Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How to Be a Good Student and a Happy Person

My tutoring student just answered questions on an assignment in the on-line course she's taking, and she answered them in typical bored teen-ager fashion.  The answers were pro-forma, incomplete, lazy - belying the fact that she's one of the most intelligent and engaging young women I've ever met.

I gave her some advice on how to do better than that - advice that will not only help her in this course, but in everything she does in life.

Here's what I said ...

There's only one difference between being a teen and being an adult.  Being an adult is exactly like being a teen except for one thing - you try to do well things that you don't like doing.  That's what makes you an adult.  And it's what makes you happy.
To be bored with something that doesn't thrill you and to respond selfishly is a recipe for lifelong sulking.  Your job as a student, and also as a compassionate human being, is to find something in what you're presented with that interests you and then to respond engagingly and cordially.  This is basic good manners when dealing with people, and it's also good scholarship when it comes to education.
You might think that the material and the busy-work in a course is beneath you, but find the truth in what you're learning, and respond to that truth in an entertaining and interested way.  This will make you a favorite with your teachers.  And it will actually help you to learn.
For example, in this required course you're taking from the University of Missouri Online High School, Financial Planning, there's plenty of institutional-think and  busy work, but in Lesson Two, for example, they talk about not just Financial Planning, but about careers.  They want you to assess yourself and to research careers so that you can discover the mystery of your vocation - what God made you to do.  They don't use those terms, but they recognize the importance of vocation, so that all of the questions and activities you think are pointless and stupid are actually designed to get you to consider the great mystery of what you like, what will make you happy, and how you can structure your life to get yourself there.
Focus on that - for that's a good thing.  Engage in that, follow that thread and then answer the questions with a genuine care and in a way that will be pleasing and entertaining to your readers, the teachers who will be grading this.  Keep your audience in mind, but tell them the truth, and you'll be a good writer and a good student all of your life.

Colin O'Brien - big man on campus.
Good advice, but of course it's advice I gave my own son Colin all of his life, and it's advice he's still ignoring.  For example, even now as a student at George Washington University in Washington, DC, he so much hates his required science courses and science labs that  he's blogging about it here.  I told him I was reluctant to link to his blog posts, because even though they're funny, Colin uses the F-bomb every other word.  Like his father, he only writes when he's angry, but unlike his father, his audience is not composed mostly of old codgers who watch EWTN.


At any rate, the gulf between teen-aged boredom and adult happiness is a question of engagement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That might be the last time I get to use this joke.

Dr. Eric