Today was the start of the third week of school. A student withdrew from my class last night. So there’s the first blemish on my student success record this year. Bleh.
I’ve talked before about student success and the College Completion Agenda <insert eye roll here>. And one of the things I’ve said time and again is that learning–real learning–is not measured by completion or graduation. It may not truly be measurable at all. And yet, increasingly in Higher Ed completion and graduation are the means by which we are being judged. More graduates = more success. Right?
Wrong. Of course, there’s not much we can do about that. When the government ties Financial Aid to numbers, we have to give them numbers. And the numbers they want are completion, graduation, and now, more ever than before, employability.
A former student came to visit me today. Six and a half years after I first taught him. We talked and laughed–particularly over the part where he failed one of my classes. Correction: 2 of my…no…3 of my classes. He failed 3 of my classes. And today he invited me to his graduation at the 4-year university down the street. He’s been accepted to law school. And he wanted me to know that–despite failing multiple classes and, admittedly hating me for a time, he had come to appreciate what I’d tried to do for him when he was in my classes. He hated me because I pushed him and made him work. And he didn’t want to do that then. Clearly, he was capable. But he wasn’t ready.
I tell my Freshman Seminar students that the most important thing they will have to learn to embrace in order to succeed in college and life is personal responsibility. It is until that happens–until they accept that they are in control of their learning, their education, their lives–that they will ever get anything out of the college experience. That maturation in thinking is what college is all about.
And you can’t measure it. And it takes time.
That student who withdrew form my class last night? It might just not be her time. Maybe she’s not ready. But that doesn’t mean that I failed. It doesn’t mean we failed as an institution. It just means she wasn’t ready. But like the student who came back to see me today, she may be ready a little further down the road.
There’s a lot we can do to help set the stage for students to succeed. But ultimately, they’re the actors in their own plays, and if they’re not ready to take the stage and give it their all, well…they’re just not yet ready. That’s all.