Thinking Citizen Blog — How to Teach Students to Pay Attention, Organize Their Thoughts, and Make the Best Decisions

Thinking Citizen Blog — Friday is Education and Education Policy Day

Today’s Topic — How to Teach Students to Pay Attention, Organize Their Thoughts, and Make the Best Decisions

Have you ever seen the full moon in conjunction with the setting sun? Can you imagine how rousing a sight this would be? Well you will have that opportunity on Sunday if it’s not too cloudy. Because now the moon is quite visible in the daytime sky. Splendid against the blue as it was yesterday evening. Did you see it? So why doesn’t the school system train students to see and enjoy the most beautiful moments afforded by nature’s every day wonders? Well, honestly, it’s up to parents to fill in these gaps. And friends who can teach each other. Today, a few more notes on the hard core of education — the paying attention thing, the organizing your thoughts thing, and the making the best decisions thing. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

THE PAYING ATTENTION THING — three dimensions — which is most problematic for you?

1. Are you self-aware? what do you do to hold yourself accountable for your look? your tone of voice? your body language? The things that you do that send messages louder than anything you say?

2. Are you other aware? What do you do to decipher the code of your interlocutor? To read the sub-text of that child who is having a tantrum, that teenager who is melting down, that colleague who is having a fit.

3. Are you aware of your surroundings? If you left the room you are in and went to a desk in another room, could you sit down and draw a picture of the room you just left? How many details would you remember? Try it.

NB: So how do you teach self-awareness? The same way you teach everything else — by example.

Anecdote: Back in 2007 I met with over 100 Harvard senior professors across the curriculum to talk about teaching. Of the five biology professors not one could identify the leaf of a tree that I had taken from a tree right outside their window.

THE ORGANIZING YOUR THOUGHTS THING — what is your framework?

1. My first mental framework and obsession was the three by three matrix which I first used in graduate school preparing for my PhD oral exams. I re-purposed it in finance. Then for “thinking citizenship.”

2. Reminder: the best test of thinking citizenship is the ability to make a strong case for all three sides in the next election (left, right, and center) marshaling three very different things (principles, facts, and solutions) for each of the seven issues so important that they should be part of your decision (foreign policy, economic policy, climate change, health care, education, social justice, and political process reform.) In my experience, it took me ten years to get a barely passing grade on this exam which I developed about 15 years ago. The 10,000 hour rule seems to roughly here as for far less demanding (but generally more enjoyable) pursuits such as sports or music.

3. Do you have a better thinking citizenship framework? If so, please share. How about a science, music, art or other comparable learning mousetrap? Are you a fan of the “hamburger,” “sandwich,” or “Oreo” method of writing essays? Have you learned about practices in foreign countries that would make good imports? From France? Germany? China? Singapore? Russia? South Africa?

NB: Of course, my favorite mousetrap is now Orion — the best thinking tool ever. Do you remember how this mouse-trap incorporates the Rule of Seven, the Rule of Three, and the Rule of One? If not, email or call me separately and I will gladly give you a refresher course over the phone — or lunch in Concord.


1. What is your favorite version of the “Eisenhower Matrix”? Do you actually use it?

2. Who taught it to you? When? How? When and how did it become part of your life?

3. Has any company you have worked for make some similar graphic a cornerstone of corporate training?

NB: Have you ever worked for or used a consulting company that has a method worth sharing that is not proprietary? (Generally these tools are available in books published by the consultants who charge humongous fees for a customized application of them.)

Note to self — Pay Attention — Mindful Me

Time management — Wikipedia

Tips for Writing an A+ English Essay: The Hamburger Model | Tutor Bright Blog

Why the ‘Hamburger’ Essay Has Gone Stale

Be Productive at Home: 11 Tips to Promote Efficiency [2023] • Asana


“In my walks, every man I meet is in some way my superior and in that I can learn of him.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20


Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to education or education policy. Or the coolest thought however half-baked you had. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to education or education policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random education-related fact that blew you away.

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something that is dear to your heart.



Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.