Paul Drewitt, Author and Senior Teacher, Australia

An Australian based writer of poetry, short stories and crime fiction novels, Paul Drewitt’s work is known as being creative and forthright, always telling a worthwhile story that engages the senses and tweaks the mind. He is a proud Senior Teacher who mentors others to achieve their lifelong goals; an occupation like no other in the world. Paul lives in the Northern Territory of Australia with his partner and three children, a medium-sized dog and a black cat

Education has come a long way in the past 50 years. From chalk and talk to quality teaching and learning practices that are now verging on teaching children how to think, with the ultimate objective of producing lifelong learners who are equipped with the skills and motivation to teach themselves as adults. Teaching children ‘how to think’ is our greatest challenge into the next decade; creating self-awareness through quality programs such as Visible Learning that assists children to reflect on their leaning and the ‘thinking’ processes involved. The success criteria for being an independent thinker can be described as an individual who can simply think for themselves, show initiative, take risks, be innovative and demonstrate a range of virtues and EQ skills through increased self-awareness.

It is perhaps the key to our successful evolution into the next millennium.

Creating a love of reading from early childhood is a good step in attaining the ability to ‘think’ from an early age. Studying children’s fiction such as The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Charlotte’s Web inspires us to dream and demonstrates how children learn the process of ‘thinking’ though dreaming, risk taking and adventure.

Let’s explore these two novels to examine exactly how the love of fiction in early childhood facilitates the ability to think and dream.

Charlotte’s Web
Early in the novel, Fern saves Wilbur the Piglet from Mr. Arable the farmer. At this point Fern shows empathy for Wilbur. As educators we are now at the crossroads of what vs how, which directly equates to what you need to know now and how you need to think about this concept to engrain this behaviour as a lifelong learner.

How is Fern feeling at the time she shows empathy? Through the eyes of Fern, how has Wilbur benefited and vice versa? What good has come from this situation? What is Wilbur’s reaction to being saved by Fern? It’s at this point that thinking occurs and we feel the benefits of empathy in the story, rather than simply understanding the concept.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. A timeless children’s classic where Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy unexpectedly enter a magical winter wonderland through a cupboard at the home of professor Kirke in the English countryside. This story helps us to dream of the unexpected, to realise that anything is possible and above all, to believe. Whilst playing hide and seek, Lucy finds a mysterious cupboard and begins to explore. The thinking question at this point is how was Lucy feeling at the point where she walked through the cupboard and saw Narnia for the first time? At this stage we begin to actually think about what it would be like to enter a magical winter wonderland. Whilst engaged in thinking behaviours we begin to feel the magic and adventure of risk taking, then hopefully adopt this mindset into our own lives.

For those of us who remember the novel, even after 30 years have passed, it’s because you were actually thinking at the time. This may have equated to an increase of risk-taking behaviour; perhaps to live in a foreign country for a year or live in the city when you grew up in a small country town. C.S Lewis, being the master writer that he was, knew only too well that his audience needed to actually think to truly comprehend and feel the magic of adventure, and knew how to tweak a mind to think about the concepts he was explaining.

We tend to live our lives demonstrating a series of learnt behaviours and routines that make up who we are. Learning to think is no different to any other routine as it must be learnt, then become habitual. To change habits and routines is perhaps the most difficult thing a human can do, so it’s important to teach students how to think from the onset when personality and the anatomy of the brain is developing.

Teaching students how to think is the single most important skill to prepare the next generation. It is said that innovation and creativity are the skills most sought after in the workplace, but if students don’t actually know how to think this simply won’t happen. Forming a culture of thinkers will assist the next generation to become independent learners, non-conformists and create a generation of free thinkers.

(Originally Published in LinkedIn)

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