Day #170 – My Student Is Not An Honor Student

I was born to teach. It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do.


Not because of the pay…or the summers ‘off’…or snow days.

I wanted to teach because I wanted to inspire, to change lives, to ignite a passion.

To my fellow teachers,

“Do you remember why you wanted to teach?”

I would bet the answer is somewhat like mine.

To inspire
To change lives
To ignite a passion
To make a difference
To continue learning
To change the future

If your answers match those then I would pose the next question, “Why don’t you like challenging students?”

Students with an IEP
Students who need to learn in a different way
Students with difficulty in understanding
Students who challenge
Students who need differentiated instruction
Students who don’t care

It would seem to me that the MOST growth (thus satisfaction) could come from these very special students.  The students who are not Honor Students.  Tucker could be one of your ‘greatest’ stories…but it will take some work.

I despise giving grades. Really, it is the absolute worst part of teaching. I honestly wish that we lived in an environment that would reward students for learning, because they want to learn. I wish I could spend my time being a curriculum coach. Coaching each student through a self-discovery of ideas. Supporting their creative thought and exploration. I would guess that many of my teaching-colleagues feel the same.

A test tells me nothing of the student.  A test tells me that a student can memorize some stuff and recall it at the correct time.  A test doesn’t tell me what they are able to actually do with that information. An October, 2013 Forbes article lists the top ten skills that employers are looking for.

1. Ability to work in a team
2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems
3. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
4. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
5. Ability to obtain and process information
6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
7. Technical knowledge related to the job
8. Proficiency with computer software programs
9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
10. Ability to sell and influence others

It seems to me that skills one through four, nine, and ten cannot be evaluated by a test. So, 60% of the skills that employers are looking for are ‘non-testable.’ These are often the same skills in which more ‘difficult’ students excel.  Yet, many of my students feel their intellectual worth is designated by that bold, black line on a standardized test. This identification of intellectual worth begins early as evidenced by my writing yesterday (Day #169 – My Child Is Not An Honor Student)

How do we talk to our students about these ideas? I do it, I do it directly. I constantly remind them that their worth is not their grade – their worth is their journey. Their worth is how much they tried, did they do their best? Learning is not about the destination, it is about the journey. I always have a heart to heart with my class before turing in a ‘big assignment.’

I give them a handout with the famous John Wooden quote, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” Did you do your best? Did you take the feedback you’ve received and do something with it? Did you reach out? Did you revise? Did you participate? If so, then you have done the best you can do – and that’s all you can do.

Your final grade is a piece of what you learned…but it is not the be all and end all.

  1. You have learned to work in a team by participating in group feedback sessions – along with that, you have learned humility in accepting feedback. You have learned how to use kind, yet constructive language in telling your peers your reactions to their work.
  2. You have made decisions and solved problems while writing. Maybe your topic was too big? Too small? Maybe you had to choose between sources, whatever it was – you were constantly decision-making and problem solving.
  3. You worked at planning your paper throughout the semester. This strengthened your time-management abilities. You learned to organize your paper in logical form and prioritize the writing and revising of your drafts.
  4. You communicated verbally with people inside and outside of the classroom about the topic and your paper. You asked your parents, friends, coaches, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, Pastors, and ‘old’ teachers for feedback. You put yourself out there – you allowed yourself to be criticized.
  5. You obtained and processes information. You found pieces of evidence. While your peers found ‘holes’ in your arguments, you searched to restore credibility.
  6. You analyzed quantitative data, as well as qualitative data. You made sense of information. You practiced incorporating this data into your own ideas and writing.
  7. You created and edited a piece of original writing.
  8. You sold your ideas to me. You influenced others to care. How? By clearly articulating your ideas and arguments.

These eight ideas support 80% of the skills that future employers are looking for. They are not looking to see that you received an A in this course, they will interview you for the skills mentioned above.

I treasure my average students.  I am humbled by the opportunity to really make a difference in a life.

The next time that you have a student in your class that causes difficulty – think of it as THE best opportunity that you will have to make a difference.

To truly make a difference.

To inspire.

To change a life.

To ignite a passion.

To learn more.

To change the future. 

Who’s with me?


3 thoughts on “Day #170 – My Student Is Not An Honor Student

  1. Pingback: Day #327 – Indexing | 366 Days of Autism

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