The Ideal Student

October 22, 2009

Although I have a wonderful job now and I love teaching teachers, I also loved being a high school teacher. Many of my most memorable students come from those years. Yes, some of them were mouthy and quick to tell me how much everything—especially school—sucked. But most of them were also hungry for learning and for meaningful experiences in school. Many of the alternative school students with whom I worked had gotten into trouble for questioning the systems they couldn’t fit into, but they also longed to find an academic “home,” a place where they were seen and appreciated as individuals.

While I enjoyed teaching high school, I also had to help students understand their responsibility for learning since it’s just about impossible for any teacher to connect with actively disconnected young people. Although teachers are increasingly held accountable for the learning of their students, there must be shared responsibility in order for true and lasting learning to occur. The following questions are ones I developed to use as part of the end-of-the-grading-period process in high school. I now use them with graduate students to remind them that grades are not something I “give” to them. As you read the questions, think about how you would answer them in each of your classes. There really is no ideal student any more than there is one kind of ideal teacher. There are only people who care about learning.

Student Self-Evaluation • Required for a Passing Grade
Compliance is not the same as commitment • Alfred Woodstill

_____    I came to class on time. If I was late, it was because:

_____    I attended all class sessions or I was absent ______ times, because:

_____    I brought necessary materials with me.

_____    I handed in all required assignments. I have listed missing work here along with my plans for completion and I have spoken with my instructor about these plans for completion:

_____    My work was handed in on time OR I notified my instructor about any
unavoidable late work. These are the assignments I handed in late
because: (Note: I took—and still take—late work. Not all instructors do. I
there is a genuine reason that your work will be late, be sure to talk with
your instructor even if s/he has a no-late-work policy.)

_____    I attended all classes OR if I was absent, it was for the following reason(s):

_____    I read all the assigned materials, including materials explaining class expectations.

_____    My work was generally error-free and was carefully proofread as well as thoughtful.

_____    I thought critically and creatively about class materials and topics. This was evident in class and in my work because:

______I took responsibility for working with class content and I thought about
ways I could apply what I am learning in this class to my life and/or in other classes. Examples:

_____    My presence added to class because:

_____    If I were the teacher, I would be happy to have had someone like me in
class because:

_____    Based on my attendance, thoughtful completion of assignments, active participation, positive attitude, and other contributions I’ve made to this class, I have earned a grade of ________.

These questions are also useful to think about if you are an employee. Does your presence add to the workplace? If you were an employer would you be happy to have someone like you as an employee? Are you actively engaged in the job or just going through the motions?

What grade would you give yourself for being a learner? Why?

Responsibility for learning belongs to the student, regardless of age.
• Robert Martin


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