a box or a person. How you use the scissors is the wisdom.

Student: Ah I get it now. So wisdom is how you use something?

Teacher: Wisdom is your ability to apply knowledge in the most effective way.

Student: So…I can use the scissors however I want? Did it take knowledge or wisdom to create the scissors? Ha, gotcha!

If there’s one art you may not find in the galleries and museums, it is the art of teaching. This is because teaching doesn’t produce paintings or sculptures or massive architectural monuments. Teaching is the art that cultivates the minds that produce paintings and sculptures and massive architectural monuments.

The passing down of knowledge from one person to another is as old as there have been beings on the planet. Our ability to learn is directly connected to experiencing something and gaining an understanding so that we can repeat, do it worse or do it better. So it makes sense that one of the most critical professions in the world should receive one of the highest accolades and moral badges, respect, compensation and esteem, right?

I can hear many thinking “Yeah, right!”

If our classrooms are filled with young minds who [eager or not] are there to learn and build their own knowledge and wisdom, we need the art of teaching to be taken more seriously and given more consideration. More adoration. More on the level of top scientists and lawyers and CEOs and entertainment celebrities. The teachers help to shape those minds, the youth who will grow up and take on positions people have today. They won’t have them forever. Even tyrants pass on.

But teaching doesn’t have to occur just in a classroom. You could teach your friend, your spouse, your relatives. Someone could teach you for 5 minutes or 50 minutes out on the street. Just by observing someone do something, you’re learning indirectly.

There are a dozen texts that describe this valuable art, so I will share some personal insights here that may help you become a more effective teacher:

  1. Don’t take away the student’s experience of learning. When you tell the student the answer directly, it robs them of the journey necessary to reach the answer. Rather, walk with the student along the journey, pushing and prodding, nudging her closer. When she reaches that “Aha” moment, the learning will be holistic, a body-mind experience.
  2. Ask questions to bring out examples. In my experience, students already know the answers to questions because they’ve been using guidance I can give multiple times in their own lives. They just don’t realize it. If they verbalize the answer or an example, give language to it. “See, you’ve been doing it already.” “That shows you know how it works.” It’s encouragement and empowering them to trust their inner wisdom.
  3. If the student struggles, encourage but don’t solve. This is one of the most important elements. Today’s daily living is saturated with instant gratification; it’s rewiring students’ brains to seek the quick fix [Internet research vs. traditional library research]. They’re losing the ability to show grit and go through problems, strive and fail and continue until successful. When you see the student struggle, don’t give in by taking away the frustration. Let him feel it. Let him feel what it’s like to not recognize the answer immediately, to have to dig into personal resources, to follow a line that’s not straight. Reaching the victory line will bring more satisfaction after being challenged to reach it.
  4. Reference material and have it available. In my discussions I’m known for going on what would seem to be tangents. I’ll bring up a story, an example, something in the news, something they might’ve said in the past, something from my own library, all connecting to their current situation. Not only do I bring it up, but I have it readily available for them to read through or watch at their convenience. The more exposure the student has to diverse material, the more you help expand their thinking.

There are numerous ways to teach as an art form with the ultimate goal of bringing out someone’s potential. What are some of yours?

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