There’s my favorite student! But why…?

We all witnessed the “good” and “bad” students in our school years, and we may have even noticed some of the good students to be a teacher’s favorite. And we can then ask, why is a student good or bad, and what does that mean?

Jumping back to¬†Kumashiro’s “Against Common Sense”, we can see that the idea of a good student, and what that looks like, relates back to our first week on commonsense in education. As a society, we have this perfect image of a student who will fit exactly in the lines of expectations and curriculum, and will absorb our knowledge without resistance or bumps down the road. In this sense, the good student is the one who will learn from the materials provided by the school. This can also be expanded further, to say that a good student is someone who does not oppose society and the schools. The good student will align politically and ideologically with mainstream society and the current worldviews dominating the schools. Of course when we negate this, the bad student is any student who doesn’t fit. From the text, “the school did not know what and/or how to teach, or . . . the student was unable or unwilling to do the work necessary to learn” (pg. 21, with “because” omitted).

Looking at this definition of a good student, we can see where privilege can come into play. In my first blog response I spoke about commonsense, and how it is a local concept that changes when you travel. However, in a country like Canada, how is it possible for us to have one common sense when we are multicultural? This also brings into play what we spoke about last week with autonomous and ideological teaching, and how there is a different model of autonomous learning in every place you travel (a difference that is invisible until you consider the lens of the ideological model/umbrella), and that it will naturally support the local commonsense. In Canada, the dominant version of commonsense could be considered the “white version” or the European influenced ideas that are scattered through our society. If that is the case, then you will be educationally privileged the closer you align to that version of common sense.

Some aspects of the classroom become hidden when you are too focused on the commonsensical version of a good student. The more focused you focus on the idea of a good student, the more negative your thoughts will be towards those bad students. For example, in the article we spoke about student M. They had trouble participating in the normal structured work in the classroom. Then, when the class did unstructured work where other students sometimes struggle, student M was drawing detailed artwork, inquiring about museum exhibits, constantly showing intense concentration and a very active curiosity and imagination. This student wanted to learn, and was constantly learning in their own ways through curiosity, but they couldn’t work with the standard learning process that the school and society expect from them. Due to this, the student was labeled a bad student, unteachable in the minds of many, but in reality he was unprivileged in the societal expectations. The commonsense ideas in this case hid the creativity and curiosity that student M was always showing, the imagination when he was storytelling through his imaginative fantasy with a stick sword. This was covered up with the label of a bad student, and because the teacher couldn’t make the student fit the societal cookie cutter, she got frustrated and felt a sense of failure since. The teacher thought this student wasn’t learning anything because of commonsense and society, but in reality the student was constantly inquiring about their enviroment, and constantly being creative.

As educators, we try our best to adapt and include a wide variety of learning types. These adaptations, however, tend to remain in the realm of common sense and societal norms. Sometimes we can’t believe that the non-commonsensical styles are possible, and we will do this subconsciously. Continuing on the idea of common sense, it is our responsibility as teachers to consider what is not standard. As said in the article, this doesn’t mean letting students learn and do what they want. However, perhaps there is a way to connect your lesson to the student’s abstract learning process, allowing them to focus on curricula content while still learning in their own way. A “good” teacher will teach their content, a “great” teacher will drive their students to become curious about the content, and it is our challenge as educators to move from good to great.

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