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Keys to Student Success

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”                                                                                             James 1:19

Today, Pastor preached on the passage introduced by this verse and two of his points stood out to me as keys to student success:  listening, and persevering.

Prior to seminary and the pastorate, he did the corporate gig for many years. He said that in over 25 years of managing people in various situations, corporate and spiritual, he noticed that literally 99% of problems in personnel, miscommunication, and so on were due to people not listening either to each other or to directions. He said that if we were quick to listen, slow to formulate our next statement and pronounce it, we would hear most of what we need to know to solve most of our problems. So often we are so busy planning the next thing in our minds, we are not fully present in the now and engaging with what others are saying.

This is very true of our students. They are so busy trying to get through their assignments or thinking about their next class, next date, or whatever that they fail to listen to all directions given, and worse, fail to read everything we provide. They skim it, or assume it’s the way they’ve done it in other classes, or just jump in without looking at the resources provided. Then they complain when they get it wrong and accuse us of not being clear, often. I have started having an automatic -5 point penalty for every time a student fails to follow directions. Of course, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that the instructions are complete and readily available. But, still, I have observed that if students will pay attention to what we tell them and the feedback we offer, they would get their work done faster and have at least half a grade point jump.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”                                                 James 1:22-25

Secondly, Pastor took this part of the passage and shared how often we struggle with knowing what to do, in whatever context you might imagine. He pointed out how if we will take the knowledge we already have and act on it, it will usually make the next step(s) clear. We often tend to know and understand more than we think and if we will implement what we know we have, we see we have more at hand. He offered, “do what you know until you know what to do.”

Again, this is true for our students. They look at a large or complicated assignment and quickly become overwhelmed. However if they will find even a tiny piece that they do understand and/or on which can quickly begin and start making progress, they find they can often make significant progress before really getting stuck. They find it faster and easier to come ask for help than to worry with it a bit like a dog with a rope. The ease of instant communication makes this option all the more tempting. I have found sometimes that if I sit on a student’s email for a bit, they will often find their own solution. Sometimes they even will email me again to preempt a response because they’ve figured it out. I’m not saying ignore them. I think it is professional and courteous to respond to all email, even to just acknowledge it, within 24 hours if possible. I’m just saying it isn’t always beneficial to respond the moment it pops in your inbox.

In short, if we 1) listen to others, paying attention to already available resources, and 2) act on what we do know before running for help, we will find many of our problems will take care of themselves. God even promises in this passage that doing so with His Word will cause us to be blessed in all we do. I suspect it also helps if we do it in all areas of life. God’s blessings are real, yet I suspect He has built in ready-made mechanisms for dispensing blessing in the laws of Creation. We tend to see it in terms of people who “create their own luck.” They do what they know they are able in order to maximize the likelihood of success, and success seems to continually find them. Like any skill, some are born with the innate ability to do it, but most of us have to learn it, and to the extent we do, we benefit.


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