The Seven Laws of Teaching

Let’s see. I entered Kindergarten at four years old, and except for six early years of my marriage, I have been on the school schedule ever since. My friends, that is a total of 44 years. I reel.

Twenty years ago I started formal teaching with my then four year old, but the past five years have also found me leading seminar with a classroom of junior high students. I am both mother-teacher and classroom-tutor. While I am a veteran teacher, I have a lot to learn about teaching classically. Books help me here.

I am studying an abridgment of the classic The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory, published in 1886. The abridgment by Carl Shafer is titled Excellence in Teaching with the Seven Laws. While I usually prefer originals, this is a well-done condensation. Both explain the philosophy of the laws, state them as a positive rule, and describe mistakes teachers commonly make. Keep in mind these are not moral law, but laws derived from careful observation and testing, such as the First Law of Thermodynamics.

They are: The Law of the Teacher, Law of the Learner, Law of the Language, Law of the Lesson, Law of the Teaching Process, Law of the Learning Process, and the Law of Review.

The Law of the Learner, to give an example, states: The learner must show interest in the lesson. Stated as a rule it is: Gain and keep the attention and interest of your pupils. Do not try to teach without their attention. Dr. Gregory names distraction and apathy as the chief hindrances, and gives wise guidance to the teacher: Never begin until the attention of the students has been secured; stop when signs of fatigue appear; arouse attention by variety in your presentation; prepare thought-provoking questions ahead of time; kindle and maintain the highest interest in the subject; let them see your own enthusiasm. Good stuff, whether for classroom teacher or home school mother.

Each section also lists “Violations”, mistakes that rob our teaching of its power and effectiveness. I recognize one of them in my own home teaching: failing to help my children see the intrinsic qualities of a lesson, say on the Pythagorean theorem. What do I do instead? Quickly show them how to do it and compel them to get the work done. They’ll do it, grudgingly, but I would rather see them engaged. I notice we are much more satisfied when we sit down and explore the concept together.

I like this abridgment and keep referring to it this summer as I prepare. For more of the philosophy of each law, read the The Seven Laws of Teaching. Whether home school teacher or a Classical Conversations tutor, make a point of reading one of these somewhere in your career. We can move from being a pretty good teacher to a wise one that can profoundly influence our students.

Note: Shelly Stockton and I are recording short conversations on each of the laws. It will be posted in CC Connected, Challenge Tier Learning Center in late summer (2014).

About lettersfromheartscontent

Mother of six, homeschool teacher, tutor with Classical Conversations, wife to a forester and educator. I tend a perennial garden with a riot of blossoms, ride my bicycle in and out of the watershed, play ocarina and a boom-chick accompaniment when my kids feel like playing contradance music. I love being home, but I love an open road and adventure, too. Classical Conversations' Writers Circle carries my article on some aspect of classical education once a month.
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