Teaching and Learning: One and the Same? Yes, Says Thoreau

Birthplace of Henry David Thoreau, Concord, Massachusetts

“I would make education a pleasant thing both to the teacher and the scholar. This discipline, which we allow to be the end of life, should not be one thing in the schoolroom, and another in the street. We should seek to be fellow students with the pupil, and should learn of, as well as with him, if we would be most helpful to him.” – Henry David Thoreau, December 1837.

Social Media Class at SNHUYesterday, I taught a class in social media to a group of smart undergrads at (#SNHU).

Today, I’m writing this blog post in the room where Henry David Thoreau was born in 1817, looking out the paned glass window at the snow in the fields outside the 284-year old Thoreau family¬†farmhouse.

What do the two have to do with each other?

Well, anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m a very big fan of Henry David Thoreau, the 19th c. American author, naturalist, philosopher, and activist.

He was also a teacher, although his teaching career was short-lived.

See, back in Henry’s day, learning was a matter of rote memorization and recitation of a set of a few approved and very narrow subjects.

Henry disgreed emphatically with this method and made his views known to the headmasters of the schools in which he taught. Hence the short-lived teaching career.

Henry believed that real education was an unending, interactive, hands-on pursuit. And therefore that teachers should “seek to be fellow students with the pupil”.

I couldn’t agree more.

When I teach digital marketing and social media, I’m open to the ideas, interpretations, and opinions of my students. It’s amazing how a continuously open mind can uncover new solutions to old problems.

Especially teaching in this industry, which evolves quicker than a cat dodging a lawn sprinkler, students are just as capable of inventing the next big thing as their teachers.

So, a big shout out to @jbwrites and his Social Media Marketing class at @SNHU: @ItsArista, @JenniferMarion, and the rest of the you! Stay curious!


Writing at the birthplace of Henry David Thoreau in Concord MABy the way, the privilege of writing in Thoreau’s birthplace was afforded me because I’m on the Executive Board of the Thoreau Farm Trust. But you too, can take advantage of this amazing literary opportunity, by contacting the Thoreau Farm.