Is there a secret to retaining what we learn? What about our children? Children, particularly those in grammar school, are extraordinarily able to learn and recall, but there are some tricks and techniques to make it happen.
Having been in education for more than thirty years, I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked the question, “How can I help my children retain what they learned? It seems like they had it last night when we studied, but then they take the test and struggle to remember.” We might wonder how this can be, but it is a fairly common phenomenon.
Learning doesn’t happen by cramming. Our daily routines are rush, rush, rush. We want everything fast. We pick up lunch at a drive-through and get upset if it takes too long. We wonder who the 15th president was, so we put Google to work. We can look anything up we want in two seconds. Our brains don’t need to work too hard today. So, they get lazy.
Recall the Past
It wasn’t always so. Not long ago we exercised this muscle that gives us our recall. We trained it better. Why not have the best of both worlds? That is, the best of access to knowledge and the best of recall.
In 1886 John Milton Gregory wrote a book called The Seven Laws of Teaching. It is still used widely in education today in settings that value developing our minds. As you would expect, he focused on complete success in the learning process. Of course, his message aimed at making teachers great, believing that great teachers were the key to learned students. Gregory’s life was dominated by a deep desire to create excellence in teachers—anyone who was helping children. At the age of 17 he became a school teacher. In 1858 he became superintendent of education in Michigan. He would spend his life, teaching teachers how to become the best they could be.
And he practiced what he preached. With an elegance of simplicity he concisely articulated his thoughts into seven simple laws. He believed if teachers followed them, they would be great teachers and their students would become great learners—maybe even lifetime learners.