A very ancient saying we made up just a few years ago:
"Anyone, even a fool, can learn from someone wise. But it takes someone pretty wise to be able to learn even from fools."
- If you have a wise teacher, make the most of it.
- If your teacher or school is somewhat less than wise, still make the most of it.
- Those who learn the best are their own best teachers.
- Along your way, notice, by example or by contrast, anything you can use to learn or to eventually become a wise teacher. It's easier to discard options than to gain or build them — give yourself room to become a wise teacher. Keep your options open and create more options.
#1 Key to Effective Learning: What you learn is wholly up to you.
Have you been blessed somewhere along the way with a wonderful, wise teacher? Most of us have not. Yet, we can learn usefully from a rock, a cocked eyebrow, someone's pause or hesitation, a word not said.
Indeed, we can learn from anything we notice.
Part of you already knows the stuff you're trying to learn. The trick
is to match up conscious knowledge with your deeper understanding. Make a habit of asking yourself these questions:
- Question A: What can you do with what's in front of you, to line up a spark of connection between your experience and inner wisdom?
- Question B: What can you do inside yourself to make your unconscious wisdom more accessible to your experience and your conscious mind?
- Question C: How can you use your physical senses to make more of the matter more conscious for you? Are there any parts of Question A above that can't be answered directly through your physical senses? — If so, what?
- Question D: How can you use your imagination to make more of the matter conscious for you, to spark your senses and inner wisdom into thought?
#2 Key to Effective Learning: Turn "dry facts" into memorable experiences.
- Use your imagination and involve all your senses.
Visualize or make a song, make a drawing, apply your senses, or write about it. When you study historical events, imagine your way through them as a participant. For math, use your body as a way to measure off diameter, radius, pi, or mathematical quantities and formula relationships. In any subject, imagine being the person who discovered the information you are now dealing with. How did he or she experience that discovery, at that time?
#3 Key to Successful Learning: You get more of what you reinforce.
Success tip: "" Do more of what you do
well, you'll do more well. Build from your strengths. Discovering your
strengths often we take these so much for granted that we don't even
notice them, but you have some. What is it in yourself you'd like to see more of?
How can you reinforce it when it happens?
Rising to a challenge is also something you want to be able to do more of. But while that sometimes meets with success, sometimes things go other than intended. How can we gain more benefit from, and learn from, our mistakes without giving them the kinds of attention which reinforces us into more mistakes? Past mistakes, we've
already "paid our tuition for," can we get our money's worth of learning from
that tuition, without punishing ourselves or otherwise reinforcing in us what
went wrong instead of what went right? (Even punishment is reinforcement, not
only rewards. The main natural law of behavior and psychology is the law of
effect: "you get more of what you reinforce.")
#4 Key to Successful Classroom Learning:
This classroom tip is also a reflection of the law that "you get more
of what you reinforce" Everyone likes to be heard and listened to.
- The listener can be very powerful. Just by listening a little more
intently in one direction than another, he steers the person talking into
one direction rather than another. The person talking often talks himself into
- By your apparently listening intently, the teacher soon finds himself or herself talking more to you when he or she is teaching the
class. By your listening intently more in one direction than another, you
can steer the teacher's discussion without his or her noticing. When you give
the teacher the feeling subtly, not in CAPITAL LETTERS! that you are
listening intently, the teacher will respond to you much more, without even knowing he or she is doing so! And give you more of the attention that assures, from his or her end, that you really do get to understand the point of the lesson.
- Among your friends, your intent listening more in one direction
than in another will let you control events much more than if you were overtly the leader of the pack.
- Not everyone who gets such special attention from teacher or
classmates knows this consciously. Somewhere along the way, unconsciously, they've
learned that to listen in a certain way gets results that they find pleasing.
- To listen is not necessarily to obey. You are still your own person. If
you've appeared to listen intently, then followed your own path, and appear
to have good reasons for your choice, you will win respect which will get
you better listened to.
#5 Key, a Major Tip for Learning and for Life:
Talk your way through the key points or issues, WITH someone. The more
you describe, the more you will see. Especially if you describe more of
what you are actually seeing, less of what you "know." You know both more and
less about the matter than you think.
Talk problems through with a pal, whether these are math problems,
science problems, problems of the school, at-home or personal problems.
Many of those crucial little things people miss, no one discovers until he or
she has actually said it aloud, to a listener. You'll be amazed at what you
pick up this way, that you had no hint or realization before that you were
Take turns. Going through the problem, one of you describes everything
that's going through your awareness as you do that, not just what you're
"supposed" to be talking about. This gives the rest of your mind the chance to
relate in its own way to the problem or issue.
Your pal is listener, not interrupting, just listening and urging you
on if and when need be, until you hit your "a-HA!" instead of letting on how
he's already figured things out. In your turn, if you see an obvious answer
to your partner's problem, resist your urge to blurt it out, even if he's
missing the overwhelmingly obvious. The more he wrestles with it himself,
the more likely it is that he will not only find the answer that is best for
him, but will become able to answer all such further questions of that type. He may
even think of that answer days later, while doing or thinking about other
things, thanks to having truly wrestled with the matter.
When it's your turn to describe freely and to have a go at solving the
problem, allow your own ideas and perceptions, and descriptions of your
ideas and perceptions, to surprise you because often the best answer comes
from unexpected directions if you let it. Nearly all of your brain thinks in
sensory images at the back of your mind, very little of that fits readily
and immediately into words. It's when we can bring conscious words and
back-of-the-mind impressions/associations into one focus that our
Your understanding can indeed flower indeed the sheer JOY of your
understanding can flower. The beauty you see in a diamond or a dew drop or
a flower, you can also discover in an idea of how things fit together and
sometimes that understanding is useful, not only beautiful.
You are brighter than you think. Much brighter. That idea of how things fit together, go together, work together, combine into something new together, is a perceptual
act, and not an act of rote memorizing of information. Schools and many
teachers can't appreciate that.
We opened this by observing it takes someone pretty wise to be able to
learn even from fools, which is what we all have to do at least a little of the
time, in a world whose provisions for your generation are something less
than perfect. It's wonderful when you HAVE a wonderful teacher, but you can't
expect to have that all the time. Only YOU can make sure your learning is
rewarding and effective. You can do that by making your learning mean
something. These have been some of the many ways you can do that.