Learning by Trust

To Act and Not Be Acted Upon

LBT 1 Every Child Can Be Great

Learning is truly the primal role of every human being. The most essential elements of survival, achievement, progress, innovation and success must be learned as we grow and achieve our goals. We learn from teachers, others, and our own experiences. Learning and teaching are always intertwined and whether formal or informal, occur within all social institutions: families, churches, clubs, government organizations and overall civil society in addition to schools. Students trust teachers who build confidence, provide engagement and show the benefits of learning. Our basic premise is that Trust, or confidence, must be present for learners to best learn and teachers to best teach. This article will provide a compelling case for the need for a mutual, heartfelt trust between a teacher and student in order to achieve the best educational opportunity.

Common Sense Observations Regarding Education

LBT 1 For the best... quoteUnderstanding the driving dynamics of learning and teaching and how they make life success possible has been the topic of educational observers from Socrates to modern philosophers. The vast majority of modern education research and observations, however, are based on how a teacher best teaches yet relatively little research confirms how a student best learns.

Education literature normally consists of highly technical, abstract and sometimes opaque language and statistics, thus making it difficult to utilize and apply.

There are many nonacademic observers of educational efforts who have a gift for making clear, insightful statements about educational topics. One such man and our first observer may not be a recognized pillar of academia, but he was a thoughtful contributor with practical ideas worthy of serious consideration.

Our first “educational observer,” in establishing his bona fides, has many distinguished supporters far beyond what many educational leaders today now enjoy. President Franklin D. Roosevelt described our initial observer as having an “exceptional and deep understanding of political and social problems… While, I had discussed European matters with many others, both American and foreign, [his] analysis of affairs abroad was not only more interesting but proved to be more accurate than any other I had heard.”

Carl Sandburg stated that: “There is a curious parallel between [our observer] and Abraham Lincoln. They were both rare figures whom we could call beloved with ease and without embarrassment.” John Carter of the New York Times stated that: “Perhaps [he] has done more to educate the American public in world affairs than all the professors who have been elucidating the continental chaos since the Treaty of Versailles.” Robert Sherwood, an American playwright, stated that: “The impact upon the people of America at the death of [our observer] was similar to that produced by the death of Abraham Lincoln.”

LBT 2 Will Rogers QuoteOur first observer is Will Rogers. In all of his common sense observations, Will Rogers had this to say

“There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

This is perhaps our observer, Will Roger’s most brilliant insight into academics and education. This article will share the wisdom of several astute “educational observers” in bringing practical ideas worthy of serious consideration.

Trust (or Confidence) Defined

This article also seeks to establish and validate that ‘useful knowledge’ is best acquired through the process of Learning By Trust. Trust in this article is defined as “an active belief expressed through inspired efforts that develop confidence in outcomes.” Trust is also an active verb requiring it to be exercised by both teacher and student. As so insightfully observed by Will Rogers above, many students have not developed the power to learn through reading or observation. Trust or confidence in education principles and practices elude many otherwise capable students because they cannot see the future value of the information they are asked to learn. They are often left to their own devices and methods for learning, electrical fences included.

LBT 3 Trust Defined

Modern educational principles and practices (such as scripted teaching) are highly influenced by a well-intentioned desire to “leave no child behind.” However, to emphasize a one-size-fits-all approach to meet idealistic mandates is unreasonable and has proven a failure. According to Dr. Gary Gordon, such “assembly line” principles and practices undercut academic achievement because schools now emphasize “getting all students to average, not to excellence.”

Teaching Versus Learning: Trusting Teachers to Teach and Students to Learn

There is a clear distinction between Teaching and Academics versus Learning and Education. Teaching via a formal institution of learning or Academics provides the elemental components: the content, or essential “mind” of historical, theoretical and accepted knowledge. The content of this ‘accepted’ knowledge is what many students learn from their teachers from 8:00-3:00 Monday through Friday for 13 to 21 consecutive years.

Education via engaged learning provides the binding ties, inspiration and lifelong devotions to the “heart” of holistic purpose. Education through Learning takes academics a step further and reaches beyond formal schooling into all areas of life. It is where we develop passions and become inspired. We find the passions of that ignite a flame within us that can last a lifetime. Education through true Learning helps us find our purpose. Academics provides the “What, Where, How and Who” as the essence of teaching verifiable LBT5GreatTeachersprovideQuoteknowledge. Education develops the power of interactive learning in students, which inspires them to seek and understand the “Why,” the “heart” of purpose. Great Students then gain the Power of Learning.

Great Teachers

Do you remember your favorite teacher? What made that teacher great in your eyes? Teachers who proactively convey both the “mind” of knowledge and the “heart” of holistic purpose, where the student gains the power of learning, are Great Teachers. Great Teachers provide the environment and atmosphere that creates the spark for students to learn.

Students have two basic alternatives as they approach Academics: to be Engaged (active) or Disengaged (passive). An engaged student will not only be active and involved in their work, but will persist despite the challenges they face and take delight and satisfaction in their accomplishments. It is this type of student that will fan the spark from the teacher into the fire of learning. Sadly, disengaged students fail to gain the full benefit of that spark from the teacher, and their embers don’t develop into flames. In the paraphrased words of Maimonides, students are either taught to fish or they are given fish. When Great Teachers can find, develop and validate the Great Hearts of their Great Students those Great Students never find for the first time about ‘electricity’ through Will Roger’s electric fence metaphor.

LBT 20 Learning By Trust Success PyramidAmerica’s schools can meet the challenges of globalization and increased teaching and learning expectations — but not by doing what they’re doing today. Dr. Gary Gordon, who challenges the faulty assumptions that guide American public education, presents this argument. Focusing on process — standards, curriculum, and testing — rather than people has created lethargic, alienated students and cynical, disillusioned teachers. If schools can learn anything from the business world, it is that the best way to improve productivity is to tap into the talents and motivation of human assets.

The Abridger Institute describes this dichotomy of process as Object Driven versus People Driven. Only People Driven or people-centered processes build on the strengths of people. Object Driven processes generally require such standardization as to materially ignore diversity and the potential of each individual. John Hess suggests that data-driven educational policies and processes can equally ignore people. He describes such an overreach in educational practice as “The New Stupid.” Hess offers as an example of The New Stupid, the Student Teach Achievement Ratio (STAR) in California, which seemed to indicate that students performed better when class sizes were smaller. As a result, California spent billions of dollars trying to reduce class sizes across the state. Unfortunately, these efforts failed, “with the only major evaluation… finding no effect on student achievement… What happened? Policymakers ignored nuance and context.”

Emotional Quotient Drives Student Desire to Learn

LBT 6 Great Academics QuoteGreat Academics and Great Teaching alone cannot assure Great Learning and a Great Education. For each student to fully realize his or her potential, there is a second component.

Academics typically focuses on tactical coaching more commonly associated with intellectual quotient or ‘“ I.Q.” In contrast, Education must consider strategic coaching or Emotional Intelligence or “E.Q.” where all students can holistically succeed in life. Emotional Intelligence (E.I.) is the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate among different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. E.I. can also be described as an array of skills and characteristics that drive leadership performance. While I.Q. is considered static and without much elasticity, E.Q. is considered to be elastic and can be taught and improved.

The following true story illustrates the impact of Great Teachers and Great Hearts to provide experiences, which shows how a Great Student can integrate Academics and Education:

“I want to thank both of you and the rest of the staff at [Charter School] for creating such an amazing school experience for my daughter, [Susan]. Every day Susan comes home excited to tell us about her “awesome day” at school. All week she has been sharing in everyday conversations what she is Learning at school. Some examples would be, we were sitting at a red light and she named the colors of the stop light in Spanish. Another example would be when she was helping her daddy in the garage. She told him he was using his tricep and bicep muscles. My favorite example occurred when I was unloading the dishwasher. Susan noticed the utensil basket sitting on the counter. She said, “Mom, I am going to take the initiative to unload this silverware without you asking me.” I was in shock!

One more tidbit about Susan. Susan was adopted at the age of 18 months from [abroad]. She has had the same reoccurring nightmare for years. The nightmare is about the bad man who comes and kills anybody who loves her. This dream has happened so frequently, that we have a sleeping bag next to our bed so Susan can sleep in our room after she has her bad dream. The most amazing thing has happened since she started at your School. Susan has not been waking up with nightmares. Maybe it is a coincidence… maybe not. I do believe that it is because she is being surrounded by special people who care about her that make her feel safe and secure. This is a huge blessing to Susan and our entire family.”- Susan’s Mom

What Are Great Teacher’s Like?

Great Teachers are the catalyst that provide the “spark” for student-learning in which fully engaged students know how to fan the “spark” and create a burning desire for a lifelong love of learning. Students who are not engaged in the teaching process fail to gain the full benefit of the teaching spark. Teachers who inspire their students to exert the courage and discipline necessary to harness the Power of Learning make sparks an expected event for each student. Teaching and Academics too often only provide the vehicle for reaching the easy “fast food restaurants of life.” Highly engaged, catalyst oriented Education, and Learning provides the added fuel and compass necessary to reach the “rich banquets of destiny.”

Great Teachers have a unique relationship with the concept of courage. The root of courage comes from the Latin word “Cor” or heart. Courage is related to the “exercise or engagement of the heart.” Intuitively, we know those great moments, relationships, deep sacrifices and selfless heroics all begin in the full exercise of the heart. Great Teachers can inspire students to engage their hearts in learning; literally “stirring or awakening their inherent courage.” Every student has the potential to have “heartfelt” learning experiences if inspired by a Great Teacher.

LBT 7 Great Teachers Can Inspire QuoteGreat Teaching then can be defined as the giving a heartfelt experience, or insight, which causes someone to learn or understand, by exposition, experience or example. This experience occurs most consistently and fully within the home — for better or worse. Teaching throughout the balance of society occurs through both institutional and seemingly random exposition, experience and example — for better or worse. Too often, this takes the form of ’electric fence’ learning as described by Will Rogers.

The home is more determinative of an individual’s life success than any formal education. Anything that diminishes or trivializes the importance of parents and the home in making a Great Education possible may well run the risk equivalent of “attempting to defy gravity.”LBT 7 The Home is More Determinative Quote

The research and writings about the teacher and the importance of the teacher are exhaustive. The characterization of the role of the teacher has a broad array of interpretations and perspectives that often describe teaching as a noble profession essential to the foundation of any nation or culture.

The dictionary definition of teaching ranges from:

  1. The role of providing basic knowledge and guidance.
  2. The conveyance of complex philosophical concepts
  3. The inspiration of moral responsibility.

The concept of teaching as a profession takes on various characterizations ranging from a job, a duty, a career to a calling and a moral obligation, all determined by the methods, motivations, engagement and vision of a teacher. Great Teachers are not necessarily motivated by compensation as evidenced by the role of highly engaged parents and heartfelt mentors as teachers.

Why Do Great Teachers Have Great Hearts?

William Arthur Ward illuminates the distinction of great “heart” teaching versus “mind” teaching:

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”— William Arthur Ward

LBT 8 William Arthur Ward QuoteParents are the most likely source — for good or bad— of foundational love, support and encouragement that facilitates inspiration. Parents are teachers.

Vincent Van Gogh perhaps best captures the essence of the nobility of teaching in his assessment:

“Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.”

Parents are the most likely source – for good or bad- of deep foundational passion and spiritual awakenings. Parents are teachers.

There are many vexing issues in K-12 education today, in both public and private schools, yet the teachers themselves are generally not one of them. The shifting educational and political expectations of the role of the teacher are clearly at the center of K-12 educational challenges today. The long state of decline in American K-12 academic and particularly educational achievement is LBT 8 Where teachers are diminished Quotemerely the bitter fruit of what many term to be “complex variables.” Chaos is created by “complex variables” — cultural decay, government replacement of the family, the rigid unionization of policies and practices, economic trend shifts, micromanagement of education funding, and poor parenting. The primary academic and educational component that has changed the least is the dedication and skill of teachers.

Where teachers are diminished in their passion and skills, particularly where “burned out” teachers occur; much of their condition is due to having to bear the weight of the “complex variables” described above. Teachers once served as the “pointy end of the educational spear,” and proactively developed their roles in partnership with engaged parents. Today teachers are torn and distracted by many conflicting ideas, objectives, strategies, tactics and cultures.

Michael Soskil, the blog writer of ‘A Teacher’s Life For Me’ wrote a blog titled Teacher Frustration- We’re Losing, said the following: “After school one day, a teacher shared that our current culture of standardized testing and pressure to “teach to the test” makes it almost impossible for those in our profession who want to be great teachers to do so. She explained how she wants to teach her students essential skills like responsibility and collaboration but is instead forced to teach what will be on the tests that her students will have to take. Even if she wanted to pursue something her students find interesting or important, she can’t without risking some of her students failing the all-important tests, which leads to the majority of her students being totally unengaged.

Great teachers are being forced out of teaching because they are being forced to do things in their classrooms that they know are detrimental to students. As Sir Ken Robinson would say, “we are educating the creativity and passion out of our students.” Our students believe that what we teach them in school will have no impact on their lives and that the time they spend in our classrooms is a waste of their time.

Unfortunately, they are pretty much right.

What’s worse, teachers who want to change that feel that they can’t. Almost every teacher I know went into education because they thought they could make a difference for the next generation. If you take that away from them, what’s left?”

Busy Challenged Parents

Parents provide foundational love, support, and encouragement, which facilitate inspiration. Parents are our first teachers. However, busy and challenged parents have often become the explanation for the need for greater education research as well as experts and money by many political and educational leaders. There seems to be increasing institutional disdain for parents who are proactive in the content and process of their children’s education. There even seems to be a soft scorn for alternatives to public schools, such as homeschooling, which rings throughout much of modern media, education forums, and political platforms.

Our second observer of education had parents who were both busy and challenged:

One such busy, challenged set of parents met just such a characterization some years ago. These young parents were in the extreme minority of society by virtue of their religion and heritage. The young husband started a mattress business. The young wife was well educated and quiet. The young husband had very good mathematical skills, but the family finances precluded his academic advancement.

The father later used those mathematical skills to become a self-taught electrician of great skill. He used those skills to open a groundbreaking electrical business. It failed some years later. Despite the loss of the business, the now older husband and father moved to another country to once again pursue his role as provider and protector of his family. The business was better, yet this husband and father was so overcome by his business challenges that it led to his declining health and ultimate heart failure at the age of 55.

Their two children knew the love of their parents despite their busy, challenging efforts to provide for and teach their children. Their oldest child benefitted from an inspiring father. At the age of 5 he received a pocket compass from his father. He marveled at the compass and at the fact that regardless of which way he turned, the needle always pointed north.

Unfortunately, this young boy struggled with the rigid education he received in school. He had a speech difficulty that would cause him to speak slowly. He did not agree with the school’s philosophy of absolute obedience and military drills that dominated the school’s atmosphere. He would have rather been home.

LBT 9 Pocket CompassAt the age of 10, he attended a respected institution that emphasized Latin and Greek over Math and Science. He became unhappy with this course of education and turned to a course of personal study outside of school. He began to devour eagerly books on algebra, geometry, popular science, and philosophy.

As he grew older, he studied physics diligently but could not pass the exams necessary to attend a secondary school. He eventually decided to enroll in a secondary school in the teacher’s training program. His enrolling in a teacher’s training program was ironic in that he was unhappy at school where he learned from formal instruction. His joy in learning took place in his informal education he received at home.

Given the poor, painful early academic experiences of the young son, the young boy’s insight and portrayal of his academic and educational experiences provide an authentic, autobiographical window into the significant contrast between academic “teaching” and educational “learning.”

The Real Face of Teaching Versus LearningLBT 10 Everybody is a Genius Quote

Albert Einstein, the young boy who marveled at a pocket compass, is our second and foremost observer of education. He explained the potential chasm between “teaching” and “learning” in his description of his educational experiences as a poor, discouraged academic recipient as follows:

“School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam. What I hated most was the competitive system there and especially sports. Because of this I wasn’t worth anything, and several times they suggested I leave. …I felt that my thirst for knowledge was being strangled by my teachers; grades were their only measurement. How can a teacher understand youth with such a system? From the age of twelve I began to suspect authority and distrust teachers.” — Albert Einstein

His adult references above to his early teaching and learning experiences are quite vivid in revealing what drove him to develop the tremendous power of learning he ultimately gained. His “thirst for knowledge” went unnoticed an unquenched by the academic process imposed by his school on his teachers. his adult perspectives gained from his early childhood “teaching” and “learning” experiences, provide even greater insight into the obstacles in his academic path to gaining an education as follows:

“Everybody is a Genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid” — Albert Einstein

“The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think” — Albert Einstein

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” — Albert Einstein

Is There a Gift of Teaching?

LBT 11 Great Teachers Create an Environment Quote

Great Teachers seem to have special Talents, which enable them to excel. Gallup’s Consulting arm has studied the qualities that the “best of the best” teachers have.LBT 11 Status Quo vs Teacher Inspired Eduction Pyramid

  1. Achievement Drive: The motivation to enable students to succeed.
  2. Classroom Structure and Planning: Thoughtful and creative while establishing a sense of order in their classrooms.
  3. Student and Parent Relationships: A strong sense of belief and commitment toward building healthy relationships with all students, parents, and peers.

The emphasis on the teacher in achieving successful outcomes is prevalent in modern educational philosophy, law and practices in the last forty years. However, we know relatively little about how a learner truly learns and practice those principles even less. Just as there is a clear dichotomy between academics and education based on focused versus holistic perspectives, there is a compelling dichotomy between the gift of the teacher to teach and the power of the learner to learn. Great teachers create an environment where the learner gains the power to learn rather than merely acquiring information. Highly engaged learning transcends mere data gathering, fact assimilation and test taking.LBT 12 Benjamin Franklin Quote

How Does Trust Affect Learning?

Teaching versus Learning has been examined over the centuries as evidenced by the following timeless quotes:

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” -Socrates

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” -Aristotle

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” -Maimonides

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.” -Benjamin Franklin

“I have never let schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain

“The most important part of teaching is to teach what it is to know.” -Simone WeilLBT 12 Alexandra K Trenfor Quote

“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” -Alexandra K. Trenfor

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path.” -Steve Jobs

“It takes years of maturity to make the discovery that the power of faith is nobler than the power of doubt; and that there is a celestial wisdom in the ingenuous propensity to trust, which belongs to honest and noble natures.” -Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Pearl of Orr’s Island: A Story of the Coast of Maine.

“I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” -Isaac Newton, From Brewster, Memoirs of Newton (1855)

“Those who trust us educate us.” -George Eliot

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?” -C.S. Lewis, A Grief ObservedLBT 12 Elie Wiesel Quote

“What a deep [trust] the rationality of the structure of the world and what a longing to understand even a small glimpse of the reason revealed in the world there must have been in Kepler and Newton to enable them to unravel the mechanism of the heavens in long years of lonely work!” Albert Einstein.

“We believed in God, trusted in man, and lived with the illusion that every one of us has been entrusted with a sacred spark.” -Elie Wiesel, Night

“There are a hundred ways in which a boy can injure — if not indeed kill — himself. The more adventurous he is and the greater his initiative, there ways he will find. If you protect him from each of the first hundred, he is sure to find the hundred and first. Though most men can look back on their boyhood and tremble at the narrowness of some of their escapes, most boys do, in fact, survive more or less intact, and the wise father is the trusting father.” -Christopher Milne, The Enchanted Places

“Self-trust is the first secret of success.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

The above quotes appear to have a common implicit and explicit theme: Learning requires heartfelt trust. These observers, while not academically qualified educators and from highly disparate backgrounds, experiences and societies understand that learning requires a certain trust that their learning sojourn will result in greater rewards, experiences and knowledge.

Can our children, within today’s academic processes, truly trust their education to help them fulfill their true potential?

The Power of Learning

What is the “power of learning” that Albert Einstein so aptly gained in spite of ineffective “teaching”? How can it be described, demonstrated, taught or consistently assimilated by all students? Our practical observers above appear to define the “power of learning” as a result of the active presence of deep trust.

Deep Trust is where teachers trust their abilities, processes, teaching gifts, and their heartfelt confidence or belief that each child has a “sacred spark” which can be ignited as described by Elie Wiesel. The other aspect is that the student must trust that they can understand and learn the material and that it will benefit them in the future.

LBT 13 Deep Trust is Where Teachers Quote

The “power of learning” lies in the understanding of the power of the student. How can that power of the student be most readily explained? Albert Einstein’s autobiographical glimpses into how his personal learning process evolved seem to describe a very proactive learning attitude. He was a proactive learner who somehow gained the essential attitude that he was in charge of his own learning.

Albert Einstein became an “Agent” who chose to “Act” for his own learning rather than continue as an “Object” of passivity that was “Acted Upon.” Such a shift from “Object” to “Agent” suggests significant courage to exercise faith and trust in his instincts and his inherent ability to quench his own “thirst”. Trust or confidence would appear to be more than a noun. Albert Einstein’s faith and trust in his own search for learning suggests that trust is also a power, an action to change and grow for good and great. It also suggests that the power of learning trumps the gift of teaching — even where both are indispensable in Great Heart learning.

The Power of TrustLBT 14 Dad teaching daughter to ride a bike

The Power of Learning is a subset of the Power of Trust or even faith. The most applicable definitions of trust in the learning context, as defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, are:

  1. Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.
  2. One in which confidence [or faith] is placed.
  3. A charge or duty imposed in faith or confidence or as a condition of some relationship.
  4. Something committed or entrusted to one to be used or cared for in the interest of another.

Albert Einstein is perhaps the greatest student in the history of the world because of his desire to progress and not be condemned to failure. His indomitable searching spirit was nurtured by his parent’s love, belief and trust in him.

He clearly learned to love and trust his father, despite his short-lived successes and tragic failures.

The intertwined nature of faith and trust in achieving the power of learning is illustrated through these authors and their quotes on faith and trust in learning:

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”. -Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I believe in intuition and inspiration. …At times, I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. …Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.” -Albert Einstein

“We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” -Peter Drucker

“Most people —perhaps all— feel acutely anxious and unhappy when they are “groping in the dark” or find themselves poised uneasily upon “no firm foundation.” We must admire the courage of those rare individuals who, like Einstein, systematically seek out such situation.” -Frank Wilczek & Betsy Devine, Longing for the Harmonies: Themes and Variations from Modern Physics (1987)

“A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving…” -Albert Einstein

Learning by Trust

Learning by Trust is formed similarly to that of a whirlpool. You can’t always ‘pinpoint’ where it begins, but we all know it begins with some emotion being ‘stirred’ within us.

Just because we feel the “thirst” to learn doesn’t mean that it will develop into a Great Education. There needs to be that consistent, methodical catalyst to encourage the process to continue. A Great Teacher is often that consistent, methodical catalyst that encourages or “draws out the courage” within a student.

When someone places trust in another, they are essentially ‘hoping’ that something promised will happen. Hope allows us to anticipate that the future will be better. No guarantee exists that it will happen, but the relationship that one person has with another begins with a small amount of trust or confidence, which is given an opportunity to grow. This ‘Trust’ allows a student to gain the confidence to press forward into an uncertain future.

B.K. Packer advances the concept that it is a combination of the hope and the trust that allows the learner first to put their trust in their teacher. The learner takes the action as they step towards the edge of the ‘light’ or things known and by hoping and trusting can take a few steps into the darkness of the unknown. The miracle occurs when they see that the ‘light’ moves with them, and they receive the illumination that they need to walk through the ‘unknown’ until it then becomes the ‘known.’ At this point, they have received evidence of their ability to learn. The Great Teacher only provided them with the opportunity and encouragement to realize it themselves.

This is an ongoing process of each experience adding to the width of the ‘whirlpool’. David Bednar describes the interdependence of how “assurance, action, and evidence” influence each other in an ongoing helical process. This helix is like a coil, and as it spirals upward, it expands and widens.

These three elements of faith (or confidence) — assurance, action, and evidence— are not separate and discrete; rather, they are interrelated and continuous as they cycle upward. And the faith that fuels this ongoing process develops, evolves, and changes. As we again turn and face forward toward an uncertain future, assurance leads to action and produces evidence, which further increases assurance. Our confidence waxes stronger, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.” Hope, Trust, Action, and Evidence are all interrelated as part of a continuous upward cycle. With each new expansion of the width of the whirlpool comes a greater courage and confidence associated with what becomes a quest to learn. It becomes easier for the student to trust himself or herself to step from the light into the darkness and to recognize, once again, that the light moves with them and they have the ability to learn new things.

LBT 15 As Courage QuoteThe Great Teachers, by their nature of having a Great Heart, can communicate a connection or serve as the catalyst for the learning spark to happen in their student. It is here where the student gives that small amount of ‘Trust’ to their teacher.

To start the whirlpool, the Great Teacher must have already developed a “Deep Trust” within himself or herself. This is where they trust their abilities, their processes, their teaching gifts, their ability to inspire possibilities and their whole hearts to see that a child develops a “sacred spark” as described by Eli Wiesel.

What is the Role of Student Courage

David Bednar further notes how the power of the trust “on the part of the teacher carries the message [a lesson or principle] to but not necessarily into the heart of the student. A teacher can explain, demonstrate, persuade, and [empathize] …with great… power and effectiveness.

Ultimately, however, the content of a message will …penetrate into the heart only if a receiver [student] allows them to enter. Learning by faith [or trust] opens the pathway into the heart… Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental, and physical exertion; not just passive reception.

Learning by faith cannot be transferred from an instructor to a student through a lecture, a demonstration, or [mere passive participation in] an experiential exercise; rather, a student must exercise faith and act in order to obtain the knowledge for himself or herself.”

Bednar goes on to state that the “learning I am describing reaches far beyond mere cognitive comprehension and the retaining and recalling of information. The type of learning to which I am referring causes us to …to change [transform] our hearts.”

Bednar served at the University of Arkansas as the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the Sam M. Walton College of Business from 1987 to 1992 and was the Director of the Management Decision-Making Lab from 1992 to 1997. He also served as the President of Brigham Young University- Idaho (formerly Ricks College).

B.K. Packer told his story of learning from Great Teachers: “I have observed a common characteristic among the instructors who have had the greatest influence in my life. They have helped me to seek learning by trust. They refused to give me easy answers to a hard question, in fact, they did not give me any answers at all. Rather, they pointed the way and helped me take the steps to find my answers. I certainly did not always appreciate this approach, but experience has enabled me to understand that the answer given by another person is usually not remembered for very long if remembered at all. But the answer we discover or obtain through the exercise of learning, typically, is retained for a lifetime. The most important learning’s of life are caught—not taught.”

Great Teachers Revisited

Steve Drummond of NPR wrote an article called 50 Great Teachers: A Celebration of Great Teaching. It was written as an introduction to a contest where they were looking for the world’s 50 greatest teachers, past and present. He mentions Anne Sullivan, Socrates, Booker T. Washington, Jaime Escalante, etc. as all being Great Teachers. His list didn’t get much longer. He ran out of ideas. After talking to many colleagues, he began to realize that the Great Teachers in this world aren’t widely known or found through internet searches.

Great Teachers are rarely celebrated publicly. It is the results of their labors that are celebrated: the students who created the inventions, the student who came up with the thought that changed technology, the student who negotiated peace between nations. He then realized, “Teachers shape lives. And Great Teachers shape lives that shape the world.” In realizing this fact, Steve Drummond realized that he had to change what he was searching for in his contest. He needed to search for teachers who change students, even the life of just one student.

Great Teachers, in simple summation, help students to Learn by Trust by inspiring an ongoing commitment to Learning beyond mere Content Mastery (the Who, What, Where, How and Why of Learning). The best teachers inspire students to study, ponder and assimilate Context Mastery (the personal process of seeing beyond content to gain deep insights, analysis and application of Content).

Diligent studying, pondering and application of content require a student to exercise Trust and to Act. One of the fundamental roles of the Great Teachers is to help each student make and honor commitments—to act and learn by Trust.

Teaching, exhorting and explaining, as important as they are, can never, in and of themselves, fully convey to a student the enduring power of learning. Only as a student’s Trust initiates action and opens the pathway to the heart can a student develop the inner satisfaction, the outward joy, and compelling motivation to achieve the type of learning that opens new horizons. Great Teachers innately understand the power of Learning by Trust.

The Power of Learning by Trust

The Power of Learning by Trust, in simple summation, reaches far beyond mere cognitive comprehension, retaining and recalling of information. Learning by Trust is the type of learning that inspires students to develop a deep love of truth, become the type of person that willingly receives and applies truth, to open and soften their hearts, and to be converted to the Power of Learning for life.

Learning by Trust requires both the heart and a receptive mind. Learning by Trust is perhaps best described above by Elie Wiesel to be “the sacred spark” that results in the True Gift of Teaching carrying the power of the teacher’s word both to and into the heart of the learner.

Learning by Trust cannot be transferred from an instructor to a student through a lecture, a demonstration, or an experiential exercise; rather, a student must exercise trust and act in order to obtain the depth of the knowledge for him or herself.

Nobility of Teaching – The Sacred Spark

The nobility of teaching draws honest-in-heart teachers to their role of calling over job and career. The teacher’s progression from job to a career to calling requires at least four catalysts for their growth and that of their students:

  • An authentically collaborative, fully participatory and deeply heartfelt developmental education environment
  • Trust in teachers by their leaders/mentors to gain the Gift of Teaching
  • Trust in themselves to gain the Gift of Teaching
  • Trust in their students to gain the Power of Learning by Trust

Ultimately, the gift of Great Teachers, Great Teaching and the Power of Learning by Trust may be best understood through a composite story told by many great and noble teachers as follows:

“I wanted to teach children as a fulfillment of my desire to: meaningfully serve others (Service), bring out the best in others that my teachers helped me develop in myself (Developer), repay the kindness and faith in me that my teachers showed to me in my own education (Gratitude), help children overcome the disadvantages in their lives (Empathy) and make a meaningful contribution to improving education of children (Achiever). As I utilized my college training and life experiences to teach, I began to more fully realize how much relationships matter in education. I learned that there is a connectedness in teaching that words cannot readily convey. Slow and steady, teaching taught me. Slow and steady, students taught me. Slowly and steadily, my heart was stirred to a greater understanding of teaching. Heartfelt teaching causes teachers to reach out and search for the potential of all children. There becomes less and less room for judgmental attitudes. There becomes more of an enthusiasm to wade into every child’s challenges knowing the mutual thrill of connecting with a student, eye to eye and heart to heart. That eye to eye, heart to heart moment where I hear the student’s words and feel their growing soul speak to mine. The student feels they are understood more fully than ever before and knows that I know. They know that my trust in them is coming to fruition. They now begin to see in themselves the potential that I see. My follow through is to reinforce that glimpse of learning success with an honest, heartfelt recognition of their growing potential. That moment creates the beginning of sublime trust between the student and me. We are both better for that moment and otherwise encouraged to seek out more trust moments.

Challenging students begin innocently enough with the sweet little blonde haired first grade girl with an insatiable need to befriend seemingly everyone in the middle of my class – every hour, every day, every week, every month – until I finally understood her innate love for others, which she wanted everyone she met to have a smile as big as hers. The challenge increases with the sixth grade boy whose academic focus is adrift for almost a semester until I finally see that he needs a greater sense of purpose that I fulfill by placing him in charge of the class aquarium. And then that young, awkward high school boy, who only seems to come alive in my shop class, makes me know the refuge that my class singularly provides from his many adolescent insecurities and sometimes skittish outlook. Who, outside of him and me, could ever really intuitively share and instinctively know the immense joy of craftsmanship, of exacting quality, of a keen eye for detail that all bring a sense of identity, a source of humble pride and ultimately confidence about life? Each of my students causes me to be in a constant, vigilant search for the “moment” when big smiles, aquariums, and woodworking bring my students a warmer embrace of their world.

The especially challenging students make you work harder for that “moment”. Maybe it won’t come right away or maybe not until a little later in the year yet I still know it will happen soon. The worst student inspires me each day to “work the Rubik’s Cube” of possibilities until I solve their puzzle. My greatest “paydays” are those emotional and spiritual connections where I truly connect with a student. I am now deeply aware of Mark Twain’s sentiment via Huck Finn “that you can’t pray a lie”. You can’t be a disinterested teacher in any degree without students feeling it. Every child can learn. The concept of “the soft bigotry of low expectations” stirs my soul to beat back the stereotypes, the rationalizations and the elitism that destroys children’s hopes and potential. No higher level teaching can occur without each child knowing how much I care and believe in them. Connecting academics with the power of learning for each and every one of my students makes my life have a greater purpose. There are those certain fleeting moments in teaching when the entire world stops for me as a student develops a quick beaming smile, a quiet discerning confidence or a gesture of sudden comprehension that they know they have earned. Some may call this faith in the potential of all children an extraordinary or noble attribute yet I see it as my calling in life. Teaching challenges me to be my best self, far beyond what I could ever have understood just coming out of college.”

The “sacred spark” provided by teachers is ultimately impossible to express in mere words as so aptly evidenced by the current state of academics and education. Most attempts to describe the “sacred spark” may more closely resemble the six blind men in the poem “The Blind Men and the Elephant as follows:

The Blind Men and the Elephant

John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind)
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! But the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis might clear.
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!

The Third, approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he,”the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee
“What most this wondrous beast is like Is
mighty plain” quoth he; “Tis
clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said; “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Like the Blind Men, there are many differing ideas on what will cause meaningful success in elementary and secondary education. For example, some push for policy reform, others who believe uniforms will make the difference, many consider curriculum is the answer, while some believe an increase in teacher pay will increase results, and on and on. However, like the Elephant, this “sacred spark” is an interdependent result of many factors and cannot be readily explained by just one or two good ideas.

LBT 19 Randall Butisingh Quote“Teaching is more than just a noble profession. It is a vocation, a calling… Teacher is the most important person in any civilization, as on him depends the molding of the nation. There are not many born teachers, but there are those who love teaching, and there are those who enter it as an occupation…

A teacher must know that he or she is teaching, not only a subject, but a child. A teacher must know each child in his or her charge – especially in his early years – his temperament, his academic capability, his health, his bent, his home background and anything that may be hindering him from doing his best. This will equip teachers and help them to educate. Each child must taste success at the beginning by beginning with the simple to the complex, the concrete to the abstract, the known to the unknown and to develop at its own rate. This will give him confidence. A good teacher, by his or her methods, will be able to motivate the pupil, awaken his interest, and arouse his curiosity. Teachers can make learning pleasant. They must exhibit energy, enthusiasm, and cheerfulness, and never cease to learn themselves.” -Randal Butisingh, Teaching is a Vocation – A Calling.

Education Observations Summary

  • Teachers are the Conduits and Coaches of the Knowledge Process. Teachers are rarely the authors or the origin of Knowledge.
  • Courage is required on both the part of the teacher and the student for Great Learning and Great Hearts to occur.
    1. Courage required of the teacher begins in the form of an active faith in the ability of the student to learn. Courageous teachers coach their students into harnessing the “Power of Learning”. Such teacher courage ultimately manifests itself in the teacher seeing a clear path into how the best coach the student into developing their full potential.
    2. Courage required of the student begins in the form of a spark of trust within the Student that the Teacher has a heartfelt interest in his or her well-being. Such student-courage ultimately manifests itself in the student gaining a heartfelt confidence that they have the Power to Learn.
    3. Courage by both teacher and student makes true learning possible. Such collaborative courage ultimately manifests itself in the student learning how to act upon their true potential. Such students are very mindful of the independence and self-determination that Great Learning provides them. Students who gain the Power to Learn and its associated Great Hearts inspired confidence rarely allow themselves to be Acted Upon. They become full agents for their own destiny and purpose in life.
  • Trust is more than a noun or passive verb. Trust is the power and action to change, to grow and to realize self-determination. Courage and Trust are the core principles of best actions by Teachers and Students that drive the high-engagement learning process.
  • Trust has three basic elements:
    1. Future Focused Hope – Assurance of things hoped for that are true,
    2. Past Awareness of Contextual Evidences – Evidence of things not seen that are true,
    3. Present Need to Act – Hope and Evidence are the basis for trust in the future and past truths/things that make the best actions possible.
  • Trust starts with the quantity of trust where tireless, iterative efforts by a Teacher to reach the Student enables the Teacher to know ultimately how each Student might best respond to the spark of learning.
  • LBT 20 Learning By Trust Success PyramidTrust culminates in the quality of trust, which drives Intensity, Integrity and Sincerity of actions. Best actions by the Teacher and Student reinforce the Power of Learning, which inspires deeper, more highly engaged learning.
  • Lack of Trust is most commonly manifested in experience learning outside the teaching and academic paradigms of institutional learning – much like Will Rogers description of one of those types of men which learn about electricity in a random, rogue and possibly painful manner, lack of trust by teachers and students most commonly results in passive, reactive teaching and learning. Reactive teaching and learning only require passive participation. Not to be confused with experiential learning where teachers utilize controlled, purposeful experience as a catalyst to reinforce and fan the spark of learning, Experience Learning may be best known as the school of hard knocks and avoidable mistakes.
  • Learning by Trust conversely endows Teachers and Students with a proactive sense of confidence that Great Learning will ultimately occur if they are but courageous and persistent. Proactive teaching and learning require Emotional, Physical, and Spiritual Exertion as well as Intellectual Exertion.
  • Learning by Trust involves the exercise of individual agency to act upon the assurance of things hoped for and invites the evidence of things not seen from beginning
  • Learning by TRUST involves the exercise of individual agency to act upon the assurance of things hoped for and invites the evidence of things not seen from the ultimate teacher, personal DRIVE, DESIRE, ENGAGEMENT, JOY.

Call for Great Hearts

What if each person who interacts with students would seek greater Inspiration and Courage to make Heartfelt Teaching and “sacred spark” Learning possible in ourselves, our children and our community?

What if the “Power of Learning by Trust”, and the power to “Act and Not Be Acted Upon” were the foundational traits we sought for ourselves, our children, and our community? Doesn’t our society need more great-hearts – who fully feel, truly see and who make possible the “Power of Learning by Trust” for themselves, their children and their community?

What if we had more open and softened hearts for the great potential of children and were willing to change to achieve such a goal?

Doesn’t our hope for a more fulfilling life, within our own current life or the early years of our children hinge on our ability to develop great-hearts?LBT 21 Every Human Being Quote

May all of us continue to seek greater inspiration and courage to make heartfelt teaching and “sacred spark” learning possible for ourselves, our children and in all mankind. May the Power of Learning by Trust, often seen as true and full freedom, and it’s closely associated power to “Act and Not Be Acted Upon”, be the foremost foundational gifts we all seek for ourselves, our children and all mankind. Our society desperately needs more Great Hearts – those who fully feel and truly see – that make possible the Power of Learning by Trust for themselves, for their children and indeed for all mankind. May we all have open and softened hearts for the great potential of children. Any hope for a fulfilling life, whether within our own current life or the young beginning life of our children, hinges on our ability to develop Great Hearts.

LBT 21 Brimhall Quote