Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“Whatever method is used, our experience so far makes it clear that when we use a child’s natural desire to explore the new and unknown, and to gain some control over it, without trying to force him faster or further than he feels ready to go, both pupil and teacher have the most fun and make the most progress.”

John Holt, in How Children Learn

Tapping into the child’s natural desire to explore the new and unknown makes all the difference! ?

Food for thought: What are examples of ways we can do this as teachers? ?

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday Words of Wisdom

“Children’s need to make sense of the world and to be skillful in it is as deep and strong as their need for food or rest or sleep.”

John Holt, in How Children Learn

Thoughts for today: Young children have a strong drive to learn and make sense of the world around them! How can we as teachers harness this natural curiosity? How can we as adults maintain this youthful approach to the world around us?

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“Most of us are tactful enough with other adults not to point out their errors, but not many of us are ready to extend this courtesy (or any other courtesy, for that matter) to children.”

–John Holt (in How Children Learn)

When students make errors, how do YOU respond? Do you quickly and thoughtlessly point out errors, or do you skillfully allow time and opportunity for students to notice and correct errors themselves?

I’m sure we all find ourselves occasionally jumping in too quickly with the “right answer” in our teaching. (When I find myself doing it, it tends to be when I am feeling the pressure of the clock at the end of the lesson time!) In our best teaching, though, we play the “long game” and invest in helping our students become independent. We give students the appropriate amount of challenge (not too much, not too little) according to what they are ready for. We concoct skillful teaching questions that prompt students to learn to hear musical differences on their own. We give them skills and strategies that will increasingly allow them to learn for themselves. And we allow students TIME to think! This creates valuable learning opportunities for our students. Over time, students become increasingly independent and able to teach themselves.

As an aside: It’s not that we are to see errors as inherently “bad.” They aren’t. While we might not want mistakes hanging around for a long time, we must acknowledge they are a natural part of the learning process. To the skillful teacher or learner, errors are incredibly helpful information.

One final point: The above quote from John Holt reminds us of the importance of respecting children. Perhaps this seems obvious or comes easily to you — or perhaps not. I think it’s a good reminder for us all. We ALL — not just children — learn best when our basic needs are met and when we feel respected and valued. Respecting our students means using kindness, truly listening to them, giving age-appropriate choices and responsibilities, and more. (If you’re interested, you can read about what the Montessori approach has to say about respecting children here.)

Happy Wednesday, friends! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.”

John Holt (in How Children Learn)

This quote reminds us that learning does not automatically happen just because there is a teacher. Learning happens thanks to the activity of the learner. A healthy learning environment is learning-centered, not teaching-centered.

Points to ponder: As teachers, how can we facilitate and encourage environments that are conducive for learning? How can we help our learners be engaged in active learning during piano lessons? What can we do to set them up for success? And how can we support students with learning independently on their own during home practice?

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“Little children love the world. That is why they are so good at learning about it. For it is love, not tricks and techniques of thought, that lies at the heart of all true learning.”

–John Holt, in How Children Learn

Who can’t help but enjoy the privilege of seeing the world through a little one’s eyes? Watch a little child, and it’s plain to see how much they love the world. John Holt says that love is what makes them such good learners. I think we have much we can learn from children.

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“We don’t always have to be in such a big hurry to correct children’s mistakes. We can afford to give them time to notice and correct them themselves.”

–John Holt (in How Children Learn)


Today’s food for thought: What would happen if we weren’t so quick to make corrections of young children? What potential benefit is there to allowing others time to notice and correct their own mistakes? Does this apply only to young children, or for older students as well?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“All I am saying in this book can be summed up in two words — TRUST CHILDREN. Nothing could be more simple — or more difficult.”

–John Holt, in How Children Learn


Stay tuned for more quotes and my full review of John Holt’s classic book, How Children Learn, coming soon! For now, enjoy today’s quote that encourages us to trust students when it comes to their own learning. I couldn’t agree more with Holt that trust is an important part of creating a warm, positive learning environment for students.

Happy Wednesday, my readers!

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.”

Chinese proverb

With whom does the responsibility for learning lie: the teacher, or the student?

The answer: probably both. The question presents a false dichotomy. (As my pastor growing up used to say: When you ask the wrong question, you get the wrong answer.)

The reality is that both parties share some responsibility in the process of education.

But teachers, let’s focus on ourselves for a moment: How can we open the door for our students? But further, what can we do to help empower our students to enter by themselves?

And now considering our teacher selves as the lifelong learners we are, and putting ourselves in the shoes of the students in our care: How can we help ourselves enter the doorways of learning?

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”

Abigail Adams

Learning requires a little skin in the game. It’s not likely to happen just by chance. Learning comes around thanks to passion for the subject matter and a zeal for learning. Plus, a healthy amount of some good ole’ elbow grease.

How do you help YOUR students fully apply and invest themselves in learning?