Do you know what distinguishes a good student from bad student? A good student wants to leave college with more than just a degree. They want knowledge.
There are a number of observations that can guide you in deciding which kind of student you’re dealing with. One of the most obvious is the post-exam reactions. If a student asks for an explanation as to why they got a particular question wrong, and that’s all they’re looking for, then you’re more than likely dealing with a good student. On the other hand, if a student argues over points—especially if those points amount to a fraction of a percent of the overall grade—well you can guess what category I’d put them in.
And then there are those students with the mantra, “C’s get degrees”.
Zach Weiner, in his webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, suggests yet another measurement to distinguish between a good and a bad student: see how they react to their loan statement.
This afternoon I turned in my spring grades. With that I’ve now completed four years as an assistant professor. This also means that the graduating class were incoming freshman when I first started. While I typically don’t teach to freshman, which means I don’t often get to watch a single academic career all the way through, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of great students.
This last weekend was Coastal Carolina’s commencement. For some faculty commencement seems to be a burden, but I’ve come to really enjoy attending commencement. With four years under my belt, it’s gotten to the point that at every commencement I know a reasonable number of graduating students. It’s nice to watch them cross that stage with a huge smile and to get their degrees. (Technically they don’t receive their degrees on the stage. Students have to wait a few weeks for them to arrive in the mail. It’s one last cruel joke that the administration plays on students.) It’s especially rewarding for the subset of students that I’ve built a friendship with. It can feel like watching a family member graduating. Knowing that I’ve played a (small) part in their lives feels good and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy teaching.
To all those graduating this spring, congratulations and good luck with what adventures come your way.