Philosophy of Learning – Practice

לִשְׁמֹר – (to keep, to guard, to observe) to practice or practice with repetition

Baseball or violin, the mantra a student hears from the first lesson is “practice, practice, practice.” What can be acquired by all of the other methods of learning is temporary unless the student practices the knowledge. Third graders memorize lists of vocabulary and take spelling tests while reciting their multiplication and division tables. Successful students of foreign languages learn from the get-go that the only way to conquer the material is to practice the vocabulary and the grammar every day. When studying for a quiz in a foreign language, students who study one hour the night before will do worse on the test than those who study ten minutes every day for six days before the quiz. The repetition of the material over time trains the mind, making a qualitative difference in the knowledge mastered and retained.

Most of us advance in our careers by expanding and deepening our skill sets. Writers have to write every day just as soldiers need to drill every day. Supervisors learn basic management skills and when they are mastered, these employees advance to the level of director. Practice is a long, laborious process that requires hundreds or thousands of hours. There are no shortcuts to becoming a master chef.

Some people are blessed with a tremendous amount of natural talent. However, all of that talent is only potential knowledge or art. The great talents of this world had to actualize their gifts with same rigor and drive as those with lesser gifts. Some claim that with great natural ability comes greater responsibility to fulfill the potential. The strongest can run faster but only if they rise to practice at that high level and maintain their regimen. The Julliard School is not for artistically talented students; the school is for talented students who match their potential with the drive and commitment to learn the depth of their gifts. The drive to practice or the lack of drive, often levels the playing field of potential success.

Practice is boring. When a student complains that school is boring (baring institutional dysfunction), the student is complaining that he or she does not want to learn by practicing. Fortitude is a necessary component of learning by practicing. Everyone whines about practicing, it is natural and healthy to acknowledge what is not fun. The successful ones still complain but then go back to work.

Knowledge does not come cheap nor do the valuable kernels come easily. Human knowledge is vast and fascinating but all of this understanding is inaccessible to any person who cannot sit down and practice.

By Glenn Jacob

Rabbi, Community Leader, Fundraiser, Board Development, Non-profit management, strategic planning, educator, writer, and editor.

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