Secret of Success …. photos of objects

In Charles Darwin’s early days his dad decided that his son was to be a doctor, so he was sent to Edinburgh to study medicine.  He did not do well in medicine and so was then sent away to Cambridge to study theology.  However, he kept being distracted by natural history and one thing led to another and the rest is … well, history.

Charles Darwin’s son apparently asked one of his school mates “when does your dad categorise his barnacles?”   The son obviously did not realise that everyone’s dad does not spend all day wondering about collecting and examining stuff, and that most dad’s had some sort of occupation.  However, Charles Darwin was born into a wealthy family and had the luxury of time to develop  an interest, a passion, an obsession and was able to dedicate time to wandering about collecting and examining stuff with nothing else to distract him.

Albert Einstein spent long, boring hours working as a patent clerk, day dreaming various theories and furiously writing and submitting papers for publication when he could.  His educational background was also checkered. But again, he had time to think – time to mull, time to dream, time to consider, time to wander about thinking stuff with nothing else to distract him.

Isaac Newton also did not distinguish himself in his educational pursuits.  During the plague years he took himself off to the country to avoid people and here he had a lot of time on his hands, to mull, to wander about thinking stuff with nothing else to distract him.  Left up to his own devices he founded most of modern science and mathematics.

Our society is full of people like these.  People who, maybe weren’t top of the class at school, maybe they were forced into careers they didn’t really care for, or dead-end jobs that don’t intellectually satisfy them.  We should have brilliant day dreamers left right and centre.  Why don’t we see evidence of ground breaking theories and activities from every supermarket checkout girl?  Maybe it is because they have no voice – no contacts to express their “weird” thoughts to. Maybe they don’t have enough educational background or exposure to have had “Eureka” moments.  Maybe, modern life doesn’t give us the luxury of time; to mull, to wonder, to think about stuff with nothing else to distract us.  We have email, cell phones and life is busy, busy.  Even our intellectuals are busy – too busy to mull, too busy to wonder:  deadlines….. funding reports …… patents to register ….. key performance indicators ….. bottom lines to address ….

I think the hopes for the future probably lie with our taxi drivers and our truck drivers.  Long periods of time for thinking.  Nothing much to distract them.  We’ve all met them – the really, really interesting taxi drivers.  Maybe we need to be writing courses for them – advanced calculus for truck drivers, quantum physics for taxi drivers. 

For our own students, we need also give them time.  Time to mull, to wonder, to see how this new information fits, to challenge their current thinking, to absorb a new principle, to consider their own thoughts, their own perspectives, to make the new information meaningful and relevant to their own worldview.  This is often reflected in self-directed hours.  We should not be so arrogant to expect that all learning occurs only when we are in front of them.  We need to give them time to think about what we have said, what we have shown them, what they did.  We need to let the paint dry and then apply the second coat.  But they need to do it – they need to realise that learning occurs outside of the classroom and that they need to work with the material, translate it and to reconstruct it.  We need to try and give them “Eureka” moments, but realise that they might have to do that for themselves, and give them time to do it.



4 Responses to “Secret of Success ….”

  1. Secret of Success …. Says:

    Article “Secret of Success” posted on tutoring demo research.

  2. Barb Morris Says:

    Loved the article – I totally concur. People need time to think but also need to have others around them to share ideas with; others who will challenge their ideas and provide critical commentary in a safe place, with time to be wrong or make mistakes so that they can grow their ideas.
    Where a teacher/tutor is willing to encourage the challenging of ideas, new ideas arise. Giving all ‘the answers’, restricting boundaries or limiting the knowledge provided often stifles development and creativity and reduces the potential for ‘Eureka’ moments. Thus viewing the classroom as ‘the’ only or main place of learning, although appealing to some, is a demonstration of a lack of understanding that it is the student who does the learning rather than the teacher who implants the knowledge. Learning occurs when the students accepts or rejects that which is taught and adds or changes their existing understandings.


  3. School teacher Says:

    Really good point here;
    teaching isn’t just about passing on content but also permitting the learner to make sense of it.
    Education appears to be assessment and standards focused, some say to track a students progress and understanding.
    People didn’t need some robotic process to judge them against contrived “standards” that are arguably invalid for many people.

    Education seems to have missed how to encourage and reward innovation and being DIFFERENT.

  4. Fern Wrenne Says:


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