My title is from John Milton Gregory’s “Laws” for teaching. Attention in education falls into many categories, all of which are quite basic to the formation of an excellent student. Without the ability to be attentive, the student is not able to learn. I continue to think about attention and want to list a few connected but perhaps somewhat unordered thoughts I have had about this issue of attention, especially as it applies to this law.
I have taught this lesson along with its other six laws to teachers for a decade or more now. It amazes me how often people view this law more from what it implies about teachers than what it says about its stated subject: the Learner. Often teachers will take this law to imply that they have to keep the student’s attention no matter what. This burden can make them clowns if they are not careful. But the law here is applied to learners, not the teacher. Certainly the teacher must be both wise and virtuous, which would include considering how best to focus and keep the attention of the student, but that is not the focus of this particular law.
The learner must attend. Gregory qualifies that attention with the phrase, “with interest” so as to make it clear what the proper motivation for correct attention should be. It is not that the lesson is simply titillating or “entertaining” or novel, but rather that the student should have interest in what is being studied. With that in mind, I would offer the following thoughts to students.
- It is your responsibility to attend to a lesson if you wish to be educated. While the teacher can certainly aid you in this task by being more or less “in tune” with you, it remains up to you to be attentive.
- The main aid to fulfilling this duty lies in your interest. I certainly understand that in youth you may not desire to study all that others “make” you study, but both you and they must deal with this fact by seeking the point of interest inherent in learning, not by any other false motivation. Real learning can only occur when there is attention of interest present.
- Real learning comes from interested attention and offers its own reward. Another way of saying this would be that only the truly curious can learn, and it is satisfied curiosity that is the proper reward of this kind of study.
- All this means that you as a student must cultivate interest in learning in order to be attentive. A lack of such interest will most likely result in your being distracted, bored, or “somewhere else” during a lesson.
- Interest in anything is directly related to understanding how it is desirable or important to me. Thus part of being a student is cultivating in oneself a studied understanding of why my studies are of import to me. This is very hard for someone who has no faith in God, but if a student does have that faith, then the interest in that God’s world, work, and purpose is almost assumed, but still necessarily cultivated or neglected.
Cultivating interest in a lesson is directly related to cultivating an interest in life lived before the Face of God. The Learner is one who attends with interest to the lesson because he is seeking to satisfy his curiosity or “wonder” about the One Who has made him and has a purpose for his life.