We all pride ourselves on what we’ve learned, but few of us know how to learn. Let me explain. It may have never occurred to you, but you’ve inherited your approach to learning from others, especially teachers. Here is a technique that will make learning fun and exciting for you and those you teach.
Like a dancer who responds to the motions of their partner, as learners we doc e doe with our teachers. The goal in most cases is to remember everything they teach relying solely on rote memorization. In the meantime, we often miss out on the principles behind the lessons and how it all ties together. Like the one student told his teacher who bumped into him in the hall, “Don’t touch me, Doc! I’ve been cramming all night and I don’t want anything to leak out!”.
This type of learning isn’t much fun. In fact, not much learning is taking place at all. The information that is memorized for tests is soon forgotten once the final exam is complete. There’s a better way and here it is.
Take the information you learn and weave it into what you already know. For example, Jesus taught Peter how to become a fisher of men in Luke 5. How did he do it? By building on what Peter already knew as a professional fisherman. In effect, Jesus said, “Peter, the principles required to reach others for me are very similar to the ones used to catch fish with a net.”
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it, but most of us have no clue how to fish with a net. Sure we get the general idea, but like any other craft, there are fine nuances and techniques. Today we fish with fishing poles. There’s a difference. Why did Jesus teach as he did in this particular instance? He was using the things Peter already knew as a foundation to teach him something new.
In another instance, Jesus said that reaching others for him is like looking for a lost coin. The householder lights a candle and sweeps the entire house until she finds what she’s looking for. And when she does, she rejoices and calls her friends, Jesus said. See Luke 15.
While people today do look for lost things, they no longer have to light a candle, they just hit the switch. Therefore, while the lessons Jesus taught are just as relevant as ever, as a teacher you have to think of new and creative ways of presenting them. For example, how would you explain soul winning to a group of factory workers? Kindergartners? If you want to teach like Jesus did, you have to share your lesson in such a way that people can understand it based on their own personal experience. And if you want to learn, a great way is to relate what you’re learning to what you already know.
This type of learning is also great because it allows you to tie ideas together based on what you already know. Therefore, it’s easier to remember new information.
For example, lets say you had to remember five new things. What if you were to visualize the route you take to work each day, in particular, five landmarks along the way. Now, place each piece of information at each spot along your journey, in your mind.
Create whatever visualization it takes to remember the information. In fact, the sillier your pictures, the more memorable.
At the end of the day, it’s amazing how many subjects are related. You may not understand Calculus, but maybe you’ve mastered music. As you learn Calculus, think about how it relates to the lessons you’ve learned about music.
These are just some examples to get you thinking. You do whatever it takes for you to make learning enjoyable and memorable. The true test of IQ is not what you know, but how fast you’re able to learn. Study different ways and find out what’s most effective. Maybe you’re a visual learner or an audio learner, knowing your style will help you advance faster. Better yet, combine as many senses as you can when learning something new. The more senses you use, the more likely you are to remember what you’ve learned.
In Luke 5 Jesus told Peter, “Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” What Jesus was telling Peter is, “Look, this is a high water mark for you. Things are going to be different from here on out after this lesson. You didn’t just leave the shore like every other time, you launched out into something new!”.
Then, years later, after Peter had caught many fish, he said this, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you” (1 Peter 5:10). That word perfect is katartizo and it means to mend, make whole, complete. Kind of like a net with holes in it. In Luke 5 Peter and others were cleaning their nets. Jesus told them it was time to use the nets and the nets even broke according to verse 6, due to their miraculous catch of fish. So why would Jesus command the disciples to use their nets if he knew they were going to be broken?
The point is, like the nets we use, Jesus allows us to be broken for his glory to show us and others that he is able to mend us! No broken nets, no mending. Now as Peter reflects on the goodness of God, he is once again overwhelmed by the magnificent grace of God. The strength, Peter realizes, to work for God is not his own, but a free gift. Yes, Peter must exercise in his own power, but ultimately, God is in that power from beginning to end. He is both the source and the finisher. Our only responsibility is to drop the nets, it is God’s responsibility to fill them!
Paul had this to say to his student Timothy about the importance of teaching, “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” 2 Timothy 2:1-2. You have all the resources to teach because of the grace of God, Paul says. So teach others, who teach others, and the cycle continues.
In both of these examples, there is one common thread. Peter emphasizes the importance of grace and so does Paul. Therefore, it is obvious that many if not all good teachers wrestle with a sense that they are unworthy to teach due to their own failure and sins. How about you? Do you often feel undeserving?
The next time you feel incapable of learning or teaching, remind yourself of the goodness and grace of God. We are all unworthy in our own measure, however, because of the manifest grace of God, we can learn and grow. In fact, when you grow to a certain point, teaching- or sharing with others what you’ve learned- is a natural result or by product.
What circumstances in your life has God been using to teach you? When Jesus wanted to teach Peter how to be a leader of men, he used Peter’s natural affinity for fishing to show him what that looked like. When Paul was equipping Timothy -who apparently felt unworthy- he reminded him that unless he received the grace of God, he could not multiply himself in others. Again, if you’re facing a feeling of unworthiness, maybe, just maybe, God wants you to see the holes in your net so that he can mend you. Have fun fishing!