The 7 Laws of the Learner

by Bruce Wilkinson
Founder and President of Walk Thru the Bible Ministry
Chapter One: The Law of the Learner

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Introduction:


The Seven Laws of the Learner has impacted my ability to teach and preach more than any other book. I believe it is the best book on teaching ever written. I strongly encourage you to purchase this book and study it carefully. If I were a pastor I would go through the video series every year with my teachers until I felt we had all saturated the material. The chapter below is provided to whet your appetite to read the whole thing. I was thrilled to receive permission to provide this for you.

You can purchase The Seven Laws of the Learner book and DVD video curriculum online at www.walkthruthebible.christianbook.com/. You can reach Walk Thru the Bible at 1 (800) 361- 6131.

 Enjoy some great reading!

 -Josh Hunt

 

Text of Chapter One


The first time I heard him teach, I said to myself, "I want to study under that man!" His name was Howard G. Hendricks, and I entered seminary to learn everything I could from this master teacher. I wanted to learn not only what he taught by also how he taught.

During those four years of graduate study, I listened to him for more than 350 hours and always left his class instructed, challenged, and a step closer to God. But the time I was a senior I began to wonder if "Prof" even understood the word boring.

After studying how he taught for four years, I discovered he followed a basic style. About three minutes before class began, his right foot began to bounce underneath the old oak desk. At the precise moment the second hand swept past twelve he raised his right forefinger into the air, announced "Ladies and gentlemen. . . " and delivered an opening one-liner that was so stimulating all of us couldn't help but copy it down. After three to four minutes he told his first joke. Eight to ten minutes into class he would inevitably rise from his desk and draw a graph or chart on the white board. Always the blue pen first. Then the purple. And always with the unique squiggly underline for emphasis. His rhythm was unmistakable. And it worked--just ask any of the thousands who have studied under him.

During my last year of seminary, I decided to give Dr. Hendricks a test. I wanted to see what this master teacher would do if one of his students would not--no matter what--pay attention in his class. I sat in the back right-hand corner of the room, next to the only window, and decided to gaze out the window the entire class session. Since there were only thirty students in the class, he was sure to notice. I took off my watch and started timing. What would he do if he couldn't get my attention.

As expected, he started off with a bang and delivered his typical one-liner. Although my hand began to tremble, I forced myself not to record the line. From the corner of my eye I could see that he noticed immediately I wasn't paying attention. He broke tradition and in the first minute told a joke--totally out of context. If I laughed he would immediately know I was listening, so I discreetly put my hand over my mouth and continued staring out that window.

As the two-minute mark passed, he got up from his chair and started drawing on the board--much too early. He again noticed I wasn't taking notes, stopped right in the middle of his chart and didn't even finish it.

He put the pen down and walked to the corner of the room in order to look down the aisle at me--desperately trying to make eye contact. Sweat beaded on my brow, but the seconds continued ticking by. I wasn't going to pay attention.

Finally, he broke. This master teacher almost leaped down the aisle and yelled, "Wilkinson, what on earth are you looking at outside that window?!"

With a sheepish glaze, I turned around and said, "Nothing, Prof. Sorry." I looked down at my watch to determine his grade. Only three minutes and thirty-seven seconds had passed! Incredible. His tolerance for one student not paying attention was limited to 217 seconds.

With that remarkable experience freshly imprinted on my mind, I walked down the hall into the next class with a different professor. Talk about a contrast. One side of the room was filled by students who never paid attention but did their homework for another class. This teacher, however, didn't seem bothered; he just turned and lectured to the students sitting on the other side. His mindset was, It's not my problem if you don't want to learn.

What a contrast of teacher mindset--and what a contrast of student learning. One teacher could tolerate for only a few seconds one student not learning what he was teaching, and the other didn't seem to care for the whole semester!

How would you have fared on that quiz with one of your students looking out the window? Would you have cared? Would the clock still be ticking?

Dr. Hendricks believed that as the teacher, hew was the one responsible for my learning. By contrast, the second teacher thought he was responsible only to cover the material, regardless of whether anyone learned.

 

Learner Mindset


What an extraordinary example for the heart of the Law of the Learner. Dr. Hendricks believed that as the teacher he was the one responsible for my learning. He felt responsible, and if I wasn't learning, he did whatever it took--changed his lesson plan, his style, told an irrelevant joke, even ran down the aisle and confronted me.

In contrast, the second teacher's mindset was limited to his responsibility to cover the material whether anyone was learning it or not.

The foundational attitude lies at the very heard of The 7 Laws of the Learner. In a sense, all of the laws are like a row of dominoes; this first one ultimately controls all the dominoes that follow.

Every master teacher I know shares this mindset and senses it is his responsibility to cause the student to learn.

But do you know what the prevailing mindset is in the preaching and teaching community today? A tragic divorce has occurred--teachers have separated themselves from their students and redefined teaching as what the teacher says rather than what the student learns.

Teachers have redefined teaching as "the coherent speaking of an adult located at the head of the class to a passive gathering of students." They believe their primary responsibility is to cover the material in an organized manner.

They think about teaching as what they do--their focus is upon themselves. Many teachers cover their material and leave the room thinking they have taught. But if you gave their students a pop quiz, you would find out they hardly learned a thing. The divorce between teaching and learning is tragic and the root of many of our educational woes.

Dr. Hendricks modeled a revolutionary mindset. He saw teaching as not what he did but what his students did. His focus was not upon himself but upon his students. Since that student looking out the window was not learning, Dr. Hendricks realized he was therefore unable to teach. That's why he stopped delivering his content and ran down the aisle!

Can you sense what difference it would make in your life and the lives of your students if you joined Dr. Hendricks?

In addition, what does God have to say about this issue of teaching? Could it be that we have abandoned God's perspective and directive given to teachers?

We've been asking people wherever we travel how they would define the responsibilities of a teacher. Over and over again they say, "to teach the facts" or "to cover the material" or "to complete the lesson plan." The focus of all these definitions is upon anything but the student's learning.

Somehow we think teaching is talking. If I come to the class and go though my notes and get you to laugh a couple of times, and you copy down my notes and may ask one or two questions, then I have taught you. No, that is not teaching. True biblical teaching doesn't take place unless the students have learned. If they haven't learned, I haven't taught.

What does the Bible mean by "teach" and what does it mean by "learn"? Does God divorce teaching and learning? Let's look at a couple of verses out of Deuteronomy that are very similar but have a different focus. One focuses on teaching, the other on learning.

And Moses called all Israel, and said to them, "Hear, O Israel, the statues and judgements which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them." (Deuteronomy 5:1)

What does it mean to "learn?"

Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgements which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you. (Deuteronomy 4:1)

What does it mean to teach? How are these two concepts--learning and teaching--related? Are they as divorced from each other as we have come to believe?

In order to grasp the full meaning of these words, let's investigate the terms in the original Hebrew. The word learn in 5:1 is XYZAB and teach in 4:1 is XYZDE. When the prefix and the suffix are taken off of learn, all that remains is the root Hebrew word, XYZ. When the prefix and the suffix are take off the word teach, all that remains is the Hebrew root XYZ.

Can you believe that? It's the same word! That's right, the same Hebrew word means to learn and to teach. Do you realize the significance of that? We can't separate teaching from learning. They are married, they are one. Somehow and in some way what the teacher does and what the student does must be inextricable related.

There is a further insight into this Hebrew word for teach and learn. The root means "learn," but when you alter it and put it into another stem called the Piel, it changes the meaning to "teach."

According to Hebrew grammar, the fundamental idea of the Piel is "to busy oneself eagerly with the action indicated by the stem." What's the stem? "To learn." To teach, therefore, means to busy oneself eagerly with the student's learning. It also means "to urge," "to cause others to do," and "an eager pursuit of an action."

Do you see how the Bible's mindset is the opposite of the normal mindset? The Bible says that teaching means "causing learning." This is the heart of the Law of the Learner. No longer can you or I consider teaching merely as something the teacher does in the front of the class. Teaching is what the teacher does in the student. How do you know if you are a great teacher? By what your students learn.

That's why Dr. Hendricks stopped what he was doing and ran down the aisle to challenge me. He knew that because I wasn't learning, he wasn't teaching.

Can you imagine what would happen in the classrooms across the country if teachers returned to their rightful heritage? If they walked down the aisles, not with their outlines and notes, but with their students? If they vowed to be fully obedient to the biblical mandate of "causing to learn"? It would cause a revolution. Learning would once again soar, discipline would return, and students would start loving learning instead of hating school.

The Law of the Learning is illustrated by this diagram. The left box represents the "speaker" or the "communicator." The center box is the "subject" or "content." And the right box represents the "student" or "Class."

The two small arrows in this model represent the action of the teacher or the student. Normally, the teachers focuses on the subject--"lectures" and speaks the "words"--whereas the student "Listens" and "Writes" those words. Notice both of their points of attention--it's on the process of covering the material. What often occurs is a thorough lack of learning. Students are free to move their minds into neutral with only their pencils in gear and all too often slide into the "Pit of Passivity."

The preferred mindset requires the teacher to refocus attention from the subject to the student. This is represented by the lower arrow pointing from the teacher to the student with the words, "Cause to Learn."

One of the most striking quotes I have read was from a frustrated inner-city father about the educational system's dramatic failure to cause his daughter to learn:

You people operate a monopoly like the telephone company. I have no choice where I send my child to school. I can only go where it's free.

And she's not learning.

That's your responsibility, it's the principal's responsibility, it's the teacher's responsibility that she's not learning. And when you fail, when everybody fails my child, what happens? Nothing. Nobody gets fired. Nothing happens to nobody except my child.

How tragic. . . but how true! The 7 Laws of the Learner is written to enable you to turn this quote around. To teach so effectively that no one would ever consider looking out that window.

 

Learning Maxims


This second section, the Maxims, continues to develop the main concept introduced in the Mindset and Model. In order to clarify and expand your understanding, the "big idea" under consideration is investigated from a number of different angles and perspectives. A maxim is a brief statement of a general principle or truth, and therefore each of the maxims that follow reflect a different facet of "cause to learn." By the end of this section you should much more fully grasp the greater meaning and significance of what it really means to "cause to learn." The deeper and fuller your understanding, the easier it will be for you to use this truth in your own teaching.

 

Maxim 1: Teachers are responsible to cause students to learn.


It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to conduct an experiment. It was my first class on my first day of my first year of teaching college. My slate was clean and my reputation as yet unformed. My students had no way to know what to expect.

Class started and I began teaching the way I had been taught by my teachers. You know, the traditional outline with main points and sub points.

The students dutifully took notes. After about twenty-five minutes, I said to my trusting class. "Please put away your papers, it's time for a test." You could almost hear their hearts stop--in unison. They were freshmen, and this was their first class. When I announced a test--on the first day--their world almost came to an end. Finally the deafening silence was broken by a courageous girl in the back row: "But sir, we haven't even had a chance to study this yet."

"I know, but let's see how you do," I said. I offered no explanation or it would have ruined my experiment. There was rattling of notebooks as they dug for paper; then it got real quiet. I asked a few questions from the twenty-five minutes of "teaching" I had just completed.

All but a couple of students failed. Royally. Tension was heavy, and I could read the glances that shot across the room--"I'm transferring out of this guy 's class."

Then the girl in the back row raised her hand again. It was obvious she was used to getting As. "You can't count that!" she protested.

"Why not?"

"It's not fair. We didn't have a chance to learn it!"

"So how did you do on the test?" She looked down and said, "Sixty percent."

"What am I?" I asked.

"The teacher."

"And what's the teacher supposed to do? Teach the class, right?" I paused and smiled. "If I'm the teacher and I'm the one who is supposed to teach you to know the material, then how did I do so far? What grade would you give me?"

Their faces said they were bursting to tell me. "Young lady, if your test score revealed how effectively I taught you today, what grade would you give me?"

By now, no one was even breathing. Everything in this young lady wanted to tell me, but she didn't know if she should. So I told her. "Your grade is my grade. What you did or did not learn is dependent upon how I did as your teacher. So your grade of 60 percent designates me as a teacher who failed to his job. I failed to cause you to learn. Give me an F!"

The class was stunned.

I took off my coat, loosened my tie, and continued. "Now, why are you paying this college all this tuition and not expecting me to do my job? How come I can "teach" for thirty minutes and the whole class not learn anything? I thought my job is to learn you to learn."

They wanted to nod. Some wanted to cheer--this was starting to make sense. "From now on, when you come to this class, I'll take the responsibility for your learning. If you'll come with an open mind--and an open heart--then I'll do my part as your teacher to fill it.

For the next twenty minutes I taught them. I taught them until the knew the material. Then I tested them on that material and all by two got an A. With a twinkle in my eye I told them we couldn't count the first test because I wouldn't want such incriminating evidence of my poor teaching recorded anywhere in print. Ah, the joys of college teaching!!

How many times have you and I sat through an hour-long class, dutifully taken notes, and then met someone in the hall after class who asked us what we learned--and we couldn't remember one thing! Would the Bible say that we had learned? That "Pit of Passivity" can suck us into its mire if we are not careful.

Are you sensing the utter importance of this mindset, that the teacher is the one who is responsible? Obviously, the students are responsible to learn the material--but the teacher is responsible to cause them to know the material.

For the most part, the last few generations of teachers have been led to believe that they are not responsible, their students are. Any attempt to relate performance to teacher effectiveness quickly escalates into World War III.

Is our discussion really new or just forgotten? Have we not tragically abandoned what used to be clear? For instance, what do you think is the dictionary definition of teach? Want a shock? The dictionary defines teach as "to cause to know the subject," has the person who taught them been a good teacher? Perhaps many of today's teachers are irresponsible because they no longer consider themselves responsible for their student's learning.

At the very heart of The 7 Laws of the Learner is a total commitment to the full responsibility of the teacher to do everything in his power to cause the student to learn.

Years ago my son and I were talking about teaching, and I asked him if he ever had to learn anything over and over again.--something that he was supposed to learn but didn't.

He laughed and said, "Yes! Language. You know how many times I've learned language, Dad? I still don't understand language."

I said, "Dave, you've never been taught language."

"What do you mean?"

"If you didn't learn it, your teacher didn't teach it to you."

"Sure she did. We were on language for weeks."

"Dave, did she keep teaching you until you learned it?"

"No, Dad, she said we had to move on."

"Were there other students in you class who also didn't learn it?"

He laughed, "Lots, Dad. Most of my friends didn't understand either. But, we had to move on in the book."

You can see it now, can't you? My son's grammar school teacher thought she was supposed to cover the book instead of teach her students. This law says that teacher really didn't teach, because he didn't cause her students to learn.

While we unequivocally state that the teacher is responsible, we must quickly add that this responsibility is shouldered by others as well: the students, their parents, other related and interested individuals, and society in general. The teacher is not solely responsible for the students, but he is the one under consideration in this book.

When people begin to understand this law, they begin to reclaim their responsibility. It's happened many times as I've taught this course around the world. the light goes on and the teacher realizes, "It's my responsibility." Then everything changes, because when you and I accept our rightful responsibility as God desires, learning soars.

One evening at dinner my son announced he wasn't gong to get a good grade in math. When I questioned further, he politely informed me, "Dad, those math grades are not my fault. My teacher is boring and class is terrible. He needs to come to the Seven Laws course because he is not causing any of us to learn.

My wife shot me a glance that said, "What on earth are you teaching our children?" and I realized this moment called for immediate innovation.

"Well, Son, you are forgetting the Law of the Student," I said.

"What? You never talked about that at the conference!"

"I know. I making it up right now for you and for all who would attempt to follow in your creative footsteps. The Law of the Student states that the student is responsible to learn regardless of the quality of the teacher. You see, Dave, when you are the teacher, teach like you are 100 percent responsible. When you are the student, learn like you are 100 percent responsible."

I could tell David didn't like this, but my wife sure did. "But then who's responsible, Dad--me or my teacher?"

"Yes. You've got it Dave! You're both 100 percent responsible. And by the way, Son, I'm gong to be holding you responsible for your 100 percent in this course!"

(Dave comments made me remember Joseph Bayly's statement, "Never let school interfere with your child's education!")

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Shirley M. Hufstedler was right on when she said, "The secret to being a successful teacher is. . . to accept in a very personal way the responsibility for each student success or failure. Those teachers who do take personal responsibility for their students' success. . .produce higher achieving students."

My grandmother had it right years ago when, in a moment of frustration, she said to me, "I'm going to learn you, young man."

 

Maxim 2: Teachers will stand accountable to God for their influence.


The partner to full responsibility is accountability. When someone delegates responsibility to us for a given project, usually we must give an account for our performance. God's Word clearly reveals that each of us is going to be held accountable to God for how we fulfilled his instructions.

For we must all appear before the judgment s eat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (I Cor.5:10).

There will be a future Day of Accountability. Not only will God hold us accountable for our motives, words, actions, and faithfulness, buy he also has announced that he will hold some of us additionally accountable. Repeatedly the Bible admonishes leaders about the seriousness of their responsibilities and its accompanying accountability.

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgement (James 3:1).

James is clear: teachers will be more strictly judged by God because of their greater responsibility. God will hold us accountable, not only for how we live, but also for how we teach. We face a stricter judgement because of our role as teachers.

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you (Heb. 13:17).

The writer of Hebrews also notes that those who have positions of authority will give account. Because that is true, the author encourages the believers under those leaders to obey and submit to them, making it easier for them to fulfill their responsibility. It appears from this verse that not only will teachers be held accountable, but in some way so will the students.

There are several practical implications of this maxim. First, the only reason God can hold us accountable as teachers is because we are responsible! Second, God views the role and responsibility of teaching as extremely important. Don't allow society's current lack of respect for the teaching community to lessen the honor you give it. Third, allow the emphasis of Hebrews 13:17 to impact you fully. Remember, teachers "watch out for your souls," not just the test scores!

Finally, some classes and some students will be more inclined to cause you grief. Realize that such classes and individuals are part of the teaching territory. Even the Master Teacher himself had students such as the Sadducees and Pharisees and Sanhedrin who attacked not only his content but his reputation and eventually his life. Don't allow yourself to retreat into the false concept that when you teach for the right reasons and with all your heart, everything is automatically going to be wonderful. It may not! God never promised to give you a class that always responds joyfully to you and your subject.

So set your expectations clearly. Teach when you experience joy and teach when you feel grief. Teach because God has divinely called and commissioned you. Teach for your students' grade on Friday's test, and teach for your grade on the Final Test.

 

Maxim 3: Teachers are responsible because they control subject, style, and speaker.


Although it may not always appear to be true, the teacher has incredible control in the teaching-learning process. It's because of that control that the Lord can hold us accountable. Consider for a moment what the teacher has control over:

1. Full control over the subject. The teacher can control every word he speaks. If he wants to change the subject at any time and for whatever reason, he can. If he wants to give an illustration, he can. If he wants to go in depth in one area and skim over another, he can. If he wants to tell a joke to relieve a bored class, he can.

2. Full control over the style. The teacher also can control his delivery and method. If he wants to whisper or shout, stand still or jump, clap hands or fold his arms, it's all in his control. Likewise, he can employ small groups, or lecture, or discussion, or panel, or debate, or a film, or a skit. Dr. Hendricks changed his style repeatedly during those three minutes and thirty-seven seconds in order to cause me to learn.

3. Full control over the speaker. The teacher also is in full control of himself. He can come dressed any way he wants, from formal to informal--even a costume. He can come early and stay late. He can talk with the students or remain distant from them. He can sit, stand, or walk around. The teacher has full control over the speaker.

Do you see how very much control the teacher has over almost everything in the teaching-learning process? It's amazing when you think about the incredible power and freedom of the teacher (within boundaries of course).

The teacher has control over every major element in the teaching-learning process except one--the student! If the teacher is supposed to cause the student to learn, and yet cannot control him, and how does this law work?

The teacher causes the student to learn by the correct and appropriate use of the subject, style, and speaker. Those three elements have the overwhelming power to cause the student to learn.

Do you know what an effective teacher does? Effective teachers control these three elements in the right way. Ineffective teachers don't.

Illustrations of this occur in classrooms across America every day. Just recently my daughter told me about one of her classes which is "just a disaster, Dad--people talk all the time, throw things, don't learn anything." One week the usual teacher ( and I use that word begrudgingly) was sick and a substitute teacher cam in. Jennifer couldn't believe the difference. Within three minutes she didn't recognize the class. No one was talking--they were learning and even enjoying the subject for the first time that semester.

Then Jennifer said something I'll never forget: "Dad, I know this is not very kind, but I kind of hope my regular teacher doesn't get better very soon."

We all can identify with that, can't we? It's sad . . . because it is unnecessary.

I can almost guarantee that the regular teacher had long ago decided the unruly class wasn't his fault--it was just that they were completely out of control. The truth was, he was out of control because the was misusing the subject, style, and speaker.

Do you know the only real difference between those two experiences of my daughter? Notice what was the same:

  • The same school
  • The same subject
  • The same day of the week
  • The same students
  • The same class objectives

What then was the difference? Just be the teacher, right? Yes, but what about the teacher?

  • Not the color of hair
  • Not the height
  • Not the width
  • Not the type of clothes
  • Not the personality
  • Not the car driven

What then?

The only difference was the effective teacher knew how to cause the students to learn by readjusting what she did, what she said, and how she said it.

Master teachers develop such an advanced skill of understanding the teaching -learning process that they immediately recognize the problem that is hindering learning and then implement the corresponding solution.

Too often teachers cast blame with "something's wrong with my class" when the problem really lies with their class's teacher! The first step in solving this almost universal problem is to clearly identify the problem. Once the problem is obvious, then identifying and implementing the correct solution is much easier. (The learner Method--which will be presented in the next chapter--reveals how to determine the problems with its corresponding solution.)

 

Maxim 4: Teachers should judge their success by the success of their students


Suppose you were a principal interviewing two candidates for high school science teacher. Which of these two candidate would you select?

Candidate A Female, forty-eight-years of age, married with three grown children, master's degree in science, twenty years of teaching experience, published numerous articles in magazines and journals, served on various administrative committees, working on a doctorate, hobby of gardening and raising award-winning orchids.

Candidate B. Male, twenty-five-years of age, single but has a cat named Whiskers, bachelor's degree in science, three years of teaching experience, no published articles or books, served on building and grounds committee, considering starting master's next couple of years, hobby water skiing and volunteers at the nearby zoo.

It's decision time. Would you hire candidate A or B?

Believe it or not, you have no way of knowing. If the definition of teach is "cause to learn," then none of the above information gives me any clue as to the real teaching ability of either.

  • Not the gender
  • Not the age
  • Not the marital status
  • Not the earned degrees
  • Not the articles published
  • Not the committees served
  • Not the hobbies
  • Not even the years of teaching experience

Of course, their credentials are relevant and important. But none of them tell us anything about how effective that person will be in the classroom because they all center around the teacher, not what the teacher can do in the lives of the students. Both of these candidates could be dismal teachers, or they could be outstanding.

The only fact which indisputably proves what kind of teachers the candidates will make is how their previous students performed at the end of a school year compared to the start of the class in the fall.

After teaching this Law of the Learner in a recent conference, a well-dressed businessman of about fifty came striding up to the platform. It was obvious he had something on his mind. "I decided after all these years in business to go back to graduates school and earn my MBA," he said. "But something recently happened that really upset me. I had to take a course on statistics, and the teacher was the chairman of the entire MBA program. I couldn't wait to study under this great teacher--but do you know what she said on the first evening we met? She said that this course is so tough that more than 70 percent of us would fail!

"At first I was so impressed. I thought, what a teacher this is! But, now I realize the opposite is true--she isn't that hot of a teacher. Only 30 percent of her class even passed!"

The businessman's conclusion was right. This professor may be a great leader, a smart woman, and an outstanding author, but her performance as a teacher earns her a dismal grade. Never forget this. Teachers cause students to learn the material, and great teachers cause great numbers of students to learn great amounts of material.

Not only do we hire people on the wrong basis, we also reward and promote on the wrong basis. Which of the two teachers listed below would get the higher recognition, promotion, and financial reward? These two high school teachers teach the same subject to the same age to the same type of students in the same school.

1. Teacher A completes his second master's degree, whereas Teacher B's students score 25 percent higher than Teacher's A students on the SAT exams for that subject.

2. Teacher A publishes three articles in a professional magazine, whereas Teachers B's students win three blue ribbons in the subject at the statewide competition.

3. Teacher A serves on the education committee for the county, whereas Teacher B's students average a full grade higher on their reports cards.

4. Teacher A receives the majority of the teachers' votes for the "Teacher of the Year" award; Teacher B' was fifteenth on the list. Teacher B receives the majority of the students' votes for the "Teacher of the Year" award, and Teacher A was fifteenth on the list.

The philosophy assumed in this book is that though the activities and committees and degrees are undeniably important, the most important test of teacher effectiveness is student performance.

Sometimes the very things we promote can lessen the effectiveness of the teaching process. It was an all too common joke among the students when I was in graduate school that the more degrees behind a teacher's name, the less effective the teacher probably was. More knowledge doesn't necessarily make a better teacher. This may sound untraditional, but it would be interesting to test student performance before and after a teacher receives his next degree.

Now, don't misinterpret me. I'm all for further education and am constantly encouraging others to pursue further study. I attend courses, watch training videos, listen to tapes, read books, and attend seminars. But the focus always must be upon the results of those educational activities, not the accumulation of them.

It's what the student does that counts, not what the teacher does, If the student has succeeded, then so has the teacher.

 

Maxim 5: Teachers impact more by their character and commitment than by their communication.


This maxim compares the impact of "who the teacher is" (character and commitment) with "what the teacher says" (communication). Character out-influences communication every time.

Consider your own career as a student. Pick out two or three of your favorite teachers. I'll bet your selection had more to do with what you thought of them than what you thought of their talk.

Those timeless proverbs--"What you do speaks more clearly than what you say," and "Actions speak louder than words"--are true. When words and actions are in opposition, actions always overpower words.

Unfortunately, the world and the church often sing the tune that words are all that matter. Recently a deacon of a local church told me the deacon board just voted six to three to keep the church's pastor, a man in the middle of divorcing his wife to marry another married woman in the same church!

I asked him how his church could rebel so blatantly against the principles of Scripture. "Oh," he said, "our pastor is such a wonderful preacher we don't want to let him go. Besides, a larger church in another state has offered him another senior pastor's position. We'll probably have to offer our pastor a large raise to keep him, but almost everybody wants him except for a few hard-nosed conservatives."

Is it possible for that pastor to openly sin, splitting his own family and another woman's, and still be a powerful preacher?

Yes, I believe it is.

Some of the world's "greatest" teachers and preachers are openly opposed to Christ. Many of the men who hold the most powerful pulpits of the land do not hold to the doctrines of the virgin birth, the inspiration of the Bible, the resurrection of Christ, or even the deity of Christ. Yet their powers of oratory and persuasion are remarkable. Their words can bring all of us to tears. But being moved emotionally does not always equate with God's affirmation nor his blessing.

We err greatly when we think that just because a man or woman can teach effectively or pastor graciously or preach powerfully that the hand of the Lord must be on that life. The hand of the Lord cannot be upon a person who rejects the deity of Christ; the Bible labels him an "enemy of the gospel."

When that church chose to retain its pastor, it took a public stand for sin and against the Savior. The unbelieving community will once again blaspheme the cause of Christ because even it knows a moral outrage when it sees one.

But what about that preacher's preaching? Come back in five years and you'll see the fruits that are now being planted. You can already begin to see the word Ichabod being etched over the entry-way. I've seen it happen too many times, without exception. God's principles for ministry have always been the same: first the character, then the communication. That's why I Timothy and Titus are so clear--the life of the communicator must first be in harmony with the message before he speaks the message.

In fact, character will always control the content--eventually. When the Spirit of God is quenched and sin is given free reign, not only will the Spirit not be present in the teaching, but soon neither will the Scriptures. The teacher or preacher will begin to shape the content to match his lifestyle. I shudder to think of that pastor, his new wife, and those six deacons when they stand accountable before another Court for the travesty they have wrought.

When I ask adults to select the teacher who most influenced them, it is always the one who had the most noble character and commitment. Those teachers usually were not the easiest nor the hardest in the classroom, but something about them a roused genuine respect and admiration. We, their students, wished that someday we could be like them.

May your students desire to be like their teacher!

 

Maxim 6: Teachers exist to serve the students.


Everyone enjoys going out to a nice restaurant for a delicious meal, graciously served. How would you respond if the next time you visited your favorite restaurant and asked for some water, the waitress said. "Get it yourself! What are you, helpless? I'm not your slave, you know!" You'd soon leave that place, thinking that the service was the worst you'd ever seen. You's probably never return.

You view that waitress as your servant. Part of what you pay for is her willingness to serve you--that is her job. If, however, you were out on a picnic a couple of days later and saw that same waitress and asked her to get you some water, how do you think she would respond?" The roles we play in certain situations influence the behavior we feel is appropriate.

Now consider the role of teacher. Who in the classroom is supposed to serve the water and re fill the plate and ask the people if there is anything else they would like? Unfortunately, many of us in the teaching-preaching profession have forgotten that we are servants. Most classes have a severe case of "role reversal" from all appearances the student has become the servant. Teachers have forgotten that they exist to meet the needs of their students, not their own needs.

Why is this problem so easy to recognize when it surfaces in the restaurants but so difficult to recognize in the classroom?

I remember the first time I had to speak in front of a large audience many years ago. My heart was racing, knees shaking, palms sweating, and I was frantically praying that maybe God would help me out by initiating the Second Coming right then. Sitting next to me on the platform was a well-known, seasoned speaker. While we were singing the hymn right before I had to speak, I turned to him and said, "I'm so nervous! I don't know if I can do this."

Without batting an eye, this great man said, "Bruce, don't be so proud and self-conscious."

That's not something you like to hear right before you speak. So I asked him, "What do you mean?"

"You are so concerned about yourself, and how you will do, and what the people will think about you--that's why you are nervous. If you'd get your eyes off yourself for a moment and on the people in front of you and start caring about meeting their needs, not your own, you'd stop being so nervous. You see, it's only when we are self conscious rather than other-conscious that we become so very nervous. When we focus on serving our audience, then the Lord is free to use us."

Then he smiled and went back to singing the hymn as if nothing had happened. And I went back to the Lord for a moment of divine readjustment and purpose fully stopped serving my needs and started attending to my audience's needs. Most of the butterflies headed south for the season, or at least they begin flying in formation.

Serving students can be much like loving our children. Often we do things for our children that we think communicate love to them, but they don't receive it that way. Similarly, many times I think teachers strive to serve their students, but their student don't feel it. Perhaps it's because the teachers unconsciously do things that communicate the very opposite of their intentions.

Throughout this book I will present many ways to concretely serve your student--ways they recognize and appreciate. In the Law of Expectation you'll learn practical ways to communicate love to your students. In the Law of Need you'll learn the secrets Christ used to motivate his students to want what he was going to teach. In the Law of retention, you will be exposed to some revolutionary approaches that will enable you to "speed teach" material.

All Seven Laws of the Learner are focused on this very issue--How does the teacher truly serve the student in the classroom? As you began to understand these laws and practice them, you will see frustration replaced by motivation. You'll have an incredible set of transferable skills that will work with any subject you are teaching to any age student. How can we make these claims?: Because these principles are universal, like gravity, and when you and I practice them, our students feel served.

Join the small band of teachers who enter the classroom with clear resolve and unwavering purpose to serve your students with all of your heart, all of your mind, and all of your soul.

 

Maxim 7: Teachers who practice the Laws of the Learner Teacher can become master teachers.


There was an opening for a teaching position in a junior high school in Dallas, and a number of people applied. Finally they screened the candidates down to two finalists.

The first man had taught school for thirty-five years; the other candidate was in only her second year of teaching. The experienced teacher with all the credentials was sure he would get the job. But by the end of the week, the young woman was chosen

The older man was livid. He stormed into the personnel committee meeting, demanding to know why he wasn't hired--after all, he was the one with thirty-five years of experience. The wise administrator paused for a moment and then answered, "Sir, it's true you have been teaching for thirty-five years, but I could not see any improvement over those years. The way I see it, you had one year of experience repeated thirty-five times!"

Unlike the popular notion that great teachers are just born, I believe master teachers are not born, not manufactured, but just improved! To believe that people are born great teachers is an illogical as believing that people are born great scientists. Of course, there are varying degrees of innate ability, but the majority of people who achieve in their fields do so with persistent effort over a long period of time.

Blot out of your thinking the other false concept that greatness comes through gigantic steps of improvement. Real effectiveness if developed through many years of improving just a few steps at a time.

Every year at the ministry of Walk Thru the Bible we are concrete proof of this truth. We have a tradition of publicly recognizing the top ten Walk Thru the Bible instructors each year. Inevitable there is at least one surprise. One year, I had some intense discussions with our dean of faculty about one of our lowest-rated instructors. We have a high standard of excellence for our seminar faculty, and I kept encouraging our dean to dismiss this man. Finally he said, "Give this man one more year of opportunity to improve. If he doesn't, I'll be the first to vote to let him go."

I questioned why he was so supportive of this marginal performance, and he said, "this man is working harder to improve himself than anyone else on the WTB faculty. He is watching the videos of the best teacher, having his wife and friends constantly evaluate him, always asking me for ways to improve. I believe he can do it, and he deeply wants to."

The next year, when evaluations were made to determine the top ten, guess who had achieve it? This same man I was ready to dismiss the year before. did he have those rare abilities to make it naturally to the top tine? No, he didn't. The best rarely are composed of the people who have the most natural talent, but rather by those few who have a passion to fulfill their God-given talents and reach the top of their potential.