Keeping the Learning Real
by Toby A. Travis, Ed.D.
Trusted school leaders understand that students learn and mature best when a subject is meaningful to them. In addition, only the student can determine what is meaningful. A teacher cannot induce this but can help the student connect learning to their life experiences. “Learning unrelated to life is as good as faith without works.” Trusted school leaders model and encourage their teachers to stimulate students in the learning process. They recognize the difference between students being taught and being told the lesson; they work with their teachers to stimulate the student to acquire knowledge and learning for themselves.
Teaching is not a mechanical imparting of facts. It involves relating the truth to life. Trusted school leaders and teachers endeavor to set truth on fire in the student’s life, watching them ignite their own application of truth to their unique circumstances. The basis of authentic learning is student interests. Trusted educators differentiate between their own interest and those of their students. They realize that learning relates to a sense of personal need. Real needs must be touched before real interest is aroused; and those needs must be student needs, not those of the teacher or school board.
In addition, two of the most significant needs of students are (1) the need for maturing, and (2) the need for affection. First, maturity involves goals. Life loses purpose without goals. Additionally, the maturation process is continuous. Teaching has to involve students identifying worthy and meaningful goals for themselves. Secondly, affection is the basic need of all students.
More than anything else, students need to know that someone will authentically listen to them, and that someone genuinely cares for them. Trusted leaders recognize that learning takes place most effectively in an environment of love and compassion; where the learning is connected to reality.
©2017 Toby A. Travis
 Gangel and Benson, Christian Education: Its History and Philosophy, 340.
 Mary Ainley, “Connecting with learning: Motivation, affect and cognition in interest processes,” Educational Psychology Review 18, no. 4 (2006): 391-405.
 Jim Garrison, “Compassionate, spiritual, and creative listening in teaching and learning,” Teachers College Record 112, no. 11 (2010): 2763-2776.