According to the commonsense, a “good” student is one who sits quietly, listens to instructions and follows them in a timely manner. The “good” student completes the task(s) in the prescribed manner within the timeline given. Students who are privileged by this definition are those who are capable of listening to, understanding and following instructions exactly as instructed. They are the Type A personality students! Unfortunately, the commonsense mindset makes teachers believe that every child should behave in this manner, thus making it difficult to understand when they behave differently. Those students who cannot, or do not adhere in the way considered appropriate to the commonsense definition, are then considered a problem.
Just because a student does not “fit” into the commonsense idea of a “good” student does not mean that they are “bad.” It is important for teachers to reflect upon the way they structure their class and lessons to ensure that they are engaging all types of students to promote an optimal learning environment for all. Even the slightest change can make a significant positive impact on a student’s learning and behavior. For example, implementing a variety of instruction techniques, or allowing students a choice of projects, allows a greater chance of success for all students. Taking the time to observe and to listen to your students is crucial, not only for their individual success, but also for your effectiveness as a teacher.
Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences outlines eight different potential pathways to learning. He suggests several ways to present material to facilitate learning for those who have difficulty following the more traditional approach. Often, these students are not considered to be “good” students and will be much more successful if material is presented in a way that uses a different Multiple Intelligence. Howard’s theory encourages teachers to use a wide variety of techniques that include music, cooperative learning, art activities, role plays, multi-media, field trips, etc. This variety of instruction and opportunities for students allow for learning that better suits each individual student’s needs.