“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” is a famous quote credited to Theosophists, Siddhartha Guatama Shakyamuni. Both the origin and context of the quote are somewhat obscure and open to both interpretation and nuance that changes over time.
When you consider that change is fundamental to learning and learning is fundamental to change, the students’ timing and receptiveness are critical to that experience. It should be noted that the teacher’s effectiveness is in direct proportion to the students’ desire to learn.
Edward Thorndike’s Law of Readiness refers to a preparatory set on the part of the subject to learn. It points out that learning only happens when one is physically and mentally ready for it. This law states that learning can only take place when a student is ready to learn. When students feel ready, they learn more effectively and with greater satisfaction.
As an average student – or more fitting, a below average student, that failed to grasp, or retain coursework expounded on the chalkboard. In the early 80’s being labeled as someone with slow learning capabilities meant being transitioned into remedial class. These core classes were created with the concept that remedial students were perpetually slower at learning than their peers. It was frowned upon to put classes together for fear other students progress would be slowed by the remedial students.
The concept of having different paths for learning had not been perfected yet – or at least, not been deployed during the dynamic 80’s. Competing academically was an abstract concept foreign to a student that was used to being classified as remedial. I like to think, the concept of the learning curve was created because of students like me.
“Human education is concerned with certain changes in intellects, characters and behaviors, its problems being roughly included under these for topics: Aims, materials, means, and methods.”
So where did the genuine passion for learning and exploration come from? Was there a magic pill one takes at maturation? Not exactly.
There was a moment of clarity. Just as I was about to fail the test, I had an epiphany and connected the narrative to the lesson. The proverbial light came on as I painted an abstract view of a vision in my mind’s eye. The words flowing as unfettered as the sunlight reflecting off calm waters.
A moment that would have normally created anxiety was instantaneously replaced by a passion I had not experienced before. I had not realized there could be so much erudition about a matter like this. What was once inconceivable became recognizable, unexplainably clearer; and suddenly the act of learning became more important than chasing the grade. The implausible belief of higher level of learning suddenly became plausible with the law of readiness.
The motivation to learn became more a function of my mindset than it did my capability to learn. The learned mind expands with new input as it takes in and process information that expands the lens through which we see the world. The key, however, is the quality of the input and the use of filters to determine whether that information is congruent with your own beliefs.
Part two of the law of readiness states that knowledge that is not used becomes weakened and disappears from memory. “Use it or lose it” is not just a random saying; when it comes to learning, it is completely accurate.
I assimilate it to having a mental file cabinet that needs to be accessed instantaneously. However, you do not have access because the files are stored so haphazardly that it makes retrieval nearly impossible.Joseph Clementi
In general, we acquire knowledge in part, because of an experience. Learned behaviors are a result of developed practices of learning a skill and using the information repetitively. Learned behaviors contrast with innate behaviors, which are genetically hardwired and can be performed without any experience or training i.e., breathing.
Our learning skills vary from person to person. We all learn at diverse levels and paces, but our aptitude increases as the material ignites a positive emotion; and the law of readiness ignites the spark. Thus, a student who is highly motivated and eager to learn is more likely to be receptive to learning than one who is poorly motivated.
Learning by its very nature is the course of experiencing something for the first time. Those learning experiences are positively influenced and reinforced through reward and recognition and negatively impacted during the process of failure.
The laws of readiness suggest we learn when the student is motivated to receive that lesson. Our preparedness, therefore, is in direct proportion to our exposure to a variety of ideas, concepts, and beliefs. This student embodied the law of readiness as I embraced the methods, studied the messages, and altered my approach to the materials that aligned with my values.