Inspiring Learning

May 06, 2019 | Posted by Ellie


“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life”– Charlotte Mason

“Come on,” I groaned. “Just one game of chess! Just one!” I looked up at my father with pleading eyes.

“I told you El, I have to finish grading these papers before class tomorrow. I can’t play chess right now.”

I threw my arms in the air dramatically and let them fall back down with an audible “Humph!” At the age of 11, my biggest goal in life was to beat my father at chess. He had made me a deal that when I finally did, he would pay me what seemed at the time to be a monstrous fifty dollars. He regretted this, I’m sure, when I began begging him to play with me over and over again, day in and day out.

A few days and chess games later, he sat at the table grading papers once again. I knew the answer before I had even asked, “Dad, I’m SO bored, can we PLEASE play chess?” I urged.

“I’m busy grading these papers, but I have something for you to do if you would like to join me,” he responded, reaching into his bag. He pulled out a single piece of paper with half a page’s worth of words typed onto it.

“What’s this?” I asked, taking it from him.

“This is super fun, you’re gonna love this,” he said told me excitedly, “There are twenty errors in this story. See if you can find and correct all of them. You can sit here and edit that while I sit here and edit these. Got it?” He handed me a red pen and I took it suspiciously, wondering if perhaps this was a carefully orchestrated scheme to get me to do school on a Sunday night.

“Is it hard?” I questioned.

“No, it’s not too hard, and if you get stuck, I’ll help you.” His enthusiasm was contagious and his encouragement comforting, so I dove in, grateful for the invitation to join him.

Fifteen minutes later, I put my pen down and slid the paper across the table to him. “I’m all finished! I found all of the errors!” I exclaimed proudly. “Can I do another?” With that, we began a new routine.

My father continued to make short stories for me to edit, and I continued to devour them. I edited them faster than he could write them. It became one of my favorite things to do in my free time, and despite the educational nature of the activity, it felt like a game to me.

For children, imitation is natural. It is how they learn to speak, walk, and interact with others. Parents are the most powerful influencers. A child will pick up habits, quirks, and often personality traits from his parents. This means that parents have the ability to model both good and bad in an extremely impactful way. When you put good into the world, good will grow from it. Consequently, when you model a love and enthusiasm for learning, your children and students will imitate it naturally. The benefits of imitation are twofold. Firstly, it provides information to help students acquire the knowledge that is needed, and secondly, it propels and inspires the student into the application of that knowledge. Some may say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I would counter that to say that imitation is the most irreplaceable and authentic method of education.

In his book Why Don’t Students Like School?, cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham discusses the importance of balancing mental effort and problem-solving in education. It is his conviction that solving problems gives people pleasure, but only when they are easy enough to be solved, yet challenging enough to take mental effort. If the task is too easy, the student will become detached and uninterested, but if it is too difficult from the beginning, the student will lack the motivation and confidence to even try. Finding this balance can take practice, but has the ability to transform your educational environment.

Students who lack motivation in school will often show a strong motivation for something that is enjoyable or interesting, or that generates some kind of reward. How can we trigger the same passion to learn that they already have for Legos, sports, or chess? Enthusiasm is key. By modeling an excitement to learn and creating an atmosphere that nurtures the mind, parents and teachers can inspire their students to not just “do school,” but to develop a genuine desire to gain knowledge and succeed in their studies.

My father encouraged my siblings and me to learn by constantly learning new things himself. Growing up with someone who modeled that mindset to us, it became natural for us to imitate it.

Here is the key takeaway. If you want to inspire your students to live with a desire to learn, reach into yourself and show them passion, love, and enthusiasm for the power of knowledge. Then watch what happens. Having seen your powerful modeling, your students will follow your example and embrace passion, love, and enthusiasm for knowledge as well. I am living proof.


Ellie Diaz - As the daughter of Andrew Pudewa, Ellie was naturally involved in IEW since it came into existence. After working in Production for over ten years, she can now be found getting back to her roots and honing her skills in the Customer Service department. A central California native, Ellie moved with her family to Oklahoma in 2010. She and her husband are now remodeling a house in Tulsa, where they plan to settle down. She recently graduated from Cosmetology school and plans to eventually pursue a career in professional stage makeup. Ellie enjoys writing, makeup, animals, and adventures.

Live Chat with IEW