Do you think you’re smart? This is how I opened my second discussion on learning with five freshmen students at Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School last month. My initial discussion asked questions similar to, “if you’re learning, why does it matter how it happens?” However, this talk had a different feel to it.
With four adults, two faculty members and two administrators, the students were at an advantage in numbers. Before they entered Dr. Tennant’s office I asked them if they were okay with having a conversation about learning and later reassured them that no one was in trouble. After I asked the smart question I exclaimed that I thought they were geniuses in their own right. Some students talked more than others but all voices were heard. The main idea was, yes they are smart because of their knowledge and how they act on that knowledge outside of school.
“I know I’m smart but I don’t apply myself…I’m lazy” was one students’ sentiment. I agreed silently but the statement resonated within. I am passionate about learning how students learn. I didn’t take my studies seriously until I was in graduate school. I don’t want these students to wait that long. A few other comments on how students view the word smart are as follows:
smart = how you do the work
smart = everyone’s smart but just at different things; people grasp info
smart = with Syrian issues and when talking to my family
To learners reading this anywhere, don’t wait to transfer your intellectual habits from personal interests to your full-time job, i.e. student. The feeling of, “I can get way better grades if I were to put as much time into studying as I do at looking sneakers” should be exhibited in action and not passed over as a feeling of resentment subsequent to under-achieving grades. Additionally, I encourage you to build a rapport with your instructor. You will break down barriers if you go to the teacher for help at any time instead of letting a challenging topic/course defeat you.
A special thanks goes out to Ms. Muscolino, Mr. Witter and Dr. Tennant for helping me put the discussion together as well as engaging the students. However, I question what the next step is for these students after having (what I thought was) such an engaging and reflective conversation? I will follow-up with these students at random to inquire about their academic progress and to encourage them to not repeat my mistakes.