Thursday, 26 August 2010

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

Great Teacher’s command the respect of their students, but they never demand it. Like any good tradesperson, they make what they do to those around them seem like Childs play. They never try to “force feed” their pupils, merely have the ability to impart their knowledge by way of captivating their students attention, making the material/subject interesting and the lesson rewarding thereby fulfilling the newly created desire to know more about it. Disruptive and unruly behaviour by students by and large shouldn’t be seen as a problem student, but rather as a symptom of something fundamentally being wrong in the classroom. Interesting word that, fund-a-mental. It is all too easy to blame someone else, than to admit we are doing something wrong ourselves.

Many Teachers’ call themselves so, but the recognition of their ability lies in the opinion of their students. One example of what I mean is Jesus Christ. How many times did he refer to himself as a Teacher? Yet, how many of his followers referred to him as such? Another example of more recent times is the late Professor Julius Sumner Miller. He was ridiculed by his peers as a crackpot, yet was adored by many for making an otherwise unattractive subject of physics interesting and fun. He didn’t insult the intelligence of his students by trying to tell them anything, but rather relied on them to tell him “why is it so”. Similarly Christ spoke to those without his understanding in parables (riddles) and left it to his audience to figure it out for themselves.

This concept of how bring people around to your way of thinking is largely the basis of Dale Carnegie’s book/philosophy “How To Win Friends And Influence People” which basically teaches that the best way to get people to agree with you is to let them think they thought of the answer themselves. Think of the proposition as the “seed” and the answer as the “harvest”. Or in a biblical sense, one person sows (plants the seed) and another reaps (harvests the crop). All True Teachers have this ability, but sadly many are left wanting. It is so easy to be so sure about something that we fall into the trap of trying to tell the whole world about it, only to become disenchanted and frustrated that nobody will accept what we have to say. There we are shouting it from the rooftops and everybody is standing around with their fingers in their ears. What was forgotten was the process by which we ourselves became so enchanted with it in the first place. Our enthusiasm was born from the discovery or unveiling of what previously was a mystery or unknown.

In closing I would like to quote the late Professor Julius Sumner Miller who said "The hope I have here is simply summed up: To stir your imagination, awaken your interest, arouse your curiosity, enliven your spirit - all with the purpose of bringing you to ask, as young Maxwell put it, "What's the go of it?" - or, as Kepler had it, "why things are as they are and not otherwise". Or, more simply in my own phrase, why is it so?"
We will all have many Teachers throughout our lives and they are those who teach us to seek and find the answers rather than trying to give them to us without establishing a good foundation.

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