Virtue is moral excellence--something that is praiseworthy and positive about our behavior, character, and disposition. Learning and teaching both present opportunities for cultivating virtue. Here are seven virtues of learning and teaching:
1. Listening. At times we don't always listen or listen well. Learning presents opportunities to develop our listening skills. In our fast-paced culture we're often presented with noise or constant entertainment, which do little to help us learn to listen. Listening is a virtue in that it helps us treat others, and what they have to say, with respect and kindness (even if we disagree with them).
2. Asking Questions. Both students and teachers must learn to ask good questions. Sometimes we may get so carried away with a curriculum, book, or idea that we fail to ask questions about what it's teaching or about the underlying ideas. Asking questions is virtuous in the sense that good questions help us think through difficult matters. Using our minds, in turn, is virtuous and allows us, for instance, to express our love for God (Matthew 22:37).
3. Demonstrating Patience. Learning and teaching also require patience, which the Bible lists as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Patience helps us learn restraint. The deliberate delaying process of patience can also give us time to think, as well as to listen before we speak. Developing patience can also help us remain calm and, as a result, build our character positively, helping us avoid rash decisions or conclusions.
4. Exhibiting Humility. Learning and knowing a lot can lead to pride, arrogance, and self-centeredness. But learning and teaching also can help us grow in humility. Being humble in relation to learning and teaching means that we don't think more of ourselves than we should. Humility helps us know that we don't know everything and, in fact, probably have some significant gaps in our knowledge.
5. Enjoying Discovery. One of the great experiences of learning is the enjoyment of discovery, even if it means deviating from our schedule or lesson plan. This enjoyment of discovery relates to virtue in the sense that it relates to wonder, joy, and delight. If we truly want to help our children become lifelong learners, then we should encourage their delight in the learning process.
6. Being courageous. Courage opposes fear, which is sometimes far too often present in education. Neil Postman expressed fear in relation to education as follows: "Fear of not having the right answer, fear of not understanding things the way everyone else does, fear of being singled out, fear of not being singled out, fear of reproach, of ridicule, of failure. For many children the school is a House of Fear, no matter how charming its architecture, or open its halls, or contemporary its materials" (Teaching as a Conserving Activity). The virtue of courage drives out fear and, as a result, helps us enjoy both learning and teaching.
7. Seeking truth. Finally, seeking truth is a virtue, not what may or may not "feel right," what we expect to find, or even what is comfortable. If we are able to explore a variety of perspectives with the goal of ultimately seeking and understanding truth, then education is truly taking place.
Sonlight helps foster virtue in learning. When families come together to learn they are presented with many challenges, but also opportunities to demonstrate virtue in action. Interacting with one another and discussing ideas can help us learn to listen, ask good questions, and in general build our character positively.