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    by Mike McHugh

Establishing A Point of Contact - Part 1
Date Posted: May 22, 2008

Quality instruction in any school environment takes place at the point in which instructors truly connect with their students, and capture their full attention. The routine challenge of teachers, therefore, is to devise methods that will enable them to draw students into a given lesson effectively. Part of the difficulty of establishing a point of contact or connection with young minds, however, is knowing which methods to employ in order to set the stage for genuine learning.

Every teaching lesson must have a beginning, a starting point. This starting point, in some respects, is the most critical step in the work of establishing a point of contact with students. If instructors fail to establish the interest or attention of their students early in the lesson, it is seldom worthwhile for them to proceed. The old proverb still rings true, “Well begun is half done.”

Students commonly find it difficult to get and stay focused on subject matter. Apparent inattention by pupils at the opening of a lesson, however, does not necessarily mean that such students lack the capacity to concentrate. The boy or girl with the far-away look in their eye is, after all, paying attention--- but not to you. The key is for teachers to understand at the outset that they cannot teach without gaining their student’s attention, or while competing against their misdirected thoughts. Such effort is like trying to move a car forward when it is already in reverse. The difference between a trained teacher and a novice is never more apparent than in the first five minutes of a lesson. The novice looks first at the lesson, whereas the seasoned teacher looks first at his pupils.

Without attention there can be little learning. Most teaching, sad to say, is merely an exercise in futility, for it is nothing more than a one-sided conversation. In such cases, the student hears the instructor, but he does not pay attention to what is being said and has no intention on wrestling mentally with anything that is being presented. Parent educators must realize that they are not truly teaching, unless they are connecting with those who are prepared and motivated to listen.

The question might well be asked, “Who is responsible to ensure that a student is paying attention during the process of teaching and learning?” Like it or not, the answer is, the teacher is responsible. It is not the pupil’s fault if a teacher is not willing to make a serious attempt to command the attention of his students. The story is told of an usher, who while performing his duties at a local church asked the pastor if he should awaken any member who might fall asleep during the sermon. “No,” the preacher replied, “come to the pulpit and wake me up.” The moral of the story is that the teacher must assume responsibility for the inattention of his audience.

It is valuable to consider how marvelously the Lord Jesus Christ succeeded in making the point of contact. Whether He was dealing with His friends or enemies, he knew exactly how to capture their attention and focus. Jesus was the Master teacher, precisely because He taught people what they needed to hear, and seldom what they expected to hear. A striking example is His discussion with the woman at Jacob’s well. The teaching environment was difficult. Almost every conceivable obstacle stood in the way. The woman had, after all, come for water not instruction. They had almost nothing in common. Christ was a Jew, and the woman, a Samaritan--- and these people had nothing to do with each other. Yet, our Lord broke through all these barriers and captured this woman’s attention with the simplest, most natural introduction that could be made--- a request for a drink of water.

Continued next week....

Copyright 2008 Michael J. McHugh

"Point of Reference" from Fred Price

What is man that you are mindful of him? Ps. 8:4

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Biography Information:
This column is written by the staff at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois. As a pioneer in the homeschool movement, Christian Liberty ministries has been operating a full service, K-12 home school program for over thirty years and a Christian textbook ministry (Christian Liberty Press), since 1985. The mission of Christian Liberty is to provide parents with quality, affordable educational products and services that will enable them to teach their children in the home and to train their children to serve Christ in every area of life. A more extensive explanation of the CLASS home school program can be obtained at www.homeschools.org.
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