What Kind of Student Were You?

27 Mar


It's interesting reading how
teachers react to certain kinds of students. 
They are most often indignant with students not doing homework and not
completing assignments.  A good student
is someone who turns in all their work, has it done neatly and completely and
on time.  Even if they aren't the highest
achievers, if they can do those things, they will usually be seen as good
students. These good students are striving for A's all the time, with an
occasional B. Apparently, most teacher bloggers seem to be from that fine
"good student" tradition, and they can not understand why any of
their students wouldn't do likewise. 


I am not from that "good
student" tradition.  I hated
homework and never did a lick of it in high school.  If I couldn't get it done in class, I
probably wouldn't do it at all.  And
those assignments that I did turn in were rarely complete, almost always sloppy
and often turned in late.  If at
all.  I wasn't disruptive in class, and
didn't back-talk my teachers.  In fact, I
did listen and participate in class.  But
written work was painful for me, who has terrible handwriting.  I was always gigged on neatness.


Also, getting an 'A' was not a
goal of mine.  I was keen to learn, but I
hardly saw how doing half-a-dozen worksheets demonstrated how smart I was.  I did, however, do well on tests.  Especially standardized tests.  So year after year, my mother would talk to
my teachers who would tell her, "He has all kinds of potential, but he
just won't do the work!"  Most of
the homework given by teachers is crap. 
Sorry for being so blunt, but I've yet to see much in the way of
homework that is worth doing.  So you
see, I'm still belligerent.  College is
more self-directed, and I do see more value in what goes on there. 


I recognized early on that
getting a 'C' was not the end of the world. 
Neither was a 'D'.  I even got an
'F' or two.  I might have gotten 2 or 3
'A's in high school and a handful of B's. 
My high school GPA was a 2.06. 
But my attendance was near perfect. 
And sure enough, I haven't been asked for my H.S. GPA in over 2 decades.


My son is now bringing homework
home and he seems to have inherited my attitude as well as my poor fine motor
skills.  So much of what is sent home for
him to work on is "busywork" that requires his mother (and on rare
occasions, his father) to stand over him. 
The boy is in kindergarten but reads on the 3rd or 4th grade reading
level, making him smarter than I was at his age.  He is in the accelerated reader program and
has gotten perfect scores on nearly every test he's taken.  But he drives his teachers batty by not doing
his work.  His mother was a good student,
so she shares your collective exasperation at my lackadaisical attitude.


I did get a 2 point something
for an undergraduate GPA.  College was
harder and it did take awhile to become more self-directed.  But, again, no one has asked about my college
GPA.  Or my GRE scores.  You don't care about mine and I could care
less about yours. 


In my Master's program and all
classes since, I've gotten A's all the way. 
I finally, after 30 years, decided to apply myself in my studies. But it
was never about the 'A', it was about increasing my knowledge and skills.  In my graduate studies I too frequently
encountered an attitude of "Just give me the 'A' and the degree so I can
get out of here!"  Fact is, without
imbibing some knowledge, the grade is meaningless, and the work done to get it
even more so. 


In primary and secondary school,
I frustrated my teachers.  When one of my
ex-teachers heard I was going to be teaching EBD, she said, "Nice to know
someone is getting into the business that knows something about it!"  I was, in fact, referred for testing for
special education in the 7th grade by a teacher who I frustrated with my
laziness.  Mom was hoping they'd find
something, but she was disappointed to learn that I just had a lack of
motivation as opposed to some sort of legitimate disability..


To those of you presently
frustrated by students who are apparently lazy, like I was, I want to say that
it isn't personal.  Chances are, a kid
who finds your work not worth doing probably finds the work most other teachers
assign isn't worth doing.  I generally
liked all my teachers.  I didn't take the
'F's and zeros personally.  Just because
I didn't care about my grades didn't mean that I didn't like learning. 


To this day, I still abhor
redundancy and busy work, which causes a few problems in my work as a special
education teacher.  We live and die by
the paperwork we have to produce.  I have
been known to procrastinate, cut a corner or two on the forms and generally
annoy my supervisors just a bit regarding forms that are due.  I'm focused on my students and their parents,
not the pencil pushers at the county office. 
Thanks to the computer, I am a writer and my stuff is evaluated more on
content rather than my scrawly handwriting.


I'd like to hear about other
poor-ish students who made good later in life. 
Any other teachers who ascended from the ranks of academic mediocrity?




2 Responses to “What Kind of Student Were You?”

  1. Nobodyknows at 3:43 pm #

    I was a great student during elementary school. One teacher even told my parents I was “The cream of the cream.”

    In junior high I tried even harder.

    In high school, I saw through all the crap and started falling back. Moved from All A’s to B’s.

    In college — the undergrad years — I did pretty poorly until my senior year, when I took over 20 credits per semester and held down a job. It was then that I had something to prove: that I could do all the work expected and then some. I think I graduated with a 3.0.

    Grad school was a piece of cake. Think I got two B’s.

    I look at my students now, and I see the fact that some of them are good students, some of them are great, some are “perfect,” and some I worry about. The problem is, the kids I really worry about are the kids who have already dropped out of school. In 8th grade.

    They face a difficult challenge in the coming years, and I know that while they failed at school, they were capable of doing what we teach.

    I’ve talked about this with one of my colleagues. He said he hated school, was a bit of a thug, and that he got poor grades. He said he doesn’t know what exactly it was that made him change his attitude, but that at some point he decided to do the best he could.

    For many of our students, “doing the best they can” is to show up to school. But there’s something missing. If they can show up to school, they can do a little more.

    Many of my students call they work they do in middle school “crap” (or much worse), but they don’t try to beat the work.

    According to your post, it sounds like you at least put in a little effort despite any complaining you might have done. So many of my students complain, but do not produce. These students, I fear, will not become success stories.

  2. Amy at 12:10 pm #

    Homework? Projects? (Heck, I didn’t even need to study most of the time) Blew them off all the way from first grade until about my junior year of high school. I didn’t have poor grades, but I wasn’t on the honor roll either…I could always count on acing tests (as long as they weren’t math). The only class I found even remotely challenging (besides math classes, which were not my forte) was Chemistry.

    I read on the college level in a land of 8th grade drop outs and teen parents. Never felt challenged at all in school, but started going to community college at night and realized by my junior year of high school that I did want to go to college, so I started taking more of an interest in jumping through the hoops.

    In retrospect I thrived in situations at school where I had personal autonomy, or was engaged with challenging content, but often this was not the case, and I spent most of my school time disengaged or acting out when conformity was demanded of me. College was much better in terms of my dedication to doing the work, and taking an interest in academics, but since I had no interest in pursuing graduate studies at the time, I didn’t put much effort into having a stellar GPA like all of my friends. I graduated on time, took interesting courses and was involved with numerous extra curricular activities, but did not have plans for further academic study.

    Nowadays I am a paraeducator/IA, working my way through graduate school a few classes at a time. Having spent several years outside of academia first, I have a much greater appreciation for being a student. And I do my homework because for the first time ever it has meaning.

    Every week though, I see my students who stubbornly resist doing their homework/projects/reading assignments, and while I try to encourage them to do this stuff (so that they’ll pass), I smile and remember how I felt at their age. For some of them it does mean they will fail to pass (the teachers involved are not going to give out a huge test to save the day). I wish at times they were capable of understanding how much harder the alternatives are, but it’s their choice not mine. I don’t take it personally. I realize that for many of them, school is about things other than academics, (just as it was for me).

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