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How to be a better teacher, learner, and friend: The “SLANT” philosophy



In a recent visit with my cousin, he shared with me the “SLANT” philosophy of achieving academic excellence. I saw the brilliance and the simplicity of it and wanted to share it with you. SLANT stands for the following: “S” is for sit at the front or near the front of the classroom, “L” is lean forward in your seat, “A” is a reminder to ask questions, which is a great indicator of your interest and involvement with the subject matter, “N” is for nodding in approval, and “T” is for thanking the teacher for the lesson.

Einstein was a great proponent of SIMPLICITY and said, “Things should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  I believe that SLANT fits Einstein’s take on simplicity. I’m convinced that this works-not just in the classroom, but in our communication with others in general.  There is something magical about “one pointed attention” both as a student and in our daily interactions with others.

First, let us consider the classroom experience for the presenter. One of my favorite definitions of a professor is someone who talks in other people’s sleep. I suspect that most teachers have experienced this at least occasionally. When the teacher or speaker has the belief that their lesson will resonate with the audience, that knowledge motivates and inspires them to give it their best. Even as they prepare, the belief that the class will be engaged and learn motivates the teacher to be both thorough and creative. He knows it will be an interactive experience and not just lecturing. It doesn’t even require that the entire class be on task, even if just a few are actively involved, that becomes a catalyst for better lesson preparation and more inspiring presentation. So, a good student helps the teacher to be a better teacher. And it may also keep the teacher from changing his career in despair.

Now from the student’s point of view, what happens when she follows the SLANT philosophy in her classrooms?  First, sitting at the front of the class makes her more visible and less likely to be distracted. Leaning forward in her seat helps prevent drowsiness which can sometimes overtake us if we didn’t get a good night’s sleep. To ASK intelligent questions, it is necessary for her to follow the flow of the lesson so mental alertness is imperative. The more involved she is in the lesson, the more likely that she will feel inclined to NOD in approval of what is going on.  And last, after having had a good classroom experience, it only makes sense to THANK the teacher and tell her how much you got out of the lesson. People love to be appreciated and according to the famous psychologist, William James, that is one of mankind’s greatest needs.

The SLANT philosophy has many benefits and honestly, it teaches good manners, which everyone appreciates. These skills improve not just a student’s grades, but also their learning and their relationships. If this sounds like “The Golden Rule,” it is!