Finis coronat opus.
The main focus of any teacher is to render oneself obsolete. As the teacher trains the student, the goal should be for the student to obtain the knowledge and skill necessary to go on their own into the field and discover new things for themselves. Education is about drawing out latent abilities of our students and giving them the confidence and training to add to the knowledge of all. There is mutual benefit for not just teacher and student, but also for society as a whole.
Education is a reciprocal relationship. Yet, in this exchange, it is not only the student who benefits from the teacher’s instruction, but the teacher who can adapt and discover new insights, inspiration, and innovative methods for training students. Through this relationship and its ensuing responsibility, a teacher is compelled to use any means of reaching their students and making the material relevant to them. It is the teacher’s duty to instruct a student as precisely as possible using creativity, enthusiasm and motivation.
Facta potentiora verbis sunt.
If education was simply an exchange of information, the process would be simple. This is indeed not the case. While excavating in Italy, whenever we had a question, we would ask a professor of mine for his input. He would not supply the answer but instead ask us a series of leading questions to draw out from our experiences and knowledge what we thought the answer to be. This didactic method not only reinforced the knowledge we were already building within ourselves, but by forcing us to actively use it gave us the means to discover our own answers to our questions. Our actions became the means for our education. We gained a deeper understanding and also owned our education.
This process shaped us in becoming critical thinkers. Rather than just accept what we are told, we were forced to apply it and examine whether or not theoretical models held up. We became more liberated in our knowledge instead of just regurgitating what we were told to accept.
Faber est quisque fortunae suae.
Implementing a more didactic process, allowing for students to experience their learning rather than hear it, greatly inhibits competition and fosters more enthusiasm for growth. This comes about since students feel less compelled to ask questions for immediate answers but instead begin to search for their own. This opens them up to questioning themselves and what they know, instead of assuming and defending what they believe to be true. As they open up internally, and become more self critical, they begin not to attach themselves to their knowledge. “What do you think?” becomes less of a dare and challenge of oneself but instead an opportunity to directly challenge and test the subject and the knowledge of the field.
Through experimenting and testing the boundaries of what they know individually, students begin to turn to one another to learn from each other in addition to the teacher. Cooperative learning opportunities blossom and create for an enriching and encouraging learning environment.
Exercitatio optimus magister est.
This does not mean that students can simply learn and develop sine labore. I often require my students to do lots of work as this is the best opportunity for them to practice. The price for this enriching environment, of course, is lots of work. If the student truly enjoys learning the work load becomes less of a chore and more of a vehicle to demonstrate their understanding.
For example, I have workbooks containing Latin sentences and drills. My students only have to fill in the blank spaces with the correct answers. Rather than have my students simply right down the correct endings, I demand that they write out the entire question while supplying the correct answer. “Qui scribit bis legit” is what I often tell them, which means “one who writes reads twice”. Having the students exceed the expected work level can help them reinforce their learning. This also gives them the opportunity to be responsible for their own education as the level of detail they supply in practice will surely surface when they are being challenged with a test or exam.