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Being Teachable is a Key Skill. 

There is a wonderful sense of satisfaction that one feels when you have reached a certain level of expertise in a field, especially when you have worked really hard to get to that point. This is often reinforced when people see one as the go-to in your area of expertise, and it can lead to one becoming a little too self-assured if we’re not careful. When we lose the ability to take advice, and learn from others, we may be missing out on opportunities to grow and learn. Remaining teachable ensures that we remain humble, no matter what we achieve in life. The well-known college basketball coach, John Wooden, often reminded those he coached: ‘It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.’

This is an important lesson for children to learn as well. Remaining teachable is a lot about attitude rather than ability or intelligence. Teaching children that life will require them to learn, unlearn and relearn things over and over again, is a very important component of living a fulfilling life. This requires a high level of skill in itself, and there are certain steps one needs to put in place to maintain an attitude of lifelong learning and teachability.

Learning to listen
Children are very keen to share what they know, as it feeds their sense of self-efficacy and builds their self-esteem. Our culture of assessment also feeds this need for young people to prove themselves and to be very competitive at times. In all of this, we have somehow lost the emphasis on the importance of listening to others. Henry David Thoreau wrote, ‘It takes two to speak the truth – one to speak and one to hear.’ Developing children’s ability to hear the points of view of others, and to learn from their experiences, is a vital skill if they are to get to know those around them meaningfully. It takes a tremendous amount of character to understand that listening is more important than being the one to speak all the time.

Look and plan for moments where learning can take place
If we’re able to look for moments where we can learn something new in every situation, we will be able to grow our potential significantly. We can also teach our children that by reading new books, visiting interesting places, and spending time with those who challenge our thinking and stretch us, we can grow in our ability appreciate what those around us can teach us.

Making learning count
Putting what we have learnt into action is the true litmus test to assess how much we have actually gleaned from an experience. Learning is not the end in itself; it is what we do with it that really counts. We should teach our children to develop the habit of reflecting on what they have heard, thinking about how they can apply information and make it relevant to their own lives; and then act on it, if action is necessary. There may even be some information that they would want share with others if what they have learnt has made a significant impact.

Assess whether or not we are teachable
John Maxwell, the American author, speaker and minister, poses the following questions as a test to find out if we are teachable or not:

  1. Am I open to other people’s ideas?
  2. Do I listen more than I talk?
  3. Am I open to changing my opinion based on new information?
  4. Do I readily admit when I am wrong?
  5. Do I observe before acting on a situation?
  6. Do I ask questions?
  7. Am I willing to ask a question that will expose my ignorance?
  8. Am I open to doing things in a way I haven’t done before?
  9. Am I willing to ask for directions?
  10. Do I act defensive when criticised, or do I listen openly for truth?

A negative response to any of these questions may suggest that we have some room to grow.

It is also really important that we remain teachable as a community as well. If we remain open to one another’s ideas, and create opportunities for many voices to be heard, we are creating some wonderful moments where we can all learn from each other, and nurture some really positive relationships.

Craig Cuyler
Assistant Deputy Head/Director of Wellbeing
Head of PSHEe/Deputy DSL/ Assistant Housemaster

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