Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Simplicity Revived: Embracing the Power of Action for Transformative Results

Separated by more than five thousand miles and living a thousand years apart, Confucius and Shakespeare envisioned living and learning with uncanny similarity. Each attested to the importance of doing.  

“Speak less than thou knowest, lend less than thou owest, ride more than thou goest, learn more than thou trowest, set less than thou throwest.” Upon closer examination of Shakespeare’s wise words we are counseled of the importance of humility, the fact that there is always more to know, and to never stop learning. Moreover, “ride more than thou goes,” encourages adventure and a willingness to embrace lives of exploration. This seems to be opposed to the default sit-and-get encrustation of “modern” education. 

The words of the tragic hero King Lear may not be as well known as Confucius, “I Hear and I Forget, I See and I Remember, I Do and I Understand.” However, both allude to the nature of learning. How “doing” leads to understanding but moreover, “doing” is paramount to living. 

Beyond Smiling

A renowned researcher in education, Professor John Hattie, introduced how teachers might help students become their own teachers. This in effect, is an absolutely natural process yet one which requires two elements. First, empathy and a willingness to see learning through the eyes (and arguably, minds and hearts!) of students. Second, for teachers to get out of the way of learning. One data of Hattie’s confirming this is how 89% of the talking that occurs in classrooms is done by the teacher, not the students. Even in Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit musical Hamilton, Aaron Burr offers a bit of a leadership lesson In the second track, “…let me offer you some free advice — talk less, smile more…”  This stirs a bit of wonder in me, what might happen if we teachers consciously began to talk less and smile more?

Teachers smiling more however is not a panacea, though it might be a great start. What begets much more deliberate attention is an understanding of how learning emerges. Repetition is a critical aspect. 


A colleague recently shared how he often invites students to leap into “doing,” but then is not content with the quality of the results. My response was how this was ingenious, inverted from the norm, where students sat idly and likely feigned to listen to teachers “tell.” However, his contentment might grow if he dedicates more intention towards a process of learning where there is telling, showing, trying, and doing. The success of the four-step process is not determinant of any one entry point. Some educators may be more comfortable with beginning by “showing.” Some lessons and activities might best begin with “telling,” or just by taking a stab at “trying.”   

The reality is, learning is a process. Teling-Showing-Trying-Doing, a continuum blending science but also artistry. Learning often fails because so much time is spent on telling (“I Hear and I Forget…”). Or, maybe there is a demonstration. Yet, this “showing” (seeing) simply results in some students remembering. In telling and showing there is an abundance of learning which is “lost in translation.” Showers (teachers) might fool themselves that students are doing, yet they are not. Students are doing what they thought they heard, and what they interpreted from what they saw. Then, more often than not, there is a push to move on, with little or no time to practice. Simplified and imperfect “learning,” resembles more an act of teacher self-evaluation than actual student learning. Ultimately, because there was minimal guidance, the opportunity to ”try” and an assumption on both parties that purposeful learning was in process. In actuality, what transpired was actually the opposite. Bluntly put a perversion of learning. 

So, how might we intentionally disrupt these common practices? 

A Well-Trodden Path Is Already Laid Before Us

First, we cannot kid ourselves any longer to think that experience simply can be passed on. Experience must be just that. It is the “doing.” But not just doing. It is showing, trying, and doing. Then, trying again. Showing again. Trying again. Doing. Showing yet another time. Trying. Trying. Trying. Doing. Doing. Doing. The current reality is one where we consider success an experience with the first “doing.” Assuming we ever even moved beyond the telling, showing, and trying.

If ever we wished to rest on our laurels, we could because learning simply is natural. Sit back and watch a toddler learn to walk. They are not merely told, “put one foot in front of the other.” They observe. They try. Fall upon their rumps. Try again. Maybe are guided by the gripping of an adult’s forefinger. Try on their own. Fall again. Yet, we all learn how to walk. 

And so we walk, and learn, in the footsteps laid before us. The wisdom of Confucius, Shakespeare, King Lear, Lin Miranda, Hamilton, Burr, and Hattie!