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Monday, May 6, 2013

John Holt

"We learn to do something by doing it.  There is no other way."

— John Holt
American Author, Educator
1923 - 1985

We take in information about the world outside ourselves through our senses of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling and it is through these senses that we learn.  When it comes to the classroom, we learn primarily through seeing, hearing and doing.  Usually one or two of these ways of learning will be dominate in a person, but we learn through all three ways and we can improve our ability to learn in a given way.  

How do you learn?  Are you a life-long learner?  Are you a visual learner?  Do you learn best by seeing something?  There are two types of visual learners?  Those that learn through pictures and graphics and those that learn through the written words.  Are you an auditory learner?  Do you learn best by hearing something.  Do you listen to recorded books?  Are you a kinesthetic learner?  Do you learn best by doing?

So how does this apply to the creative leader?  First, how do you best learn your craft of drawing, writing, or acting?  By reading about it?  By watching others?  Or by doing it yourself?  I think that we learn in all three ways, but we learn best by doing.  No matter how much you read, you have to pick up the brush or pen to be successful.  No matter how much time you spend watching others, you have to pick up a pen or brush.  Only in doing can you put what you learned by reading and watching into practice.   If we pay attention to what we do, we can teach ourselves many things.  Reading and watching others, though, will speed up the learning process.

How about how your audience experiences your works of art.  Do they only experience it visually?  Can they hear it?  Can they smell it or taste it?  To me I experience a story or poem differently when I hear than when I read it on a page.  When I listen to a novel while driving, I become part of the world of the novel in a way that does not happen when I read about the world on the page.  I find my others senses are more engaged when I listen to the book.  I see, smell and taste the world in ways that often don't happen when I read.

Creative Practice:
Take a test to determine how you learn best.  Here is one free test that can be found on line. 

Background on Author
John Holt, born in New York City, was the oldest of three children.  He joined the navy and fought in World War II in the Pacific.  After the war, he became a school teacher and taught in Colorado and Boston.  He published his first book, How Children Fail, in 1964.  The controversial book blamed schools for the failure of children.   His follow-up book, How Children Learn, was published in 1967.  I remember in college that I bought bought books from the Doubleday book club.  He wrote 11 books of which two were published after his death.  Holt became disillusioned with the school system and became an early proponent of homeschooling.  His book, Teach Your Own was published in 1981.