“The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children." G K Chesterton

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Teacher as Bore

Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education

 Chapter 1 (part 1)

The premise of this chapter is the balance between "two philosophies of education that have been at war in our society for over a hundred years.....'romantic' and the 'classical' tendencies; the tendency to become entirely child-centered versus the tendency to become entirely teacher-centered."

I think this balance is exactly what Charlotte Mason achieved but it is so refreshing to hear it again from a modern voice. In fact, in this chapter Caldecott does exactly what Charlotte did. He walks us through the philosophies of various famous educators such as Montessori, Froebel, and Rousseau.

"What can we learn from this? Great educators differ in their conclusions about the nature of the child and the developmental stages that need to be taken into account, and even about the nature of the learning process, but each tries to devise an environment in which the child’s natural, impulsive quest for knowledge—or for beauty, goodness, and truth—can
be pursued with the teacher’s help."


"If attention to the child is the key to the teacher’s success, it is the child’s own quality of attention that is the key to the learning process..."

We cannot fail to grasp the ideas in the chapter on attention if we are going to truly understand education. My own way of saying this is-teaching is not learning.

An interesting article was circulating this week on the weakness of the academic lecture. I am very sympathetic to this subject because of my own inability to listen to a speaker for more than 30 minutes without becoming bored. I love to learn but I quickly become bored with stale ideas and most lectures cover only a single idea. Just tell it to me and get on with it. I can listen to audiobooks for hours on end and I can read for long periods of time but I struggle mightily to sit through a long speech. In other words, I do not have a short attention span, I probably have a rather long one, but I do not learn well in a lecture atmosphere.

This is why Morning Time will work better if we don't belabor it but move from book to book without long lectures, letting the ideas do their work. Of course, it is valuable to stop for conversation as long as it is not just one person (mom) doing the talking.

I also believe in the idea of the rest-step. We absorb only so much and then we need time to absorb more deeply what we have taken in.  I know of no school or co-op which accommodates the way we really learn in sprints and spurts and rests.  Plateaus are not times of stagnation but times of strengthening new growth. Learning is ALWAYS individual because of the nature of growth.

This is why I tune out when I hear people talking about classroom management at education conferences.  Classroom management is not a educational topic; it is a sign that we don't understand how people learn at all.  I know, I know, there will always be classrooms but they will never be able to achieve across the board learning. It is against nature. I will entirely retract this in the comments :) because classrooms do teach things, some of them valuable skills-like how to read a book while listening to a lecture without being caught or how to sneak out of class after roll call without being seen or how to get the cute guy to look at you. These skills are important too.

How about we do this-

Tell me what you remember from the best lecture you ever heard or sermon.

In Hermeneutics- I will always remember that the main thing is Ramm. That's it, but then again I did successfully sneak out a lot. Still I know where to go if I need to know and it was not class.

In Sermons- the best sermon I ever heard was by one of the worst speakers. His text was from Psalm 107 "...and then they cried out to the Lord..."   That is all I needed to know to carry me through many of life's trials.

In College Algebra-I remember I had the cutest sandals. I wish I could find a pair like them again.

In College Speech- I remember never to sit in the front row. People spit.

I spent about 15 years of my life in classrooms and the last 30 years making up for it.


  1. Thank you for your lovely blog. It has been incredibly helpful to me over the past couple years as I have refined our education at home.
    Talking about rest stops... One day I was directing the children to go to rest time without our usual read aloud time first. My second daughter protested with the comment that we must do our read aloud book first (at that moment, "The Princess and the Goblin"), so she has something to think about during her rest time. I was so pleased, and thought she hit the nail on the head with the purpose of our reading and also our resting.

  2. I am so sorry I don't have time to participate in this book study right now...every post is making me sorrier. :) But the right time will come, I know. On the "romantic" and "classical" tendencies...I have been thinking of those very things lately in relation to Charlotte Mason, specifically comparing CM with unschooling and Classical education. What a balanced response Caldecott has in that first quote. I love it!

  3. I got a date for the prom in Physics class, which was basically the height of my senior year in terms of triumph. So that's something. ;)

    I actually can listen to lectures for hours, but exceptions do not prove the rules, I don't think.

    Today, we didn't do math because the website I needed to print from was down. Now I shall just consider it a Rest Sleep.

    1. I think there is a huge difference in listening at home where you can pause and also do other things. I also listen to many lectures but I do find 30 minutes is ideal for one sitting unless I am doing other things. Dr. Grant speaks for 90 minutes and he is always excellent but then again it is more narrative.

    2. I had a very wise teacher in high school. We called him "Doc" and I am still in contact with him to this day. While our class periods were 50 minutes long he would never use more than 20 minutes of that in teaching us because he recognized that we could not attend to the material (chemistry) for any longer than that. I always wished that other teachers had learned from this wise practice, although it must be said that the remaining 30 minutes of class as free time was rarely used in an educative manner...

  4. ps. Sometimes when I am dealing with my Plutarch class, I wish I knew more about "classroom management." I still don't know what to do with those kids sometimes. When they get into it, they love it, but as they are getting older, they are hitting Junior High Age, which basically explains my problem.

  5. I would love to learn how to accommodate the rest-step and plateau's in a group-learning and classroom situation.
    About what I remember about the best sermon or lecture ever heard - blank. Totally blank.

  6. "how to get the cute guy to look at you" This makes me a little nervous, you do know that I read your blog, right? Tim
    BTW. Hot college girls do not "successfully" sneak out of small classes with only one access point.

  7. The good lectures always had some story. I was such a goody two shoes that I always focused on what I was supposed to. Which makes me a much less able teacher because I don't get why people tune out. I am learning more about keeping attention though- especially with 3 boys. I pulled totally different thoughts from this week's reading and you can see it here: http://pollinatingimaginations.blogspot.com/2014/04/beauty-in-word-chapter-1.html

  8. I'm not reading along, but I'm sure learning a lot. ;-)

    Best sermon? I'm drawing a blank. Actually, I think the best sermons I've heard are ones I've READ. :-)

    Best lecture? I had a history professor in college (who died prematurely earlier this year of a vicious brain tumor) who told history as a story, and I didn't even realize he was lecturing for a while. ;-)

  9. Yipee. My book arrived in the mail today. I'm glad you're not going too fast for me to jump in and glean from your thoughts. When people complain about our rector's sermons I always respond the same way "Good or bad, do you ever even remember any sermon by the next day?" All my memories of lectures are in a moldy box of notes in our garage never to be read again.

  10. I would love to read this! And give it to those of my children who are just starting out on their own homeschooling adventure.

  11. Hmm...I'm drawing a blank too. One thing I do know is in high school I *heard* best the teachers that I connected with, the ones who cared about me. It's true the saying "They'll never care how much you know until they know how much you care."