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Good Learning, Bad Student

I was not a great student.

I skated through college with a perfect 3.0, bolstered by my many dance and choral classes.

The reason I wasn’t a good student was not because of a lack of intelligence. Nor was it laziness. I’m an incredibly hard worker. In fact, I’m a bit of a workaholic, one of the things that makes the current state of my bank account extra depressing.

The reason I wasn’t a good student is because I didn’t care about grades.

That and I loved weed.

But mainly because I didn’t care about grades. I didn’t really see the value of homework. I certainly didn’t care about proving how much I was learning by regurgitating information on a test. I was learning. I was absorbing knowledge. I didn’t feel the need to prove it.

I’m not endorsing this method of scholarship, I’m simply admitting who I was.

The weird thing is, I think not being a great student is one of the things that makes me a pretty good teacher. I know that there is a difference between learning and grades.

I have two students in my class this semester, and they’re doing a’ight. Certainly not setting the world a blaze. Whenever I grade their tests I’m always like, “Huh, thought they would do better than that.”

But then, one of them turned in a play that showed real promise. And for an extra credit question on the final, I asked What is One Thing You Are Taking Away From the Class, and this student wrote that something I had said became their Instagram Bio! What?? That’s amazing???!! I think that is the highest compliment a member of Generation Z can bestow!!!

Then there was the other one. This student did medium well on her tests. Bombed a quiz or two. And for the most part just sat there silently, doing nothing to help booster the Class Participation part of their grade. And then last night I had to read their lab paper, a report on a play called The Cost of Living. And there, in the paper, this student summed up perfectly my entire view of art without me ever had said it. "That is the nature of connectivity,” this person wrote. “Knowing someone else is dealing with a similar situation as you."

I had to put down the paper and text my teacher/friend/mentor Joy Vandervort-Cobb. One of the people who loved and cared about me despite my fondness for not remembering tests. I read passages from this person’s paper to Jaimie while we were lying in bed.

It reminded me of why I love to teach theatre, not just to acting majors, but to people who know nothing about it. Theatre just has this way of connecting people. Of breaking down walls. I don’t fully understand it, even after all these years. The power of this art form always surprises me. And reminds me yet again that value is deeper than money. And that learning is more than grades.

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