In the last article, I made the case that teachers must be learners. I encouraged teachers to set goals for making intentional progress. In this article, it is my intention to give some practical advice for how to build habits of learning into a busy life. As a parent, I grasp that school-work isn’t the only kind of busyness that we wrestle with. But many of us have more time to learn than we might think. We just have to know where to look. Below you’ll see a few ideas with some related biblical themes.
Audio books, podcasts, and audio Bibles are powerful tools. Why? Because you can learn while you do something else. Do you drive to work? Turn on an intentionally selected audio book. Do you wash dishes or vacuum? Put on some headphones and listen to a podcast on the topic that you’d like to learn more about. Do you walk, run, or do some other form of exercise? You can listen then as well. When our hands and eyes are occupied, we can still learn. I am often able to get between 20 and 40 minutes of Greek study done each workday through listening. I use this time to listen to Bible passages (at a slow speed), to review vocabulary, and to work on other elements of my reading.
Use your time well. Listening might make you a more equipped academic disciple-maker.
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. – Eph 5:15-16
If you can attach learning to any regular habit, you can make learning a regular habit. If you eat lunch every day, could you spend the first five minutes of lunch reading a book or watching an educational video? Do you regularly consume media? If so, you could make it a rule that you will not watch a show or log into your social media until you have done ten minutes of intentional learning. Your future self will thank you. (Five minutes per day adds up to over 30 hours in a year. That is three-quarters of a work week.)
Recognize the value of incremental growth over time.
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. – Prov 6:6-8
Some people find most success when they learn in a group. There is no rule that your learning must be done alone. Could you set up a weekly book-club with a colleague? You could read a chapter per week and discuss it for 15 minutes. Many people could fit in 15 minutes per week. Likewise, you might be able to do something similar with your spouse or roommate. Partnership in God-honoring growth can foster healthy accountability and urgency.
We are not in this alone. Let’s help each other do good and do well.
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Heb 10:23-25
I recently saw one of my legendary fellow-teachers working through a training that she was going to implement and use in her class in the near future. She was learning so that she could teach better. And she had a specific timeline in mind. Her goals weren’t about a fuzzy future; they were about the next week. If you build your lessons so that they require growth and development on your part, you will do what it takes to learn. Building learning into your lesson planning is a great way to ensure progress (just don’t over-do it!). And it is a great way to always be striving to help our students in the best way we can.
When Jesus sent out the Twelve, He told them to go and do what He had taught them to do. They learned from Him and they were not meant to just sit on that knowledge, empowering, or experience. They gave to others what God had given to them. And they gave to advance the kingdom. As we work to advance the kingdom, we want to give our students what God is giving to us.
Use what God gives you to give to others. We grow to help our students grow.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. – Matt 10:5-8
Note: It’s okay if you don’t hit your goal. We are aiming for progress over perfection. I mentioned in the last article that I am trying to spend 400 hours on Greek this year. Is it possible (likely?) that I will only hit 350? Yes. Will that still be good? Yes.
Final note: These are all great ways to learn, but the most important thing to learn is the Word. If you do not currently have a personal, regular time of Bible reading and prayer, consider how you might use the ideas listed about to implement that. If we want our students to grow in Christ, we must model that for them.