During my First Quarter at Antioch, I was Asked, “What Makes a Great Student?” Here is my Response:
Not someone who gets good grades or even produces A+ work. Not someone who can memorize every lesson and word read for the class. No. A great student is someone who shows up and is all in.
A great student comes with their heart forward, mind open, and voice present. They put in the work, they don’t hide. They spend quality time with each assignment and reading, dissecting what they may not know and thinking deeply about what their eyes have absorbed.
A great student knows that they are not perfect, and they don’t need to be.
But the point of their education, any kind of education, is that they expand. The mind expands, the heart expands, the questions expand. They know that they do not know everything, and that seriously excites them. Being a good student is hard. As your mind expands you can almost feel the ache of your tissues as they reach towards a greater awareness.
Great students dive in head first to unknown territory, finding bits of meaning and interest in everything. They know that they are not the best in the room. They are in awe at how other people’s brains work, discover, and expand. They are in awe of the beauty that radiates from the classroom because learning is taking place.
A great student makes every attempt to connect with their classmates and teacher and to make sure someone else knows that they are seen. They make sure that their teacher knows who they are, even if just a little bit, no matter how frightening. And when they return to the comfort of their bed each night, they lay tenderly in the darkness, feeling grateful for the influence that their learning has had on them.Great students find new appreciations for the world in places they never thought they would, or even knew existed. Even in their own lives, they realize “Wow, that must have been a good thing,” for every lesson learned. They are kind…and also loud. They rise up, and know that the fight is different for all people, yet also connected. They know their responsibility to be an advocate is now heightened because of the knowledge they have gained.
They find connections within other classes or life experiences or people or things they love. They repeatedly find themselves saying “Oh! I learned that in my other class! I know what that is!” and they marvel at their newfound intelligence. They find ways to put their newly crafted minds to work and are in service to others. Yet, they also use it to take care of themselves. They feel the fire inside of their bellies and can’t believe it’s there, within them!
Sometimes a great student isn’t found within school walls. Sometimes they are hiding in places where the privilege of getting a formal education has not yet reached them. We overlook them due to lack of degrees, but they are just as valuable, just as bright, and maybe even more noteworthy.
Most of all, a great student loves.
Not just in the romantic sense or verbal sense or even in the sense that everything is great and perfect all the time. But in the way that people love from the vibration of their souls, radiating out of them to find the heart of another. They love where people have come from and where they are going, and the same for themselves. They love the magical exploration through the world that happens when they declare themselves, a student.