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Three Lessons My Students Taught Me

— Effort determines results —

spectacular_accomplishmentThough students might be surprised to know this, many teachers – including me — would agree that we learn more from our students than our students learn from us. Every new session of my introductory entrepreneurship course reminds me of this. Here are just three lessons I’m (re)learning this term:

1. Everyone is extraordinary
Every student, even the least forthcoming, has a rich inner life and unique experiences to share. Yet many have yet to fully realize how extraordinary they are. That’s why I require each student to give a five-minute individual presentation (IP) focused exclusively on personal and/or career goals. Classmates (and teachers) learn much from these IPs, as do the presenters themselves, who are rarely asked to talk formally about themselves in class. A teacher’s job, in my view, is facilitating student self-disclosure.

2. Everyone can use more feedback
University students rarely get enough direct, personal feedback from teachers. Come to think of it, few of us get enough direct, personal feedback on our professional performance. For teachers, encouraging students is job number one; giving them feedback is job number two. Good feedback travels both ways: in winter quarter, a couple of students panned my grading methodology, which helped me improve a lot this term.

3. Effort determines results
I see this basic rule of success verified over and over again, inside the classroom and out: Average effort produces average results, extraordinary effort produces extraordinary results. Students who work hard on their IPs give dynamite presentations. Students who sweat over their assignments earn good grades (and even start companies). Effort determines results. This bonehead simple, cause-chalkboard_with_bookand-effect relationship is, in my view, life’s number one success rule.

A teacher’s effort determines results, too. This term I had the brilliant idea of giving ten graded assignments, all of which required me to provide individual feedback (no multiple-choice, Scantron-corrected tests in my classes). When double the usual number of students showed up, I was suddenly on the hook for some 200 mini-feedback essays. That kept me scrambling many extra hours, but the effort paid off in solid student progress.

Readers of Soul Shelter includes some extraordinary teachers (see What the Bricklayer Taught Me) and some extraordinary ex-teachers (see The Truth About Quitting). What have your students taught you? And for the learners among us — meaning everyone — what have your teachers taught you?

You may also enjoy:

In Defense of ‘Aimless’ Learning

On Pilgrimage: The Ghosts Who Are My Teachers

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