Tuesday, April 3

The Best students are those who are hungry to learn

I read this op-ed with keen interest. As a current teacher, prospective student, son of professors, parent of two children, this is close to my heart. I quote:

Thirty-five years of teaching has taught me this: The best students and the ones who get the most out of their educations are the ones who come to school with the most energy to learn. And — here’s an important corollary — those students are not always the most intellectually gifted. They’re not always the best prepared or the most cultured. Sometimes they think slowly. Sometimes they don’t write terribly well, at least at the start. What distinguishes them is that they take their lives seriously and they want to figure out how to live them better. These are the kids for whom one is bought and sold. These are the ones who make you smile when they walk into your office.

How do they get this way? Why is it that some young people, often young people who have not had remarkable advantages, are so alive? They’re an amazing pleasure to teach even if their subject-verb agreement isn’t always what it might be and they don’t know what iambic pentameter is. I can teach them those things. What’s way harder to teach — maybe it’s impossible — is the love for learning and the openness to experience that these students bring to the seminar table.

I agree totally. I love the students who love to learn. They are a joy to speak to, to discuss with and debate with them. They are wonderful to be with. They challenge you, they make you think. And its such a great sight, they embody the statement, “students are not a vase to be filled but a fire to be lit”. To see the blooming comprehension on their faces, that’s perhaps the greatest gift a teacher can get. To see the eyes shining and glittering, the hands waving about, the involuntary leap to their feet and walking excitedly around declaiming a new theory or new thought process. What a wonderful time.

So many times, I have seen students who simply go through their college/university and get a degree. No harm done. Get a degree by all means. I see students plagiarise and copy stuff from others.  Students who drift through University and waste time. Students who have no idea why they are there. Sad but true, I feel bad for them.

But those who come there to learn? To force the cobwebs of the mind open? To struggle to understand concepts? Those are the joys, they are the people who will do well. Not necessarily monetarily (although these people are much better in my view). Questioning kids go forward to becoming managers and entrepreneurs who question everything and find something new every day. You wont see them sitting in front of the TV, but they would be out and about, checking worms or watching the sky or reading books or protesting against poverty or doing SOMETHING. I see these kids come to me for jobs or internships and for the good chaps, we really pull out the stops and help them go win the world. The chaps who don't? Well, we still need the people who operate the sausage machine, no?

Somebody asked me how do I know if I am doing the above? I gave her few pointers

1. Before you go to sleep, ask what new thing you did, what new thing did you achieve? What new thing you learnt? Did you live a new day or did you just repeat yesterday?

2. Did you make somebody’s life better? Did you feel that you had passion today? Did you feel like pulling out your sword and go charging off to save the spiny ant-eater or did you sit your son down and talk about how the Romans sowed the fields of Carthage with Salt? Did you work with your daughter to plant a tree? Did you tickle somebody or make somebody laugh?

If the answers are generally yes, then yes, you have a love of learning and doing something with your lives.

btw, came across an interesting view on why Israel is a high tech superpower? Hear this short video, see what’s making the difference. Yep, its the university kids who want to learn and challenge everything.

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