In high school, I remember dreading the homework for my classes, especially math and science ones.
I wouldn’t really engage the material, but rather just memorize facts and regurgitate them, or plug-n-chug numbers into equations, all the while maintaining a very pained, wounded expression.
Looking back, however, I realize that I was entirely disinterested in what I was “learning;” I only felt a desire to get the grade.
In history class, I learned about each presidency separately. Such was the path the average student might take, knowing about Nixon’s term and the Watergate scandal. But there’s little redemption in memorizing bits and pieces of information but not trying to piece them together.
A high-reaching student, by contrast, would understand how Nixon was influenced by predecessors and how his own actions affected future presidents. I was largely an average student.
I suppose that sometimes my teachers were to blame, mainly those who issued busywork, or work that was assigned mainly to simply be done, to keep students busy. This work ethic promoted a memorization method that I’ve come to abhor.
The work is minimally effective, forcing students to use repetition to temporary hammer simple ideas and facts into their brains. Busywork was straightforwardly easy; as long as students endured and simply completed it, they received the grade, at the expense of a rigorous mental challenge.
But some teachers actually pushed us to use our heads, even if I only began to appreciate their efforts after I moved onto college. These sort of teachers are doing great deeds for their students in the long term.
They are requesting their students to recognize connections between concepts, more than just the concepts themselves. What distinguishes an individual who reaches high from one who settles? Those who reach high ask not just who, what, where and when, but also how and why?
When teachers have high standards for their students, such students begin to expect more of themselves.
If we keep living following the same daily routine, we ask ourselves “why” less and less, as we begin to settle for the status quo. As we increasingly dismiss our dissatisfaction with ourselves, we start to slack.
I have realized that there is great value in the simple lecture-reading combination, mainly because it cuts out the busywork. The reading focuses on lots of basic ideas, while the lecture serves to connect those ideas together.
Today, a new quarter of classes starts at my university. As George Lopez often says,