I write a lot about problems: challenging students, challenging relationships, challenging situations. I hope these articles help and welcome specific questions. But this week I’d like to focus on a couple of students who have challenged themselves to be the best that they can be. Names, grade, gender have been changed for the sake of anonymity.
Henry is a freshman. He is bilingual and his parents speak limited English. His family is large and very close. Henry has excelled as long as he’s been in school. He always has homework completed when it’s due, often before it’s due. He always does more than he is asked – if he’s supposed to write 3 paragraphs, you can be sure he’ll have 2 pages. He is accelerated in math and English. He is a 4.0 student. More importantly, he enjoys school and his achievements, but never brags about his accomplishments. He’s friendly, polite to his teachers and peers, and well-liked and well-adjusted. He appears to truly enjoy learning new things and being challenged. And he’s never, ever said he couldn’t do something because he’s too busy or tired or the work is too hard.
Diane is a sophomore. She’s quiet, funny, focused. Like Henry, she does all her work and seldom complains about how hard a teacher is or how much homework she has. If you ask her classmates, they will unanimously tell you that she is sweet and kind and really smart. She too has a 4.0 grade point average – the result of focus and commitment and hard work.
Janet is a junior. While some subjects may be challenging for her – science for instance – she still continues to take the classes because she will attend a 4-year college and is determined to meet all the requirements. This includes taking an on-line Spanish class because our small school doesn’t offer a foreign language at this time. Janet is also a strong athlete and student leader. You will hear her complain from time to time about how much she has to do, but she still does it. Her 3.9 GPA is a reflection of her hard work and self-motivation.
Finally, there is Ricky. Unlike the others, he hasn’t always had good grades. Reading was a struggle, as was extreme shyness. But he did remain cheerful and he did grab every opportunity to get help and build his skills. And recently, he taught the entire student body a particular dance which required that he be alone in front of everyone! As a freshman and sophomore, he felt bullied and victimized. Now he is one of the most well-liked students in his senior class. What he does share with the others is commitment and a willingness to work hard.
As I write about these kids, I see that they share certain characteristics. I don’t know their IQs, but with these kids, it doesn’t matter. What matters is they do the work whether they want to or not. They challenge themselves by doing more than what is asked. They get help when they need it. They work until they get it. They quietly and, for the most part cheerfully, move through their lives with academic success a priority. They appear to be self-motivated and self-reliant. But the main attribute they share is the willingness to work hard; to put in the time and energy that it always takes to accomplish something important.
So take a look at your kids and other kids in their schools, and pick out the generally unsung, often unrecognized academic heroes among them.