Three Goals of Teaching

In a chapter titled “What in the World Are You Trying to Do?” in his book Teaching to Change Lives, Dr. Howard Hendricks provides three goals of teaching. We would do well to take note.

I once went to preach in a church on the West Coast, and as I got up to speak, I found this sign facing me on the lectern: “What in the world are you trying to do to these people?” It nearly derailed my message.

Afterward I asked the church’s pastor about the sign. He said, “Hendricks, I’ve been preaching for twelve years without an objective, and it finally dawned on me one day that if I didn’t know what I was doing, there was a good possibility they didn’t know what they were supposed to do. So I’ve started coming into the pulpit with clear-cut objectives.”

Teaching to Change Lives

After relating this story, Hendricks then asks the reader: How about you? Do you have clear-cut objectives for your teaching? Do you know how to give a true education?

Over the years, I have always been surprised when homeschool moms (and other educators) answer these questions in a way that indicates they are relying on the book to teach the child. Folks, no book can teach. Period.

Hendricks offers three goals that are open-ended enough to make us think. We can then learn to work these goals out as we home educate over time. They are important. So important, that as Hendricks suggests:

…I don’t want you to buy them on the spot, I dare you to interact with them. If you think about them enough and they become your personal property as a teacher, then in succeeding generations there’ll be people who rise up and call you blessed.

Teaching to Change Lives

Interestingly, you will find each of these goals fleshed out (at least in some small degree) on this site as we have worked them out in our own home over the years.

1. Teach your students how to think.

This is where you can throw out the idea that the book can teach. A student has to learn on his or her own. No other way to go about it. If education is something done to a person, then it fails. This means memorizing and repeating isn’t enough. Tests are not enough.

Do your students know how to think? Ask them. Find out what they know. See what bubbles out from inside. What do they get enthusiastic about?

Your task as a teacher is to stretch the human mind — which, by the way, is like a rubber band; once you stretch it, it never quite returns to its original form.

Teaching to Change Lives

No book can do that for you. It is a matter of reaching the heart. And that means not doing all of the work for your student.

Mentor. Help them find the answers. But don’t always give them the answers.

Challenge: Develop a self-motivated learner. You’ll find a way to get started with these 6 principles from Diana Waring. Also check our our series: Bloom’s and Critical Thinking.

2. Teach your students how to learn.

Love this. If your children know how to learn they can learn anything for themselves. You have not given them a fish, you have taught them how to fish.

Learning is 24-7-365. What opportunities are you giving them to learn for themselves? Have you noticed the light bulbs that go off when they begin making connections? What have you allowed them to discover on their own?

Challenge: Here are our 5 steps for developing a lifelong learner. Try implementing one at a time until the environment you provide encourages learning.

3. Teach your students how to work.

Learning isn’t easy. But it is rewarding.

This is where character development takes place. It takes diligence to learn anything for ourselves. We can’t take the easy way out. We have to persist and stick to it.

Never forget that your task is to develop people who are self-directed, who are disciplined, who do what they do because they choose to do it.

Teaching to Change Lives

Challenge: There is a value in all work. If something is handed to us, we don’t tend to value it as much as those things we have earned on our own through hard work. Pick up tips on how to encourage the habit of work with these thoughts on the value of work.

Summing Up

These three goals are very easy to achieve in a home educating setting. We have the time, interest, and hands-on ability to set up an environment that is conducive to learning and teaches our children how to learn. We call this bending education to fit the child.

There is one very important element, however, to this setup: I cannot give what I do not have. I have to model a self-educating learner.

Additional Resources
Teaching to Change Lives

Teaching to Change Lives: Seven Proven Ways to Make Your Teaching Come Alive
This book by Dr. Howard Hendricks is one you can refer to over and over again.

10 Tips for Providing a Non-Generic Personalized Education
If you read nothing else, read this.

3 Ways to Develop Critical Thinking Skills
Incorporating thinking in the day-to-day.

4 Things You Need to Know to Educate Your Children
Tracks along similar lines as Hendricks’s three goals of teaching.

Homeschooled Mom
Many ideas and thoughts on mentoring and educating.

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