Created July 5, 2005
Everyone wants to understand how to teach others to learn. Parents want to be able to reach kids and help them. Schools would like to be able to enlighten students, at least that is what they say. Coaches want to be able to reach athletes and help them to be better. Employers would love to be able to speed up the learning process in training new hires or promoting people from within a company.
In addition, we would all like to be able to learn faster, be better students, and learn with greater ease. So it is as important to be a great learner and student as it is being a great teacher. One can not teach until one can first learn, right? And we all continue to learn throughout our lifetimes. It never stops. So a great teacher will always have to also be a great learner and student.
I am going to start with the most important ingredient. What is that? Desire!!! One who hungers for knowledge and understanding will not fail to acquire it. We need to have an appetite and a thirst for knowledge, a drive, almost an obsession for it. In addition, effort had to be made. Then I would add sincerity. And lastly, but every bit as important as the others is - courage! Getting to the truth of something can mean facing some very unpleasant, even scary or terrifying possibilities. Only the brave will follow it to wherever it leads, even if it leads to fear and dread. So I want to pursue these ideas to some degree. Lets start with effort and desire.
Here is how Solomon put it:
[RSV] Proverbs 2:1 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures; 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, 8 guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his saints. 9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; 10 for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; 11 discretion will watch over you; understanding will guard you.
Some people will go out of their way to get rich, to seek treasure, make money, or whatever in that direction. But they will not necessarily pursue knowledge and wisdom with the same eagerness and determination. But if we seek knowledge out, and pursue it with effort as some might pursue money, it will come to us. In fact, knowledge will become pleasant to your soul says verse 10 above. That is to say, you will begin to like it, like a kid with a sweet tooth likes candy, or like a young man likes beautiful women. You might even become obsessed with learning and live to learn. When you reach this point, no one and nothing will stop you from learning whatever you want. This is a guaranteed promise as Jesus will next make clear in a couple of places.
Matthew 7:7 "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Luke 11:9 And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
Asking God's blessing and help in the search for wisdom guarantees you will get it, providing your motives are good and your faith is real as James next makes clear. Sincerity and faith? You bet!
[GLT] James 1:5 But if any of you
lacks wisdom, let him ask from God, who gives to all freely and with
no reproach, and it will be given to Him. 6 But let him ask in faith,
doubting nothing. For the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea,
being driven by wind and being tossed; 7 for do not let that man
suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.
Not Without Courage!
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And what of courage? Well, one needs to understand the book of Ecclesiastes in order to appreciate the value of courage. Let me demonstrate:
Ecclesiastes 1:12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.13 And I gave my heart to seek and to investigate by wisdom concerning all which is done under the heavens. It is an evil task God has given to the sons of men, to be afflicted by it. 14 I have seen all the works which are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and striving after wind! 15 What is crooked cannot be made straight; and that lacking cannot be numbered.
Solomon sought wisdom but look what else he found. Life was an evil task that afflicts all men. All our efforts are vain, meaningless, for nothing. That which is screwed up can not be fixed or straightened out.
Ecclesiastes 1:16 I spoke with my heart, saying, Lo, I have become great and have increased wisdom over all that have been over Jerusalem before me. Yea, my heart has seen much wisdom and knowledge. 17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness, and folly. I know that this also, it is striving after wind. 18 For in much wisdom is much grief; and he who increases knowledge increases pain.
Imagine that! Wisdom brings grief! Knowledge can bring pain! It is amazing but it is also true. Life can be a bitter pill to swallow. It was for Solomon, the likely author of Ecclesiastes. Notice some more of his observations.
[RSV] Ecclesiastes 4:1 Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive; 3 but better than both is he who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
The dead are better off than the living? Tell that to those against abortion! Funny, but even Job expressed the same idea, at one point wishing he were dead rather than alive and thinking that never being born to begin with would even be better. Life can be downright tragic. But it takes a very brave man or woman to be willing to recognize this. So wisdom basically can often not be obtained without a willingness to recognize and accept some painful truths about life and living.
Sadly to report, I know many Christians who refuse to see anything negative in life and are oblivious to some of the very serious messages and warnings in the Bible. They walk around in denial with rose colored glasses on, imagining everything is just fine. It can not be just fine when man is in rebellion against God and Satan rules the world. It reminds me of another incident, one that many Christians refuse to learn from. Let us look at that now.
The following account is taken from both Matthew and Mark. In it, Jesus tells his disciples the horrible fate that awaits him. They are stunned and do not want to hear it. Peter even rebukes Jesus and tells him he is wrong and will not have this horrible fate. Imagine telling Jesus he is wrong! But none of his disciples wanted to believe what he was plainly telling them. It was so unbearable to even contemplate. But unbearable or not, it was the truth and they needed to hear it. But hearing it did them no good. Do you understand what I am saying?
[RSV] Matthew 16:21 From that time
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and
suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and
be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him and
began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never
happen to you." 23 But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me,
Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God,
but of men."
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? 27 For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.
Mark 8:31 And he began to teach them that
the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders
and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three
days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and
began to rebuke him.
33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men."
34 And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? 37 For what can a man give in return for his life? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Not only would Jesus suffer and die a horrible death, but his disciples would scatter in fear, afraid to admit they even knew him. Jesus then warns that when he returns with his angels in all his glory, he will judge and repay each person for what they have done, good or bad. And whoever is ashamed of him will be rejected in the end. But not rejecting him could mean we are killed by our persecutors. Of course we will be brought back to life shortly after, but still, having to initially die is not a pleasant prospect. Indeed, faith and courage will certainly need to be present in order to overcome the fear of dying.
There is a very important lesson to be learned here. To stick our heads in the sand and ignore something because we do not like it or it scares us, does not make it go away or make it not so. It will happen anyway and we will not get a 2nd chance as the apostles did, after Jesus was resurrected. Bravery and courage are so vital and essential to Christian learning that I do not hesitate to say you can not learn without it. There are lots of scary things prophesied to happen and many Christians do not want to hear it. What they really do not want to hear is God, truth, or wisdom. They imagine that if they plug their ears it will not happen. This is absurd and foolish. They are in great danger of losing out on everlasting life and salvation.
So I hope I have made my point about how valuable courage really is in growing in wisdom and knowledge. One can not progress with out it. I can not say it any plainer than that. Those who show no courage, that is to say, cowards, are warned:
[KJV] Revelation 21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
[RSV] Revelation 21:7 He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death."
[GLT] Revelation 21:7 The one overcoming will inherit all things, and I will be God to him, and he will be the son to Me. 8 But for the cowardly and unbelieving, and those having become foul, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all the lying ones, their part will be in the Lake burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
The KJV warns that the fearful shall die the 2nd death, permanent death. The RSV and GLT use the word "cowardly," which of course, means the same thing. Persons who are cowardly or fearful are in serious trouble to say the least! So if you want to be a good learner, be brave and pursue wisdom in all things as is encouraged next.
Proverbs 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: 2 That men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight, 3 receive instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity; 4 that prudence may be given to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth-5 the wise man also may hear and increase in learning, and the man of understanding acquire skill, 6 to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles. 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
I guess it goes without saying that God is the source of all wisdom and knowledge. If we want to be great students and learners, God has to be involved. Many who are not Christians will not accept this but it is true, just the same. And of course, the benefits of wisdom and knowledge are shown next.
Proverbs 3:13 Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding, 14 for the gain from it is better than gain from silver and its profit better than gold. 15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.
2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
It can't be said any better than that! The things I talk about next only further highlight much of what I have already said or covered.
Life and learning is sort of like being in a war or a very competitive athletic game. The game or battle will go to who wants it more. In a lengthy tennis match, the sun might be beating down and it is very hot. Long into the game, your legs have turned to rubber; they are spent. Any reserve energy is gone. Your will and desire are fading fast. You are not sure you even want to go on. It is at this point, a point each and all players face in such a match, that the winner will be the one who can reach down deep inside himself and find the desire to keep going, keep pushing, keep on trying, even though there is seemingly nothing left to give. He keeps going because of nothing else but the strong desire to win. He is just as spent as his opponent but he wants it more and so will push when the other guy will not push as hard, or much at all, or maybe he will just give up.
It is all about desire and wanting it. But one has to know what it is they really want. An athlete has his mind on the title, the prize, the glory, the accomplishment. Christians need to know what it is they are fighting for. They need to know and understand the prize they seek, one of those things being wisdom. But what I want to deal with here is that we will need to exert ourselves vigorously in order to win and get the prize. We must be willing to put forth that effort. Learning comes from desire and effort. We have to apply ourselves.
I am going to discuss some of the wonders of the body and mind.
When we better understand how the body and mind work, maybe we can
better appreciate that effort should be a part of our personality
just as it is part of our physiology and physical makeup.
When a brain is confronted with something new, a new idea, new sensory input from the senses of the body, it often can not manage the information at first. For instance, when we are first born, we do not know how to speak any language. But over the days, weeks, and months, our brain puts the pieces together. It begins to recognize patterns and process information until language skills begin to form. It does not happen overnight. The brain slowly grows neural pathworks in response to stimuli and over time, specific patterns form in the brain. At first, all sorts of lights go off in the brain, so to speak. But as the specific pathways are formed, much fewer lights go off as the pathways become more specific, well paved, and efficient.
Very smart brains expend little energy in getting things done. They are very efficient at what they do. But they only begin to form when stimulated. The stimulation must be beyond any level that the brain currently performs at. New paths, roads, and experiences are required to accomplish the task the brain wants to conquer.
A skill in sports is a good example. Riding a bike requires a certain sense of balance that we don't initially have. At first the attempts are clumsy and miserable failures that last maybe a second or two. We try for a while. Maybe we get discouraged and give up after a while. We stay away until the desire becomes so strong to want to learn that we go back and give it another try. Maybe this time we do a little better, going a little further, a little longer, but still not what we want. Still, eventually, we suddenly get the hang of it. For me, it was sort of magic how it happened.
Having tried a few brief times before without training wheels, (and training wheels never helped but that is another story), I had one day where I gave it the most I ever had but still without success. I was a little disappointed but put away my bike for the day. Went to bed and got up the next morning. It was overcast but dry. But I really wanted to learn to ride that bike. I was fed up with not being able to. But what a shock I was about to have. I got on the bike and was able to ride, perfectly. I could not believe it. It was like a miracle. I rode all over the neighborhood. I could not stop. The joy and pleasure was incredible, the satisfaction indescribable.
May I point out that as long as I was able to depend on training wheels, I never learned to ride. If you do everything for your child or student, they will never bother to do it themselves. They need the right motivation, whereby in order to obtain something, they need to reach out and do it themselves.
What I did not realize then was that the stimulation my brain had received the day before, along with the cumulative experience before that, was enough to get the brain producing enough pathways to get control of that balance problem. They grew and developed overnight while I slept. By morning, I had a new set of pathways in my brain that let me control my body to a degree I have never been able to control before. I received that ability because I tried to do something beyond my ability.
The physical body is the same way. Anyone who has played sports and felt strength grow or lifted weights to increase strength and size has likely experienced increased strength and endurance. I remember several examples where I was pushed beyond my limits though it did not occur to me at the time it was happening.
The 1st example that comes to mind was when I was working at Burger King. I had to unload an 18 wheeler twice a week full of supplies that generally averaged from 25 to 50 lbs. per box. I would load them up on a dolly that the driver was in a hurry to throw at me and get them up over the entrance ramp and into the store. It was a chore but not too bad. But it was definitely work I was not used to. But it had its effects as I would soon find out.
I had never been able to hit a softball all that far in my very young days, say age 21. But after working at Burger King for 6 months, at 23, I got up to the plate and took a swing and I couldn't believe what I saw. The ball just flew way out into the outfield, beyond everyone's reach. In fact, I had the best day of anyone that day. I had never come close to that before. I knew then and there that it had been unloading those trucks that did it.
Another time was cleaning a restaurant, and pulling out these very large heavy rubber bar mats. These really killed me. They were a tremendous strain and always took the life out of me. They really worked my back and arms, for sure. It was perhaps 6 months later when I was throwing these mats around with ease that I realized I had grown in strength a lot, remembering how I use to struggle before with them. I grew in strength but was never aware of it as it was happening. But I grew because I was pushing my body beyond its current abilities.
I got more into sports after this. Working out became quite deliberate. I began to do a lot of reading and research on strength, skill, and endurance training for sports. While previous efforts produced natural results, if one gave specific attention to subtle details, one could absolutely maximize the results they got from a workout. But one certainty remained. If one wants to improve their skills, abilities, strength, or whatever, then they had to start trying to do something that was beyond their ability of the present.
Think about it! When we are born, we have no abilities at all for the most part. But for each ability we acquire, we first have to encounter something we do not understand or posses, and then our brains and bodies go to work to try and adapt to the new circumstance that will enable new abilities. We have the natural God-given ability to acquire new skills and grow additional strength. Overcoming things beyond our ability is quite easy, really. We don't really even have to think about it.
But there is a reason why understanding this ability our brains and bodies is important. It has a large impact on our devotion to God. Learning about God and what He wants is not hard; it is quite easy. It only requires effort and time. It may be somewhat difficult or frustrating at first. Any new subject or skill to learn will not initially be easy at first. But if we give it the time and effort, it will eventually pay off in results. Our knowledge will expand and our wisdom will grow deeper. There is no doubt about it.
The real problem that could present itself is if we do not want to learn or are afraid to learn, knowing there could be some unpleasantness in store for us if we learn. Some might just be lazy and not want to bother with any real effort or time. Some might fear what is going to happen to them if they get serious about religion and God. Laziness, fear, or being busy with other things; none of these are valid excuses for not learning or applying ourselves to God's commands and wisdom. There is no valid excuse for not learning and applying what we learn. We have that built in ability. God saw to that. That is why Jesus said if you ask or seek, it will be answered, you will find, you will earn.
The brain is an automatic processing unit as I point out in my article "Motivational Speakers and Teachers." You point it in a direction, that is, you focus and apply yourself in a direction, and it will break it all down and figure it all out for you, even as you sleep. It is a miracle of God and everyone has it. There is no uncertainty about it. Desire, persistence, and determination will do it every time.
It is God's requirement that we make the time to learn about Him and what He requires of us. If we do not do it, it could mean our losing out on eternal life. So take the time, do whatever it takes to make sure you learn and practice what you learn so that you may be found approved by God whether you have to die temporarily or not. You will be rewarded in time. Extend yourself because the devil is going to make sure that you have to, in order to make it. Struggle as much as you need to. Give it everything you got. Then you will be sure to win the prize.
So if one wants to be a great student or learner, remember these 5 things: desire, effort, persistence, determination, and courage!
Psychologists study learning. "Life coaches" and self help evangelists like Tony Robbins preach about how to do it. Everyone is giving it a try and everyone has an answer and not all answers are the same I have not found any that fully have hit on it all . . . till now. It was an article in Discover magazine that threw on the switch, advocating, of all things, video games. Yes, those evil, horrible Satanic video games that are threatening and destroying our youth and causing them to go to hell in hurry, if you were to believe the rhetoric of some.
Well, video gamers and kids are going to love me for this one, although some of the credit does go to that July 2005 (pg. 39) Discover article I mentioned, entitled "Your Brain on Video Games" by Steven Johnson, which is really about the ideas of James Gee, a professor of Learning Sciences at the University of Wisconsin. He recognizes things that made it all come together for me. I understood that learning had to stimulate the limbic system previously. It had to be fun to learn and learning was naturally fun, I believed! But how do you prove it and how can you make it fun? Those are the problems everyone who wants to teach or reach people were trying to figure out. How do we stimulate the desire to want to learn and make it easy to learn?
After all, there are some effective techniques that need to be employed in order to learn. And many different pursuits really were all related to the same learning techniques, like, for instance, learning an intellectual pursuit or learning an athletic pursuit. The same techniques apply to both subjects, even though they seem different.
Part of the problem is convincing the intellectual student that his approach needs to be very similar to the athletes, or that the athlete's approach needs to be the same as the intellectual's. In fact, neither may accept or believe that the other's approach and method is essentially the same. A lot of people, in fact, might reject this proposition. But I make it and intend to prove it.
But before I get to that, I will state some things that I declare are self-evident. Their wisdom should be obvious and beyond the need to prove. There are other things that may require some proof that has been demonstrated by the greatest of all psychologists of all time, Dr. Arthur Janov, Ph.D. But it would require one to investigate what he has discovered and declared and not many people want to put such effort into something they do not see as being valuable or important in their lives and pursuits. I did a short article on him that I link to at the end of this article under Related Articles. But I will start with some of these declarations I have come to along the way in my efforts to solve all these mysteries into learning and teaching.
Of course, some of these things I bring up have already been addressed and I am repeating myself. Sometimes it is with a slghtly different slant. But it is also the result of two different articles being merged. But repetition won't kill anyone and could even be helpful so repetition it shall be.
I will start with this one. First, you can not teach someone who does not want to learn or does not care if he learns. We in the English world have all heard this: You can lead a horse to water but you can not make him drink. We accept it and agree with it. It is true. So how do you make someone want to learn? You can't! You can only sell someone something they want. If you do not have what they want, you are out of luck. But even when you have what someone wants, sometimes they do not understand or like how it is they need to get it. We might want a particular knowledge or skill, but we might not like the work, time, effort, or money that might be required to get it. Maybe we will reject the path or discipline required to achieve it. There could be many obstacles even if we do want it. These are things that parents, teachers, and coaches have a hard time overcoming. And how does a teacher convince the student that they have the answers, the ability, to help and teach the student, given that they really are qualified? Tough questions, right? And I won't answer them yet!
Parents have a particularly strong concern, as their kids will need to know things that could be very important, or even save their lives or make them much easier along the way and spare a lot of suffering it they listen and learn. But often, kids do not believe or appreciate that what is being given to them is really important or helpful, or even correct. And in the case of kids, there are some important valuable things to know about priming them, making them more disposed to listening and learning from parents.
Love, according to the Bible, is very important, even essential. Paul said that nothing could be done without it (1 Corinthians 13). John said that above all, God is love (1 John, the whole letter but 4:8 in particular). Anyone who claims to know God, knows God is love. He who does not know and appreciate this can not be said to know God at all. Love must be the first thing to be administered to a baby and a growing child, before anything else can be applied successfully. One can not run a car without gasoline and oil, and neither can one teach a child without first filling them up with love. But while I say that, many do not know or appreciate what that means. This is where I turn to Arthur Janov and his practice, research, and studies as a psychologist.
Arthur has found in the treatment of so many human beings over the years in his specialized form of psychological treatment as his institute facilities, that love must involve lots of what we will call physical love, touching, caressing, holding, cuddling, kissing, warmth, a warm loving tone of voice, sweet words of love and affection. These reach right to the very core and heart of a child, that is, they stimulate the very center of the limbic system and stimulate it like no other sensory input in existence. The chemicals that get released in the brain system, the very stem and core of the brain functions, its lowest level functions, the prime instinctive functions, sometimes called reptilian functions, are the chemical messengers of love and pain killing. That is to say, they function both as a stimulator and as a pain killer. They also help the brain to function and focus. They affect the cortex as well as the inner lower brain.
When a child is physically loved, their ears open wide, their hearts hang on to every word. Their senses are more alert and focused. Learning is stimulated. Even the appetite to learn is fired up and increases. Everything positive is stimulated and enhanced by love, physical love. I stress this because some will say that it is love to keep a roof over a child's head and provide food and clothing for them. Yes, those things are love, but they are no where near enough. A child does not have just an appetite or need for food or shelter. There are other needs and appetites that must be provided in ample quantities or the child will suffer just as much as if you starved them by withholding food, water, or air. In fact, the physical love may be more important than food or water. Food and water sustain us physically but may leave us inadequately equipped to pass on anything useful to a child such as how to live or behave, thereby dooming us a race, which is where I believe we are headed in the long run.
So if we want to make a child or student more able and willing to learn, we need to supply lots of love in order to properly supply the right chemical balance in the brain that will stimulate a built-in natural curiosity and appetite to learn, grow, and develop into something useful and happy. These are the lessons that Janov would impart to us if we would read and listen to him, as well as the Bible, too. And let me point out that teaching a child is part of love. Children need instruction and guidance from parents in behalf of God. God commands that we teach our children. One can not be said to love their kids if they do not teach them to the best of their ability. Nor can it be said that they love God if they do not teach their kids. And if we truly love our children and God, we will want to be the best teachers we can be so listen up and pay attention!
Now what I stated in here is also applicable to teachers and coaches to some degree. Teachers may be lucky enough to occasionally get a student or athlete who was loved and learns fairly easily and naturally, to some degree. But if all we can do is teach a few "gifted" students, how good a teacher are we, really? Anyone can teach a brilliant student. In fact, a brilliant student will often teach themselves and we do relatively little or nothing in bringing them along. We are only good effective teachers when we can handle a challenge or two once in a while. There are those we can never reach or teach but then there is that middle ground where perhaps a teacher can make a difference. This is the situation I address. Where can a teacher make a difference?
A teacher, coach, guide, instructor, guru, or whatever, can in some way, sort of act like a parent, showing care and giving guidance, even as a parent would. A parent or a later guide or instructor can often be a life changing inspiration. To be this and do this, one has to apply love, even as a parent would with the child. It is no different. The love may be more in the way you approach them and instruct them, and the fact that you genuinely care, but love takes many different forms depending on the situation at hand. A teacher must show warmth and concern, real genuine warmth and concern.
People, especially kids and students, are often and usually, very sensitive to phonies and liars. If you are not genuine and sincere, you will fail in most cases. If you truly care about who you are teaching, you will exercise, if you are a loving person, the kinds of qualities that radiate this fact. Carefully listening to the student, showing patience with them, not losing one's temper with them. But especially you will put forth the effort to find out what it is that excites or stimulates them. And you absolutely need to find out what works and gets through to them, and figure out what obstacles might be blocking them or holding back.
Tony Robbins, who I do sincerely believe has made many good and effective insights into human behavior and teaching techniques, recognizing that different techniques worked with different people and that not all people learn the same way. Some learn by doing, some by hearing, some by seeing. There are a lot of subtleties that he has pointed out. But a really good teacher has to be able to figure out which way is effective for each student and must be capable of using all the different techniques so that whatever technique is required can be applied.
I have seen successful coaches and teachers who only ever employed one technique on all their students. We hear about their many success stories but we never hear about the failures. But it is a very observable fact that many successful athletes have often spent time hunting for just the right coach to coach them and their game. And they often try out coaches who are generally very successful but who are not right for them, personally. Part of this is because what works for many does not work for everyone. Many is not every! Agreed? There are exceptions to every rule. But a truly great coach or teacher can adapt their approach to any student. The greatest teachers are those who can reach the most students without having to turn away or give up on some who are willing to learn or want to learn.
Love, as in real genuine concern, for the approaching student or athlete, will make us look hard and long into what makes them tick. For it is only by doing this that we can truly help them. And oddly enough, often the teacher or guide has to look deep within themselves when they are having trouble reaching a student or athlete. It is often the failure of the teacher when a student is not being reached. A student, child, or athlete is often a blank or nearly blank slate, just waiting for that one key to be turned. When the teacher finds that key and turns it, then the floodgates open and results poor through. The teacher might not be seeing the key or the block. Just as students or athletes perform, teachers are performing, too. And just as an athlete can perform poorly, so can a teacher.
In addition, a teacher might be unconsciously reacting to a student, maybe resisting the student or bringing out something negative in the student. Teachers have to be able to search them selves and correct their own defects that might be causing friction or conflict. Maybe the teacher is simply missing some subtle things in the student that would dictate changing the teaching tactic to reach the student.
A challenge a teacher has is trying to decide or figure out
whether the problem with a block is their own performance or that of
the student who is not applying themselves or trying. And of course,
the easiest way out is to blame the student. But that is often wrong.
It is the teacher than could deserve the blame. A teacher has to have
enough humility to be willing to find fault with themselves, even
questioning themselves before doubting the student. True concern (a
form of love) for the student will make the teacher do what is right
at all costs. Great teachers always love righteousness, of
I was not a performer in my early school years. I was bored out of my mind. I was not challenged, nor excited by what was given to me. To make things worse, my attention span was not easily focused or concentrated, so that I might miss a very important piece of instruction that might make the difference between getting something or not. In the first grade, in explaining something about how to figure out the missing number from a total when one number was supplied by subtracting it from the total to get the other number, my mind had wandered at that moment. So I had no idea what I was doing. For instance, 3 plus what equals 10? Well, turn it into a different equation, saying 10-3= what and you will have your answer. But I did not know and would look over on the paper of the girl to my left for the answer.
She got it wrong and I got it wrong the exact same way and the teacher detected that. But surprisingly, what she did not also detect is that I had no idea what I was doing. I lacked the understanding, but not because I was not capable of learning but because my attention was not where it should have been a critical moment of instruction. She either assumed I was stupid or did not care, or was dull enough in wit herself so as to not recognize the problem, which was that I needed that instruction over again, that is to say, individual attention. I suspect that, well, let me rephrase that; I personally witnessed many times in school when students did not know how to do something but not because there were not capapble. They were able to learn it when a very good 8th grade teacher showed them how to do what it was they were not able to do previously.
No child has a perfect attention span when sitting in a classroom
for 5 or 6 hours a day. That is a long time to ask any child to sit,
be quiet, and learn. In many, if not even most cases, it will fail on
many occasions. In the 8th grade, our teacher applied contracts that
were a sort of checklist of what you could do and what you could not
do. Once he knew what you could not do, he would then teach you these
things. In addition, because there was only one of him and many
students, some of whom could do what others could not, he would have
the more advanced students help those who could did not have the same
level of knowledge. I have always admired this technique a lot. The
only thing it lacked at times was in "forcing" some to learn. Some
got away with not applying themselves as they always had gotten away
with. They were not self motivated, either. But this had always been
their problem anyway. If they got away with it then, it was no
reflection on the system I experienced in 8th grade.
First, I had always had a problem with motivation, focus, and mental discipline as a child. I got away with that in 1st through 3rd grades. But not in 4th! My fourth grade teacher recognized that I was not motivated or disciplined. So she supplied the discipline that I did not have on my own. She made it a problem for me when I did not finish my assignment. She would keep me after school until my assignment was done. I absolutely hated school and hated staying after school even more. So suddenly I had a good reason thrust upon me to finish my assignment . . . I would not have to stay after school if I finished it. You can call it punishment but I would not let you do that to her, my teacher. She taught me one of the most valuable lessons I would ever learn as a student or a human being. And that is the job of any teacher, to convey the most important lessons and remove obstacles to learning and success. And discipline as something every student, child, and athlete must learn.
Not every thing we will encounter or engage in, in our lifetimes, will be fun or pleasant. In fact, many times it will be boring, tedious, and perhaps even dreadful and detestable. But if we want to accomplish anything at all, we must be willing to put up with a certain amount of unpleasantness and suffering, perhaps depriving ourselves, temporarily, of the short-term, easy way, path-of-least-resistance directions, and deliberately choosing the road that is a tough, narrow, cramped, hard-to-travel-on, long-term-pursuit. It is not something I wanted or was looking for, but it was forced upon me and needed to be. And I am most grateful that I was given it, even though I did not like it at the time. But after having received it, it gave me the discipline to continue to finish my work, even after leaving the 4th grade, at least for 2 years.
One who hunts for treasure or slaves away at a business in order to make money will often put up with all sorts of deprivation in order to get what they want, ultimately. That is what the Proverbs I quoted earlier suggested. Eventually, in regards to knowledge, it will not continue to be drudgery. In time, it becomes addictive and exciting. So do not despair that it comes hard at first. It always does. With time, that will all change and go away.
So what I lacked was the will and discipline to do what was being asked of me. I suspect this was the case with many kids. When teachers gave individual attention to students who did not understand something, they learned. They had always been capable of learning. But too many teachers let them slip by without knowing certain individual lessons. So they were moved along, lacking certain pieces to a puzzle and were labeled as dumb or slow learners and placed in classes together with other students labeled as slow learners and would be deprived the rest of their lives and it wasn't their fault. It was the teachers that failed the kids, more often than not.
I would start to get lazy and uninterested again in 7th grade and the beginning of 8th. But I will point out that when we were given individual contracts for a science class curriculum in 7th grade, I did fantastic in that class, unlike many other classes. I did pretty good in math , too, but much better in science. The reason? I could go at my own speed and I needed to go much faster than the speed usually traveled at in typical mass class instruction. So I did not lose interest as easy. I was the absolute leader in my class in successfully completing the most contracts in science class.
My biggest problem in grammar school was that learning was dreadfully slow. To me, it was fun to be able to do lots of different things in math. It was like a game or building muscle strength so that you could lift more than anyone else, or do more math tricks that anyone else. In the summer after 1st grade, I had noticed the multiplication and division signs in places. I wondered what they were and how to do them. I asked my father and mother to show me how to do them. Sadly, neither one could show me how. Their education levels as well as their confidence levels, were very low. I suffered tremendously from boredom in 2nd and 3rd grade, where for 2 years, we learned nothing more than 1st grade except how to add or subtract 2, 3, and 4 digit numbers instead of just 1 or 2 as in 1st grade. The pace of learning was ridiculously and unnecessarily slow. That is a big part of the problem in schools as well.
I consider this a great atrocity committed upon kids at this age. To slow learning down to such ridiculous degrees is very harmful to kids and I believe is also deliberate. The less you teach, the less they learn and the more chance they will get bored and quit out of a lack of stimulation to maintain their interest. It guarantees failure. This is what is known as the dumbing-down process and I, for one, do not believe it is an accident. Dumb people are easier to manipulate and deceived as adults. That is seen as desirable by some, I suspect.
But learning has to be at a certain speed for each child. Some are faster or more eager for input. But each child or student must have the information fed at the right rate in order to maintain optimal interest and learning levels. Too fast, and you overwhelm. Too slow and you bore them to death. It has to be carefully adjusted and adjusted differently for each person as each has had a variety of factors that have increased or decreased how much they can handle at any given time. One size does not fit all.
As I said, I got sort of lazy and complacent again in 7th grade. I was in a division of so called slow learners, the bottom of the barrel. An occasional A in a subject like Science, B in math, C's in most things. I was even required to take reading, something that most of those in my class did not have to do. So I guess that they thought I was a poor reader but I do not know how or why they made that estimation. It was B#%S@#t! I was an unmotivated reader, for sure, but not slow if motivated.
But anyway, I got to 8th grade and for the 1st quarter was
unmotivated and distracted by social interests. Paper airplanes
seemed so cool and school so boring. But then an odd thing happened.
At the end of the 1st quarter we got our report card and I had all
A's and B's. I made the honor roll and that without even trying!!! It
was a wonderful yet very surprising feeling. I did not ever see
myself as capable of that. Only smart people could do that. But what
it did for me along with my English teacher taking me aside and ask
me why I was not trying harder for my spelling tests were all A's.
She knew I could do better and wanted to know why I wasn't. I needed
to hear someone say and believe that I was capable of better things,
and that I could do more. Her words and the results of that report
card made me a much different person.
Tony Robbins focuses a lot on belief systems as he calls them. Many do not believe they can do certain things, so they do not bother to try. So often, it is what we believe about ourselves that determines what we can do or not do. I believe the proper belief for all is that we can do anything that we want to do and want to apply ourselves to. I probably made that clear in the first part of this article. But convincing the one who does not believe this is the problem. In my case, I had a teacher who cared and felt the need to speak up. What she told me, in effect, though in a nice way, was that I was lazy and not living up to my potential. She thought more of me than I thought of myself. Add some unexpected results and you get confidence and the desire to want to do more. I decided I wanted to do more and did, getting straight A's the next 3 quarters of the school year. Now I was a smart student and wanted to do more. I was excited and motivated, something many of my fellow students were not.
Let me just throw in here an observation. When I elected to take Algebra for the next year, despite my straight A's and excelling in math above all other subjects that year, I had some question my math teacher about whether I was capable of algebra class or not. I absolutely knew I was capable and was a little miffed. How much more would I have to prove myself? What more could I do? But my teacher was much more baffled and disgusted than I was and readily came to my defense. You see, my 8th grade math teacher, like my English teacher that same year, was an inspiration to me, showing confidence in me. He used contracts in his class and again, I was the head of the class and would often teach others as well.
His name was Mr. Jenkins and I use his name as he deserves the honor and recognition as does Miss Rogers, my English teacher that year. And Mrs. Ruth was my 4th grade teacher who taught discipline. Mr. Jenkins was a teacher who truly cared. He was one of the 2 best teachers I ever had. He motivated and encouraged people, as well as taught them. Even better, he taught students how to teach themselves and get their own answers. This was the most important lesson I would ever receive, how to be my own teacher, to learn for myself.
Robbins believes that many people need a break through event; to experience something they did not think they were capable of. And when they are able to do it, they then realize that the problem was with their perception and belief about themselves and their ability. They come to realize their thinking and not their ability, was the problem all along. However, fire walks were at one time his favorite method used to show people they could do what they did not previously thing they could do. But what I have seen is that what works for one person does not work for another. I have met people who attended Robbins seminars and have walked on fire but still did not have a real purpose and direction, setting a goal and working to accomplishing it, whatever it might be.
What were they lacking? 2 things. First, it takes not just the right belief, but knowledge and strategy as well. They were not pursuing the knowledge. They thought that beliefs were all they needed. But beliefs have to be followed with actions, pursuing knowledge until one has enough to accomplish whatever their goals are.
The 2nd that many have a problem with is that it is easier to walking on burning coals or face a den of lions than it is to take a hard look at one's self and find fault and make changes. Robbins often gives people a great feeling, an incredible high, but does not actually help them to reach their true obstacles and road blocks in their personalities. Only they can do that, perhaps with individual attention from an insightful teacher to help if they so choose. A coach will often try to help an athlete recognize that the athlete is his own worst enemy and his only real competitor and not the person he competes against on the field.
One can want a title or victory real bad but does not want or does not appreciate what it takes to get that level of skill that leads to victory. If he knew, he might give up or he would have to finally make the commitment and effort needed to secure that victory. Kids need to understand what it is they need to do in order to succeed in life. It will always require taking a hard look at one's self and examining what they really are and what they are doing and whether it is really helping them to get what they want or whether their actions might actually be sabotaging them and keeping them from getting what they want. Tony Robbins supplies methods to discern these things but those who admire him often do not bother with those methods.
The challenge of the teacher is to make them understand this significant problem and always take self-responsibility for their success or defeat, rather than blame everyone else and everything else. And while sometimes things will be out of our control, more often than not, there is something we can do about it ourselves and we can come back and try again, perhaps taking another route or strategy to reach the goals.
Determination, confidence in our abilities, and hard work are all important ingredients. The tough job of the coach is to teach these valuable but often very difficult lessons to his students. But a good coach or teacher is also patient. A student can be led to the truth but does not have to accept it. If he is going to succeed, he will have to come to recognize this on his own. He can not be forced to accept it. A teacher or coach never forces anything unless asked to do so by a student. Once an athlete knows he has to push himself to extraordinary lengths and degrees in order to reach a certain level of performance, he will submit to a coach pushing him to that degree. And pushing to that degree may mean pushing the athlete to a level he has not experienced before and does not like. Only at that point will he either decide to bear it or to give up and find a more desirable goal that he feels he would rather pursue.
While teachers must examine themselves, they are not always responsible when a student quits. The student may realize that the goal he was striving for is maybe not in his best interest. The effort might not be worth the price to attain it. This is not necessarily because he is weak or a quitter. It may be because he has gained enough wisdom to see the folly of the course he thought he wanted. He makes adjustments and continues, a little smarter and now heading in a direction that will be more beneficial in the long run. A coach or teacher helps you to arrive at that conclusion on your own. They try to work around you and with you until you can see what they see and see yourself, even as they might already see you.
But if your decision is to stay the road your on, a teacher can help you progress more rapidly than you would on your own without any help. Great students will find their way no matter what, but for someone who has already traveled that road themselves, they can often save you a lot of time in getting there, as long as it does not cost too much to get them to coach or teach you. Lucky is the man who has a teacher who teaches because of caring and friendship and does not require money.
A good student will sometimes have trouble accepting or believing the experience of others. This is understandable for it is almost certain that if he has made much progress in learning, he will have found a lot of advice that was wrong. He will learn to trust his own instincts and direction, usually over and above anyone else's. Buying the experience of others is something humans have always had problems with, anyway. And there are times when the student might have trouble initially trusting a teacher or coach.
Further, it has often been the case that the student was right and the teacher was wrong. So how does the student know when to buy advice and experience or not. My rule has been to look at the progress and accomplishments of the teacher. If they are significant or substantial, you might want to think about listening, at least until you are told something you absolutely know is wrong. Also consider how much they know or can do compared to you. If they show and demonstrate significantly more knowledge or skill than you do, then they might be an adequate teacher.
If one is a beginner or new to a subject, there may be a number of people who can be useful as guides along the way. If you know nothing, almost anything will help. An advanced teacher or expert is not necessary until you have achieved a high level of knowledge or expertise yourself. I have always gone to books before I went to people. Everything I have ever learned, including tennis, I got from books, having first acquired that habit from my 8th grade math teacher, Mr. Jenkins. But books are written by people, usually people who know quite a bit about the subject they right.
I also like reading a number of different books and authors on the same subject so as to see how they all match up . . . or not! I especially like to seek out a book that is known to disagree with what most are saying. I have found it is often in divergent and varying opinions that the greatest learning occurs. It is the dissenters that have often been the greatest revelations to me. So always seek out both sides of a subject or debate. Look at it this way, can you honestly make a fair judgement in a court case if you only heard one side of the case. Of course not! If you want the honest truth, you absolutely have to hear all the evidence you can find in a matter, pro and con. This will most assure a good result.
Let us look at what we have covered so far. Learning has to be exciting, it has to be what the student or child is looking for, or maybe you can help them to see why something is important when they can not see it themselves. We saw some teachers that did not care. We saw a teacher who taught discipline by what some might call punishment. As a boy, it was what I needed. Sometimes a parent needs to administer discipline. Respect for "proper" authority is important. Many kinds of authority are not proper. They are based on nastiness, not caring, or maybe they are seeking their own advantage rather than that of the student or child. These are some examples of bad or improper authority. But good or proper authority and experience should be respected and appreciated by the student or child. In time, discipline that is truly called for and given out will produce good results if the student is good.
A skilled teacher knows what the student needs, even if the
student does not. But he also knows what the student can bear at any
given time. He works with the student and their personality flaws in
an attempt to bring light and understanding to them. If the student
is any good, he will eventually learn, even if he is slow. But now I
want to go back to that magazine article I first mentioned about
video games but did not immediately address.
James Gee, the professor who gained certain insights about video games, is a great example of a great teacher because he is also a student and a learner as well as experimenter with a sense of playfulness, which I believe is absolutely essential to a good, well-rounded human being, student, or teacher. Gee's 6 year old boy wanted a video game and had been bugging dad about it. So dad went out and got it for him. A lesson here to be learned. If it is not bad, and you can afford it, then do it. There might be something to gain from it or learn from it. The father, Gee, tried the game, too. His son was a good teacher. The father feeling flush with success, decided to try a more sophisticated game or two. He was in for a surprise.
He was a well educated professor but he found the advanced game to be incredibly hard. To quote him, "I was blown away when I brought it home at how hard it was." But as he noted, billions are spent each year on these "hard" games. He became quite intrigued as he played. "I hadn't done that kind of new learning since graduate school" . . . "But this requires you to think in a new way. I saw that the excitement of this is the challenge and the difficulty and the new learning. That's what makes it fun!"
Did you just see what he said??? Difficult learning was fun??? Is this the twilight zone or something? Yes, the challenge is fun! Challenge is exciting, too. We need challenge in our lives. It is what makes us want to get up in the morning and start our day and keep on living. Exercising our brains feels good, just as reasonable physical exercise does. We need both in our lives. We continually need to be pursuing some sort of goal in our lives in order to have life continue to feel meaningful and fulfilling. I described these necessities way back in an article I wrote in 1985. Its 20 years later and still true. Students also need challenges or they will get bored as I have earlier stated.
Gee decided to pursue a lot more research into this video game phenomenon and how it affected cognition. Laboratory research experiment results of his and others like him dared to suggest that video gaming and other sorts of gaming might actually be mentally stimulating. Imagine that!!! Rather than being a device of the devil, video games might have some positive benefit. Who'd a thunk it!!!! Well, Gee did, for one!
Addiction is a possible outcome of games, and not a good one, but food and sex can also be addictions and I don't see anyone banning either of those. But researchers are also beginning to recognize some cognitive benefits if used in the right way and the right amount. If nothing else, they might teach us some lessons about teaching and learning if we are smart enough to listen. Did I mention that even learning can be addictive?
Games can teach positive qualities!!! No, it's true, it's true. The article mentions pattern recognition, system thinking, patience, focus, a willingness to delay gratification, prioritize scarce resources. Many of these games really require you to think in intelligent ways. That does not mean we are using video games to their full potential. But even at the level it is currently used, there is a lot being conveyed that we have not formerly recognized.
It has been known for some time that as we get smarter, there is less electro-chemical activity that goes on in the brain as it has found more efficient precise pathways to get the job of thinking done. I mentioned this near hte beginning. Being smarter means the brain found a more efficient way to get the job done. Less electrical activity means one is smarter. As players playing Tetris were studied and improved, Gee noticed that under PET scanners that less glucose was being burned in the brain even though the players were much better than when they had started. Again, more efficiency was achieved so that less energy was needed to accomplish more. Once the brain gets on to the pattern, it gets much more efficient at operation. This is good in so many ways.
I know I am going to beat this to death but notice what the author said about Gee's research.
"He found that even escapist fantasy games are embedded with one of the core principles of learning - students prosper when the subject matter challenges them right at the edge of their abilities. Make the lessons too difficult and the students get frustrated. Make them too easy and they get bored."
So its not just me, is it?! It has to be just the right amount of stimulation, near the limit of their abilities. Isn't it ironic that as games get progressively more complex, faster, more challenging, and the patterns more subtle, the brain discerns the changes and adapts, the end result being less energy expended in the brain, the brain having become more efficient. Also noteworthy is that video games start off with easy levels and progress to more difficult ones as you improve. You can even start out playing very simple games and then moving to more challenging games. Real game junkies crave the really tough challenges.
I found this in tennis, as well. Often, in order to master a difficult stroke, such as the serve or a powerful top spin ground stroke, you need to break the flow of movement down into pieces, concentrating on one part at a time. A serve involves a number of skills, such as starting position, the toss, the strength employed prior to hitting, timing when you begin to swing to when you actually hit the ball, the feel of the racket torque, follow through of the racket, the different types of swings such as flat hammer on, side spin, or top spin, jumping up into the ball for more power, and probably things I have even forgotten or take for granted. To try to do everything perfect all at once is absolutely impossible. You can only focus on one or two things at a time until they feel reasonably comfortable or get good results. Strength training alone was a big part of progress.
Video games seem to take the same route, mastering the easy levels and skills first and making continual progress with each new accomplishment. It was pointed out that contrary to popular belief, eye-hand coordination is not the key skill enhanced. In fact, "The SIMS," the most popular game of all time, involves almost no eye-hand coordination or quick reflexes. It is much more related to strategy and intellectual evaluation.
Here is perhaps the most amusing thing to come out of the article, but also noteworthy. "Grand Theft Auto III" is considered a very violent game. But the strategy and variables involved is explained in a document that is 53,000 words long, the equivalent of a short novel. Yet most gamers prefer to ignore it and begin playing and figuring it out for themselves. Many students prefer a certain way of learning, a sort of hands on way which is quite different from how schools typically teach a lot of subjects. Makes you wonder, doesn't it? But whatever way a student prefers or excels at, the teacher must be able to figure out which way that is and use it if he wants to be as effective as possible.
Here is something well known in sports and would also seem to apply to any other subject or pursuit as evidenced by video games. In sports, take tennis, for instance, players seem to do much better when they rehearse things in their heads. Robbins also draws attention to it. You could call it fantasizing, imagining, or whatever, but this rehearsal prepares players for the real situations that they will encounter. In my opinion, what it does is help reinforce and form a very specific imprint and pattern in the brain so that what you attempt on the tennis court or wherever will be more instinctive like and second nature. You will not have to think about it as much. The instinctive brain, which is much quicker, can take over. Video games enable this same process, like that of the rehearsal taking place in your head.
Whether in the head or outside of it, the pattern gets more precise and efficient inside the brain. The more efficient circuit works much faster, of course and with less energy as always. Practice makes perfect, right? Practice enhances the pathways and circuits. Repetition is also well known in sports. Training the instinctive part of our brain can only be done by repeated experience. Talking does nothing for the instinctive side. Sports in particular are a non-verbal communication and process. They involved doing, not talking. I see this mistake in sports coaches all the time. Their mouths run constantly and it really does the brain or body little good. Just keep repeating the drill or exercise and they will progress. They will not need manuals on verbal instructions in most cases. Very few students thrive on verbal or written instruction in sports. Breaking down a pattern into steps should not take a lot of explaining. Once one understands the goals, it is just a matter of doing it over ad over again, making a solid imprint inthe head and resting for a day or two to let the brain ways and muscles develop.
As the article also observed, one can not progress in a video game unless one has the skill to master that level successfully. It is a sort of test. You can not move on until that level is conquered. This is not what happens in school as I noted with students around me. They could get to the 8th grade without knowing certain little math tricks. Had the teachers done their job, these students would not be allowed to move on until they demonstrated that they could really do it as evidence that they fully understood it. So a video game is more thorough in its teaching. But teachers can be just as thorough if they want to be. But you would have to care and put effort into it. My 8th grade math teacher did that.
To be fair, the teachers are not the sole cause of even necessarily the biggest problem with students today. A lot of it has to so with the system, which is designed completely wrong, perhaps deliberately so. I just wanted to make that point. Teachers are only a part of the whole problem. Their hands are often tied in many ways. But in my time, teachers often could have done more because some did, which means they all could have at that time. Things have changed since then that make it much more difficult for teachers now. I do not envy their position now. In fact, family break down is also another major cause of failing grades and hampered learning.
But while eye-hand coordination and depth perception are not the only skills imparted by video games, they are very much helped and enhanced by video training. It was found that surgeons who played more than 3 hours of games a week made 37% fewer surgical errors due to enhancements in eye-hand coordination and depth perception. So video games could also enhance athletic performance and have been used to improve eye performance, in particular, in tennis where the eyes are so important.
A survey published by the Harvard Business School Press showed that white collar professionals who played video games on a regular basis, I assume, as they were called "gamers," were consistently more social, more confident, and more comfortable solving problems creatively. And they did not show any signs of reduced attention span. This trashes all the negative findings that many religious people find with video games. I find these qualities of gamers are often described to students who are involved in sports as well. Whether games are responsible for this due to overall enhanced brain activity and function, based on the more you use it, the better it gets, effecting even areas not directly stimulated or used; or whether more social, confident, capable people are more attracted to video games was not explored by the researchers in this article in Discover. I suspect it could be a combination of both. But for sure, the more a brain is used and challenged, the better it will function and this will almost certainly even enhance areas not directly stimulated.
We know that a body will build muscle when the muscle is used to a degree that is beyond its current ability but not too much so. The amount of work/stimulation has to be just right, fairly precise. When that amount of stimulation is received, then when the body is at rest, the building of muscle begins. I would like to note that sleep and rest are important in both the building of muscle and the building of neurons. Neurons and pathways are built when they receive just enough stimulation, enough to slightly overwhelm the brain, being just beyond its current ability and then it will send the signals to begin building more. Whether muscle or brain power, stimulation in enough quantity, but not too much, is required for growth. Not enough stimulation and the brain will not grow. Too much deprivation and the brain may even shrink and atrophy, just as a body not used or fed will wither.
An MIT sponsored group known as the Education Arcade and an
international consortium of scholars known as the Serious Games
Initiative are now exploring how to use the positive effects of video
gaming in traditional educational environments.
One study trying to study brain activity patterns in a violent game, "Tactical Ops," found an odd paradox. They put the players in an extremely confined and loud space, that most people find requires a break after only 20 minutes. Mild claustrophobic people find it completely intolerable. But people playing this game can spend at least an hour with no problem. The game might appear to be addictive. The article author asks: "But if the games challenge the mind as much as this new research suggests, why do people in search of escapist entertainment find them so captivating?"
My answer uses part of their explanation. They note that games keep players notified of potential rewards available to them and how much those rewards are needed. To put it another way, we are constantly given feedback and reminders how we may progress and see rewards when we do so. What a contrast this is with real life where we get no feedback or direction, no one cares, and what you do does not matter. And there is no visible reward detected or received. Life is ugly and unresponsive. Video games are very responsive and reward us all the time. There is a lesson in that, that I suspect the world would prefer to ignore. But teachers should not ignore it. Continual feedback, encouragement, being able to demonstrate the progress a student is making and has made, are all important factors in teaching and learning.
Learning can be very rewarding. Great students will sense this. But a less talented student may need a good teacher who can point out how they are doing better so that they feel rewarded in what they are doing and will keep trying and progressing. The insightful article points out how when people were rewarded playing this game, they could endure the environmental discomfort, seemingly paying little or no attention to it. When our course of action, as in learning, feels rewarding, we thrive and can even endure hardships with little concern about them. Our lives feel fulfilled and meaningful. We must see learning in that way and a teacher needs to help the student and the parent needs to help the child see this.
This is long term thinking. We see the big picture, the future picture. We see what we are accomplishing and what we will accomplish in the long run if we keep on pursuing what we are. A great teacher will take time to make sure they instill this sort of vision in their students. And in the process, we will be less concerned about the trivial matters that might irritate. Those uncomfortable circumstances seem to fade away or shrink in importance. Note that when water is all around us, we don't pay much attention to thirst. It is easily resolved. But if we are dying of thirst, water is all we can think about. We are obsessed with it.
If one's "spirit," so to speak, is happy, fulfilled, satisfied, the other irritations around us are not as noticeable or bothersome. But if something in our life is not right, everything seems more bothersome and irritating. So if we are feeling frustrated or annoyed in life, it may well be an indication that we are not pursuing a course that is all that meaningful and maybe we need to think about making a change. Give it some thought! Happiness can be had just about anywhere and under quite a few different circumstances. Happiness depends on our goals and course of life, not whether we are rich or poor, married or single, etc.
The article seemed a little too rosy when asked what kids of today might be learning from the video games they play. I am not so sure they translate into real world understanding. I do not believe these games represent the great danger that some claim for them, insisting that violent or sexual games will lead to such behavior in the players. But neither do I believe the current games will produce lots of good results, either. Games certainly do have real world counterparts. But whether this is recognized by the players I am not so sure. TV is watched a lot and there is a lot you can learn from it but my own experience says that while people can learn from nearly anything in life, most people do not.
The great student will learn and figure it all out for himself, pioneering a new path if one does not already exist. But it will take a great teacher to reach most people and help them to see that there are lessons and parallels in video games, TV show, movies, music, and all of life if we look carefully and think about them. The teacher provides the stimulation that does not occur to the student on his own. That stimulation will cause growth, in varying amounts, depending on the individual student's pre-disposition to a variety of factors he was born and raised with.
Video games, like so many other things, have great potential. TV has great potential. People have great potential. But potential can not be realized until efforts are made and pursued to use the full potential of resources available to us. Video games currently exist primarily to make money. Their potential addictiveness makes them a great product to generate lots of profits. But little is being done in harnessing them to help people in dramatic ways.
It is true that simulators are being used to train soldiers, pilots, captains, and others. Videos are also used to instruct. But we are a long way from the point where games are used to help the teaching process or just how useful they can be in a wide variety of areas of learning. The study of video games has been very enlightening for us. That much can be said. But games can be nothing more than a waste of time, for sure. What I suggest is that rather than develop skills used mostly in a fictional game or learn to apply rules that only exist within a game, why not explore the real world and find out how exciting, stimulating and rewarding that can be. It will be just as addictive as a video game and much more rewarding.
Parents, as teachers, need to be able to help a child recognize
these rewards of real learning and feel the success of skill and
competence learned in skills and knowledge of real things in life.
Once these have been felt and experienced, the child will be addicted
to learning and success and will likely keep that course for the rest
of their life. But if parents and teachers have not experienced this,
neither can they pass it on to others. So they have to be willing and
able to take a look at themselves and start to perfect themselves
before they can help another. They must become masters of life; you
might say, they have to get their Masters degree or Ph.D in life and
hardknocks before they can be a guide for others.
Ultimately, it is good to get students who already have the good basics to start with. But a great teacher should be able to help anyone advance at least a little bit. But as regards kids, parents need to start with lots of love, even as I have argued for previously. Teaching is useless without lots of love. This brings up the next topic - timing.
At 9 months, a fetus is ready to be born. It has had the time to adequately develop so that it can handle life outside the womb and continue its growth from there in the outside world where it is destined. But if one were to extract that fetus out of the womb before its time, say at 6 months rather than 9, the baby might very well die and at the very least, will experience many complications that will likely last the rest of its life with ongoing medical treatment. The child is just not ready at 6 months and should never be deliberately taken out at that time if you want it be healthy and grow and develop right.
This will continue to be the case throughout a child's lifetime. There are critical windows of opportunity when a child needs the right exposures and stimulation at the right time to develop properly. Language is an important skill that is learned in the first 3 years of living. If one could avoid little or any human contact in that period, the child would have a very hard time learning language skills and would never learn them that well. It has to do with the neurons and extra connections existing at that time.
Children progress at certain fairly common uniform rates, psychologically, emotionally, intellectually, physically, etc. There are factors that might vary this time by a year or 2 one way or the other in most cases. When it comes to teaching various things, timing is important. When there is a need to know, then a child may be ready and receptive to learn.
My experience is that if you love kids and care about them and play with them so that they associate you with fun, that things automatically come up in them and get expressed to you. You will both be sitting or standing somewhere when out of the blue without any warning that it is coming, something completely unrelated will suddenly be brought up by them. They will pour out all their troubles to you. Not all at once, but one by one as the occasion permits. They might want to know things and you can tell them as much as they seem to want to know.
But we can also bring things up, pointing things out to them that they might not observe. Jesus would often draw the attention of the disciples to things they were not noticing or commenting on. Children will not always care or pay much attention at the time. But it sinks in some. They will recall it later. Maybe a month or a year later! Maybe 30 years from now! It will come up. Love does that. Teachers and parents learn patience. They do not expect results over night or that very minute. One has to continually water a garden and weed it to make it grow good. Rain does not always do the job in some places and the weeds will always grow. Children need constant attention as well. We do not see immediate results but come harvest time, you have lots of things to harvest, in kids as well as gardens. Harvest time varies in kids more than in gardens.
There are a variety of things that will vary from kid to kid. For instance, some kids will be attracted to athletics, but not all at the same time. Some will be eager at 5 or 6. For me it was 11 or 12. Some later, some never! To try to push or force would be wrong in my eyes. When they are ready and eager, you job of teaching will be much easier and produce much more success. To give you an idea of how different it can be from child to child, notice how girls change near 11 to 17. Some girls are very excited and interested in boys and sex, at perhaps 11 or 12. Others seem to be almost fearful of it till 16 or 17. This can vary quite a bit from one person to the next. When it is welcomed, sex is enjoyable to say the least. When it is unwelcomed, it can be downright traumatic and leave a lasting scare for life. Willingness, timing, as well as who it is, makes all the difference in the world.
It might be unwanted at 12, and eagerly accepted at 13. A year can make that much difference. That is how it is with many aspects of life experience and learning. Some develop physically very fast or young. Some are much more emotionally or socially advanced than others. Some develop intellectually quite early but may delay emotional development for some time. Slow growth in one area does not mean slow growth in all areas. Different areas also develop at different rates. A teacher measures each area separately and deals accordingly with each one.
I find that the more a child grows intellectually and spiritually, the less quickly they might grow in areas of adeptness in relationships with the opposite sex. I believe this is partially due to the fact that there are only so many resources the brain can allocate at any one time. If a child is experiencing a lot of stimulation in regards to intellect and learning, the brain has less resources and attention that it can give to other areas. This is not bad or wrong. In fact, as I see it, it is very good. Brains preoccupied with good subjects will not be as inclined toward other areas until they are well developed in the more important ones first where stimulation is occurring a lot. When people are preoccupied with sexual inclinations at early ages, it is often a sign that they have not received enough stimulation in the other areas and so gravitate toward that which is most stimulating and instinctive. Sex is certainly an instinctive behavior. A strongly stimulated cortex will delay sexual preoccupation. If you want your kids to avoid early sexual behavior, see that they are stimulated intellectually.
Some have confused this delay in sexual interest with retardation in that area or in social areas. I disagree completely. The intellect is by far the most important asset we have and needs to receive the most emphasis early on. This way, when puberty finally hits, maybe they will be better prepared to handle its urges. The cortex where intellect resides, is an important control center. It modifies the emotions and reactions that come out of us. If it is well developed, we are able to react with more restraint and give things more thought and consideration before acting. Impulsiveness is more easily controlled.
Social skills have been over-rated and over-emphasized. The problem with most kids to day is they are thrown into socially intense situations such as you have in schools where they are surrounded by all sorts of kids their own age and level of development. They are not ready for it and it is forced on them much too early when they can not handle it well. This is why school has become such a nasty place for developing personalities which are so fragile at these times and require a protected environment much like the baby in a womb. At a later age they are much better prepared for exposure to large peer group situations.
Some parents have been known to force or bully their kids into succeeding or accomplishing. They imagine that this early success and achievement will give the kid a head start and insure his later success. I do not find this to be the case and even if it was, at what cost does it come. Too many parents live through their kids instead of letting the kids live for themselves. I recall one small girl being trained to play tennis, pushed, by her father. She went along with it but she was quite obviously unhappy. It was not what she wanted but she was willing to make dad happy. He imagined that she would one day become a tennis star but that did not happen. She played in high school and did all right but never became the big star. Her heart was not into it.
What good is a direction if it is a direction the child does not
want to travel? A great teacher is only there to bring out what is in
the student, not what is in the teacher . . . or parent. A child must
want it themselves in order to thrive at it. Those who really excel
at something are those that have a great love for it.. I have seen
athletes who seem to be motivated by money and do well. But the very
greatest athletes I have ever seen are those who have a love for the
game that would make them play even if they got no pay. Love always
does better than greed and money.
We have to want to learn
Learning is very beneficial and fun
God will bless learners
We must have faith in God
We must have faith in our own abilities
We can do anything
Love makes us want to learn
Those who love, teach!
Learning requires courage
Stimulated brains respond and grow automatically
Discipline is important
We are primarily responsible for our own success or failure
Teachers can help us learn faster
The more teachers, opinions, books, and experiences, the better
Seek all views on a matter
There needs to be lots of stimulation but not too much. Balance is the key.
Teachers and students both need to look at themselves critically in order to progress
Our circumstances do not matter if we are happy with what we are doing
We must be aware of the progress we are making
Rewards are important
Timing is important. The right things at the right time in the right amounts.
The intellect comes first
Learning is not to be forced
A child or student must choose their own directions
These basics should give you a great start! I do not know if I covered everything. I tried. I may add more as ideas come along. These basics could be elaborated on much more I am sure. But shortness and simplicity are often better than too many words. Like with teaching and learning, too much can be as bad as too little.
In individual subjects such as sports training, there is a lot more that perhaps could be said but I do not consider it important here. A teacher, parent, or coach must perfect themselves before they can really help those they love or care about. Improving the details about our selves is up to us. I can not cover everything here. If one is truly sincere and is trying, I guarantee that God will bless your efforts and you will grow and become great. There is no doubt about that. Good luck!!!
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