Fulfilling Beyond Expectations

Is it the love of learning?

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

It’s been awhile that I have been very impressed with a student.

A hardworking student that wants to go above and beyond, just because.

Not the “smart” student that hates work but does just enough to meet requirements, yet somehow still gets a high grade.

It is the first week back to school, and as some may call it, a certain “honeymoon” period. Meeting new students. Setting classroom expectations. Students just testing the waters, but nothing too crazy—yet. It is a crucial time to build the foundations for this upcoming school year. And this year particularly, I want to be able to build up a love for learning. How do I build up and maintain a culture and environment that positive, orderly, and engaging? For some students, I do not have to do much, and I can’t help but think back to my summer camp English class, to a particular student. Let’s call him Jason, who is now a freshman in high school.

This particular summer class was just for 4 weeks, so I am not too sure how much of an impact I had on my 9 students. My goal and assigned task was to help students maintain and review reading and writing skills. I focused heavily on reading and analysis activities that built up to the end product of writing an argumentative essay where they will need to cite sources from what they have read. Jason stood out to me immediately with his constant attentiveness and willingness to participate in most of my class activities, when all the other students were either too tuned out, tired, or shy. I can see his passion for learning. I would almost call him a “teacher’s pet” and would fear how his classmates around him would treat him. However, after two weeks, I noticed he was losing this focus and seemed influenced by the incoming 8th graders who sat next to him who loved going on their phones to play games or swipe through social media posts. He did the classwork and even helped his younger classmates around him, but occasionally, I saw him switching tabs on his computer to look at other things.

Then, on the very last week of the English class, he seemed to have regained his first week self, as we focused on drafting the final argumentative essay. On the second to the last day, I had a very interesting conversation with him:

He asked me, “Can I write a counterargument?”

I replied, “You don’t have to, but it will make your argument stronger.”

“So, should I write a counterargument?”

“It is your choice. It looks like you already have 3 reasons down.”

“Should I write a total of 6 paragraphs then?”

“Your choice.”

“But should I?”

“You can. It will be a better argument.”

“So, I could write 6 paragraphs.”

“Yes you could.”

“Okay, then I will.”

Suddenly, a student next to him remarked, “Dude, you don’t have to. Why do you want to write so much?” I almost wanted to share this sentiment.

From this conversation with him, I can tell he had a really good English teacher in his old middle school, a teacher who had high expectations. And he was a student who pursued high expectations.

Without being forced to.

I have never had such a conversation with such a student before. I’ve had similar students who cared a lot about what I wanted, but not to this level. Yet, I can’t even say that Jason really wanted to do what I wanted. Deep down, I believe he wanted to go above and beyond. Just because.

This was a summer class that did not “count for school,” yet he did his best to learn, took our learning time seriously, and went beyond. This particular type of student is so rare. I want to harness this same energy and spirit of learning in my classroom this year.

I don’t know what Jason’s relationship with his parents are, but I’m sure they do care about his grades.

I want to tell him again:

Jason, you are amazing. Keep doing you. Don’t let others hold you back.

I am so proud of you.

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5 thoughts on “Fulfilling Beyond Expectations

Add yours

  1. Aww this is such a great story, yes I feel like when you aren’t pushed as much, you really develop that love for learning on your own – that’s at least how it happened for me😆Hopefully you get to meet more kids like Jason this year!

  2. It must be challenging to encourage students to take learning seriously and be inquisitive. I applaud you for your efforts. So many of the undergraduate college students I’ve worked with recently struggle with the types of assignments you describe. Keep up the good work! Caring teachers open up new, perhaps unimagined, possibilities for students’ futures.

  3. I wish I was Jason when I was younger. He seems to understand that learning isn’t just something you do to please others, or to pass certain expectations. I hope you continue to encourage him as well. Thanks for this great story, Jennk!

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