Thursday, April 20, 2006

Defining a Student

Though I am at home with Baby Tate (see previous post), I have kept up on the happenings at school. In an e-mail, a teacher who works with struggling students, asked her classes what it means to be a student. She didn't share their responses, but did feel that their ideas and our ideas are very different. She asked us to send her our definitions of student. I wonder if you all might share your definitions of the word student.


At 1:53 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

I have been thinking about how different students are and how it is possible to relate to all of them when it is difficult to understand where they may be coming from. A student to me can be so many different things I am not sure I can pinpoint one specific attribute. Some students are willing participants while many are in class because that is where they are supposed to be. Some students may think of school as a safe place while others fear it for various reasons.

As a college student I believe that a student needs to be an active learner and is someone who is interested in learning, but how many kids in elementary, middle, and high school are active learners and know what they are learning for? As I think back on my time in those different grades I was more of a student that went throught the motions every day, but had no idea what I was learning for.

It would be interesting to hear responses from kids in K-12.

At 11:31 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Students,

We, as teachers, are trying to prepare you for the world. We want you to be able to leave school and succeed in doing whatever you choose to do. We think you need certain skills to accomplish that. Basic reading and math to start with. But we also think you need to 'learn to learn'. Metacognition it is called. It is supposed to kick in naturally sometime during late adolescence. Until then we're going to prime the pump by taking you through scientific investigations, asking you to absorb information about world history and give it back to us in your own words and we're going to try and cram you full of art and music appreciation, pe and health classes and a bit of foreign language.

And because we care about you we hope that you find our faith in you to be of value and that, in turn, you value yourselves and make the most of this education and student experience you find yourself in.

Sometimes it is boring and sometimes it can be downright painful, but you deserve a bright future and we think a good education is your best chance of getting there.

At 12:28 PM , Blogger Ms Otto said...

By definition, a student is "one who studies..." but the subject studied is not necessarily bound by the walls of a school. In my life, as in the lives of my students, the subjects I study most avidly are those that interest me: how to make a really great chocolate chip cookie. how to plant a garden. how to understand my 403b.

Our students are as authentically human learners as we are... their problem is that only certain subjects are valued within a school, while their interests often focus on the extracurricular: how to find a significant other. how to drive. how to skateboard.

I believe that we can be the teachers we were meant to be if we allow our kids to be the students they were meant to be. The real world isn't off limits; it's the goal!

At 10:13 AM , Blogger Michael E. Lopez said...

There are two types of students.

The first type of student is the student-by-fiat. This student is put into a place (usually a school) and told that he or she is a student by those with greater power and/or authority.

This is the only distinguishing characteristic of this type of student. They may be smart, they may be dumb, they may be curious, or they may be a vegetable. It does not matter.

A student-by-fiat is something like a pile of sh*t covered with frosting. You can call it a cake all you want, but all you've done is change the definition of "cake" to mean something that is covered with frosting. Likewise, if you take someone utterly unengaged and put them in a desk and call them a "student" then all you have done is change the definition of student to "one who sits in a desk in a school."

The second type of student -- and the one that I believe actually provides a working and useable definition -- has at least three distinguishing characteristics:

1) An understanding that there is a body of knowledge that they do not possess.

2) A desire to possess that knowledge.

3) The will to do something to acquire that knowledge, whether successfully or not.

A student does not need a teacher -- at least not a living one. Books can be teachers. nature herself can be a teacher -- although we call these types of students who study at nature's feet "scientists."

Note that it is not necessary to be "successful" to be a student -- you can try very hard to learn calculus by staring at the sky and munching on lemons while humming the national anthem. If your intentions are earnest -- you are a student of calculus. Doomed to failure, perhaps, but a student of calculus nonetheless.


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