There is No Such Thing as a Bad Student

I recently read comments on an article about a new platform that allows teachers to sell their lesson plans to teachers worldwide.  In a response to the article, one person commented that the quality of student has decreased and others agreed with his assessment.

How dare we even talk about the “quality” of a student?  A student comes to school as a “tabula rasa” (blank slate) and as teachers, we are responsible for developing a quality student.

An expectation of “student quality” suggests that some students are predisposed to successfully complete the teacher’s work and others are not.  Thus if they do not succeed in a particular teacher’s classroom then it must be the student that is the problem.  To be clear, I am not suggesting that students should be passive participants nor that all the responsibility for learning rests on the teacher.

Mr. Miyagi (left) taught Danny Karate to build his confidence and prepare him for a tournament.

There is a line by Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid that reads, “no such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.”  I agree with this line, but I would not necessarily use the word “bad” to describe teacher.  Instead I would replace it with unsuccessful.

I believe every student is capable of achieving great success, the only question is how they will achieve it.  As teachers, it is OUR job to find a way to reach that student.  Can EACH of us reach EVERY student?  Absolutely not.  There are some students we will simply not be able to reach.  However, that is not because the student is unreachable or his quality is low.  It is because that particular teacher could not reach that particular student.  That is not a bad reflection on the teacher.  That does not mean the teacher is bad.  It simply means the teacher was not successful with that particular student.  Thus, this student is simply to be reached by another teacher.

I believe we have to be very careful about even considering the existence of a so-called measure of “student quality”.  I don’t believe that is something that needs to be measured and/or discussed.  What we should focus on is collaborating and finding new and innovative ways to reach students we are struggling to reach.  If we truly believe all students are reachable, then students too will believe they are.  To make a student believe he or she is of poor quality will absolutely hurt the student’s by limiting the possibilities for success.

To that end, we are fortunate to be living in a world that has powerful tools for communicating with others world wide.  Thus, we can collaborate with teachers all over the world to find the help and resources to reach the students we struggle to reach.  However, if we allow ourselves to believe there is such thing as student quality, it simply won’t make sense to pursue new and innovative solutions.  Instead it will make sense to simply say, “that student is just not reachable.”  In my opinion, that is unacceptable.

It is my firm belief that every student can be taught and as teachers it is our privilege to have the opportunity to find a way.

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4 thoughts on “There is No Such Thing as a Bad Student

  1. Very well said! As an educator, I have always felt that way! I’m really glad I came across your article today! Thank you for conveying my beliefs and values when it comes to pedagogy, so well!

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