I sat in church last Sunday and listened to an excellent teaching about making a difference in my life. It had to do with the fact that learning and growth are never passive. True learning requires more than just taking in information. The pastor used the illustration of a mama bird feeding her baby. The mama did all the work of tracking down the wiggly worm and digesting it. But the baby merely opened its beak. While baby birds do fairly well using this method, we humans don’t show much growth or exhibit many changes in our thoughts and actions unless we become motivated to interact with truth—get excited and “get some skin in the game.” If we don’t, we’re just waiting for someone to dump information into our open beaks and hope it helps.

As a classroom teacher I sat through countless workshops and trainings on one subject or another. Sometimes I was learning scientific principles so that I’d be an apt teacher for lessons on balance and motion or life cycles of plants. Other times I was hit with mountains of theory on ways to motivate students or ways to write lesson plans to optimize time. The subjects were many and varied and often….mind bendingly boring. Worse, they were often impractical.

The problem with workshops is that they’re written to cover broad topics and reach as many people as possible. The information isn’t necessarily flawed, but the delivery can be. And, busy teachers often aren’t motivated to add more to their already full plate. They don’t want to have to figure out how to teach the next math lesson in some snazzy, new way. They just want to be left alone to do their job well.

As a warm body sitting through those workshops, I developed coping skills. I decided, 1) It’s always good to learn. 2) I wanted to be the best teacher possible. 3) I couldn’t possibly implement all the new methods and ideas presented. So, 4) I’d look for one new idea or one way to improve my skills and try to implement that in my classroom.

It was a pretty good way to make the most of presentations that weren’t always inspired. The trick was to glean out one or two gems from a massive amount of information and then figure out a way to actually try the idea in class. If the ideas were valid and really worked, I felt motivated to go back to the original material and delve in deeper.

Parents often feel overwhelmed by all that goes into raising children. There’s never enough hours in the day to do all that’s expected. There are meals to cook, clothes to wash, classes and sports to get to, and on top of all that you’re supposed to give your kids a good start in learning. It can feel like too much.

That’s why I wrote Homegrown Readers. As a teacher I knew some simple, basic things to say and do to help kids as they learn to read. Things that most parents don’t know. I wanted to help parents wade through tons of information to get to those one or two gems that they can actually use to help their kids become successful readers—things like previewing a book to get clues about upcoming vocabulary, predicting what might happen in a story or asking questions as you read to build stronger comprehension.

Just one good idea, one new strategy can energize a read aloud session. And, hey, it’s summertime. Your kids need to keep reading. Why not go to www.janpierce.net and download my free tips on ways to boost reading skills? Or pick up a copy of Homegrown Readers on Amazon.

Just one good idea can change everything.