Remember the movie I.Q. (1994)? It was a romantic comedy in which Walter Matthau plays the legendary scientist Einstein. There is a scene in that movie where Einstein’s scientist friends are standing around in a huddle under a tree, pondering life’s essential questions. The group is portrayed as eccentrically wise, brilliant, and driven by curiosity. This is how I imagine real learning to be—not the eccentric part of course, but the part about a natural curiosity that keeps people engaged in questioning and reflecting. The ancient philosophers likely engaged in similar learning huddles. Picture it, Socrates, one of the most famous philosophers, in a street corner huddle perhaps with his student Plato, firing out questions like there’s no tomorrow. The questions were likely followed by long pauses for reflection and then profoundly simple statements such as, “I only know that I know nothing”. Socrates was probably a good teacher. Look what he did for Plato after all. Plato of course went on to teach Aristotle who went on to teach Alexander the Great. None of these students were motivated by grades, but motivated by learning and finding real truths.
There is lots to be learned about teaching from these ancient philosophers. In fact, there is lots to learn about learning from them as well. How can we as teachers be inspired to learn and how can we in turn inspire our students to be as naturally curious as the philosophers?