Intelligent Students

Sometimes teachers expect the worst from their students. I’ve highlighted this tendency before. Sometimes these teachers have had bad experiences with some unenthralled students and sometimes these teachers are just bad teachers. Whatever the case, the beginning of the year often has teachers comparing horror stories in preparation (perhaps emotional or mental preparation) for the coming semester. The classes I most often hear horror stories from are the classes students are forced to take for a credit in an area they don’t intend to study further. For me these classes were science credits. I waited until my senior year to take these classes and ended up really enjoying them. Geology and Computer Science (can you believe it) were my two science credits. For the past number of years I’ve been on the other side of the equation by teaching introductory level credit-courses for non-majors. Do I have some horror stories? Sure. But I’ve got way more success stories.

One of the things that happens when you get deeply involved in most fields (like, for instance, getting a PhD) you encounter very focused arguments within that field. It’s no longer squabbles about whether theatre is better than science but whether this type of theatre is better than that type of theatre. Even that is broad. Arguments about individual interpretations of single lines from plays can be the cause of intense arguments. This is not a pointless endeavor in any field and ultimately contributes to a greater understanding of the topics at hand. How, though, does one introduce this type of thinking into a group of students who might not be interested? I broke my students up into groups, asked them to identify small similarities and differences between my area and other areas, and the results were amazing. These students, without any real help from me, identified many of the squabbles happening at the upper levels in just 20 minutes. More than that, they were able to debate with one another about certain small points. This is very exciting for me and I wanted to share. Strive for excellence in your studies this semester: teachers notice.

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