In one of my favorite movies, ‘The Count Of Monte Cristo,’ innocent, protagonist, Edmund ends up in prison. He meets another prisoner, The Priest, who asks him to help him escape. In return, he would offer Edmund something priceless. “My freedom?” Edmund asks. The Priest responds “no, freedom can be taken away, I offer you knowledge.”
Because of recent events, we know how easily our freedom can be taken away and how knowledge or more specifically wisdom is so valuable. To gain wisdom you start by being a good student.
A good student doesn’t have to be that super genius kid in your class, and a good student doesn’t even have to go to school.
Is it important to be a good student? I don’t just mean in a classroom setting, though that is important. Being a good student is vital to progress and growth in all facets of life, it starts in the classroom but it leads everywhere else. It is about more than being smart it’s about being wise.
Here are some characteristics of a good student.
A good student is comfortable saying “I don’t know”
When my sister was five years old she sincerely thought that she didn’t need any more schooling. She knew everything already, and if she encountered something she didn’t know she would pretend she did. Of course, she couldn’t learn that way. When a good student encounters something they don’t know yet, they use it as an opportunity to learn rather than just a lack of knowledge. The best students are eager and love to learn.
From the song ‘A Piece Of Sky’ sung by Barbara Streisand, a lyric says “the more I live, the more I learn, the more I learn the more I realize the less I know.” The best students are humble, always positioning themselves in a state where they are able to improve their knowledge because they realize there is so much more to learn. Good students seek knowledge and they start by saying “I don’t know.”
A good student teaches
The best students are the best teachers. Because they have a healthy appetite for learning new stuff, they further cement their knowledge by explaining it so others can understand as well. Teaching is also the greatest opportunity to learn. The first time I taught my own writing class, I was 15. I promise I was no expert or genius. But I was a good student. I knew what helped me to learn, stay engaged, and have fun in a classroom. I also knew what best helped me understand slightly more complex ideas. I used that to teach. I learned more from teaching that class than any class I actually took and I became a better writer by editing my students’ work. Because they understand the importance of loving to learn, good students can teach that mindset to others.
A good student can learn from every kind of teacher
Recently, I’ve been learning how to navigate the job hunt and it is nothing like I imagined it would be and the results so far are, let’s say inconclusive. Would you believe I pictured navigating the job hunt like surfing the waves? It would be fun and thrilling, like a balancing act, wind flowing through your hair, and looking cool while doing it. Of course, I’ve never actually been surfing, so I don’t know how difficult it actually is. But it looks cool.
Success or not I’ve actually learned a lot from this endeavor. I learned what hiring managers look for and therefore I know what I need to learn next. I learned how to be my own advocate and how to (believe it or not) make good decisions. I learned it is more valuable to a company to be an efficient worker than a “hard” worker. Yes, I’ve yet to be hired, but I have a good amount of valuable knowledge about it and it will help me in the long run.
You see, the best students never take a teacher for granted. Whether that teacher is a situation, a bad decision, criticism, a season in your life, or even a bad teacher, the best students know they can always learn something. This means good students are very intentional about their observations, their learning environments, and their learning opportunities. I know there are teachers out there that are less than helpful but even the bad teachers at the minimum can teach you how not to teach.
A good student takes instruction with a grain of salt
The best students ask questions. They research things for themselves and form their own opinions. They understand that even the greatest teachers can be mistaken or not have all the answers. A good student knows how to question what they learn. They take ownership of their education.
“Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that comes from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.” — Colossians 2:8 (NLT)
A good student knows how to learn
When I was in the 5th grade I took my first test. It was in anatomy class. I loved this class I got to do experiments and I understood the material quite well. The grade I received on that test was 53. Learning is a skill rarely taught. I understood the material but clearly, because of my grade, I did not learn it. After I received this grade, (and because I was homeschooled) my mother taught me how to study, and specifically how I individually learn. I never failed a test again. And because I know how to learn, I can learn anything. It comes in handy at work when I have to learn a new computer system or train for a promotion. I learn well and I learn quickly.
A good student applies what they learn
This year I said I would try to read more books. I thought it would help me gain knowledge and therefore become smarter and a better writer. I wasn’t wrong. I asked every book-loving friend I had for their recommendations but I realized something as I began reading. Knowledge without practice is no good for anyone. The best students actively apply what they learn to their lives. You can’t learn to drive by only sitting in a classroom, you have to get experience on the road. That means a good student participates in class. Even if you’re not in a formal classroom, the best way to learn is by practice and experience. When I competed in speech and debate, I noticed that I always did better in competition when I practiced my speech in front of a real audience instead of just in the mirror. Good students seek out experiences and opportunities to practice their newly learned skills. For that is how they truly learn.
A good student learns constantly
The best students don’t take breaks from learning. When trying to form a healthy habit it is important to be consistent. When my mother taught ballet, it was a rule in her class that if she is working with a student individually, the rest of the class was not allowed to chat amongst themselves and lean on the barre. She always said if the class already understood the move she was showing another student they should still pay attention because there is always something to learn. At the very least they can learn to teach that move. Good students don’t lean on the barre.
A good student learns from their peers
I’m blessed to say that I’ve had many great teachers in my life, but most recently my favorite teachers have been the people I learn with, my peers. You become who you hang out with. This isn’t always a good thing so be careful who you choose to learn from.
Even though your peers are not masters quite yet, they still have much to teach you. Your peers most likely will have a different perspective on things. I learn so much from a collaborative environment. I am proud to say I have some peer professors in my life and gain wisdom from them.
A good student is a lead learner
This is perhaps what I need to work on the most. From my observations, the best students lead the discussion, the project, the learning process. We are all learning together and a good student is confident enough to take the lead. It is my goal to be a lead learner. I feel far off from it but as I continue to learn I know I will get there.
I’ve learned to be a good student through trial and error, but ultimately all wisdom comes from God and He is the greatest teacher of all time.
“In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments.”Colossians 2:3 – 4(NLT)