Posted: 03 May 2012 08:07 AM PDT
Post written by Leo Babauta.
I am a teacher and an avid learner, and I’m passionate about both.
I’m a teacher because I help Eva homeschool our kids — OK, she does most of the work, but I do help, mostly with math but with everything else too. I also teach habits, writing/blogging, simplicity and other fun topics in online courses.
I’m a lifelong learner and am always obsessively studying something, whether that’s breadmaking or language or wine or chess or writing or fitness.
Here’s are two key lessons — both really the same lesson — I’ve learned about learning, in all my years of study and in trying to teach people:
Those two lessons (or one lesson) have a number of reasons and implications for learning. Let’s take a look at some of them, in hopes you might find them useful.
Why Learning is Independent
One of the foundations of Unschooling, which Eva and I and the kids do here at home, is that you’re not teaching subjects to your kids — in fact, you’re not really teaching them at all. They take responsibility for their learning, and do it because they’re interested in something, not because you tell them they should learn it.
This is exactly how I learn as an adult, and so I know it works.
When teachers (wonderful people that they were) tried to teach me something in school, I often became bored, and just did what I needed to do to do well on the test. Not because the subject or the teacher was boring, but because it wasn’t something I cared about. They wanted me to learn it because they thought I should, but that’s not why people learn something. They learn it because they care about it — because they find it incredibly interesting, or because they need it to do something they really want to do.
When teachers succeeded in getting me to learn, it was only because they made something seem so interesting that I started to care about it. But then I learned on my own, either in class while ignoring everyone else, or more likely after class in the library or at home.
That’s because someone walking you through the steps of learning something doesn’t work — you aren’t learning when you’re just listening to someone tell you how something works. You’re learning when you try to do that something — putting it into action. That’s when the real learning begins and the superficial learning ends — when you try something and fail, and adjust and try again, and solve countless little problems as you do so.
The best teachers know this, and so they inspire, and help you to put the learning into action.
As an adult, I’ve learned a lot on my own. The stuff I’ve just read, I’ve mostly forgotten. But the stuff I’ve put into action by playing with it, by practicing, by creating and sharing with others — that stuff has stuck with me. I truly learned it.
I learned about blogging when I started blogging, and kept doing it for five years — not by reading blogs about blogging. My students have learned habits and decluttering and meditation and blogging from me not because I told them something brilliants, but because the ones who really learned put it into action. They formed a simple habit, decluttered their homes, did 5 minutes of meditation for 30 days, blogged.
This is where the real learning happens — when the fingers start moving, the feet start dancing, not when you hear or read something.
How to Learn (or Teach)
The teacher’s job, really, is to fascinate the student. Fascination is the key to learning. Then help the student put the fascination into action.
It follows then, that if you’re teaching yourself, your job is exactly the same.
Here’s how to learn:
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