Learning as an attitude

As an educator, I often have the opportunity to reflect on learning. It is my goal, and that of all my colleagues at the University of New York in Prague, to help our students to learn and be better prepared to face the challenges that they will encounter in their lives. In my role as Departmental Chair and director of the bachelor's program in International and Economic Relations, I interview every single student who joins our program. There is one question that I ask every candidate I talk to: what do you think it is that makes a student a good student? I get all types of answers, but the majority of the prospective students refer to the hard work, motivation, discipline, autonomy and creativity that is needed in order to be successful in a university program such as ours. While I agree with my interviewees that these are all characteristics that help students to succeed, my personal answer to this question would be different.


My answer comes from my experience as a teacher who has dealt with all different types of students. Some of them are brilliant, and need minimal support to perform extremely well. Others may not be as talented but put in a lot of effort, and get very good results in this way. Some students are not so ambitious, and are satisfied to simply pass their courses and graduate, without setting the personal goal of a high GPA. However, if I had to select the students with the highest potential out of those that I have taught, the faces that would come to my mind are not necessarily the students that obtained the highest results. The main difference between a very good student and a special student is a certain attitude to learning. The best students are those that are always ready and willing to learn, and who take every opportunity to acquire knowledge and experiences which will help them to grow. Of course, the student that always tries to prepare to answer exam questions perfectly, or writes an essay that precisely analyzes the topic proposed by the instructor, will doubtlessly get top marks. However, the most promising student is the one that takes every single opportunity – in and out of class – to know more and be well prepared. Taking part in extracurricular activities such as student clubs, organizing events, doing community work that will help you to understand the reality of the world around you, attending conferences and guest lectures, meeting interesting people and being exposed to original ideas – these are all ways in which the most promising students can develop their true potential. I always encourage students to think of education as a process, as an attitude to life; not as a goal restricted to books and lectures, and confined to the classroom. When I see those students for whom learning is an attitude, I cannot help but smile and feel proud of having had the opportunity to modestly contribute to their success.

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