The notion of “good” students has been enrooted with commonsensical notions in many societies. “Good” students are students who always come prepared to class, do what the teachers told, practice “good” behaviours, and get high grades—we can go further and make a longer list. However, the notion of having “good” students is as problematic as defining a “good” teacher or a “good” citizen. This is because the sole concept of “good” is linked with all positive characteristics, to the point that it somehow develops the unrealistic idea of a “perfect” student. By defining “good” student, we immediately imply the standards and qualifications that we, as teachers, wanted to see and manifest that we have the power inside the class. In other words, we create a small box inside the class by placing these standards and limit the development of our students’ potentials. Moreover, we award an invisible privilege to students who follow the norms that we wanted to see. By this, we are blinded by the notion of “good” students as we categorize and judge their future. The presence of “good” students creates space for “bad” students—in other words, students who threatens and questions our capabilities and authorities as teacher.
I consider myself as a “good” student from Kindergarten. I am always one of those quiet students in class—to the point that I often receive a ribbon (an award or recognition) as “Most Behave” in class—and my teachers really like that. I grew up being highly competitive in school that I maintained to be in the top sections—top sections are class sections exclusively for students who have A- to A+ GPA—until high school graduation. Competitiveness plays a major factor in our culture—in the Philippines. The reward of having these ribbons and medals as recognition to my hard work pursued me to continue developing myself to be competitive and be a “good” student throughout my elementary to high school life. As a result, I grew up considering myself as a “good” student. The flexibility and adjustments of my teachers to my needs when we arrived in Canada allowed me to maintain my role of being a “good” student. However, I started to question this notion of “good” student when I was in grade 11, on my Psychology 30 class. The class required us to create a children’s book and my group has been devoted in creating a “good” book. My teacher was pleased with the work of my other classmates because they easily finished their books by using our class time. However, my group took longer to finish and failed to meet the due date. Without any further questions, our teacher disallowed us to present our book in the class and mark us zero even though he accepted the book. My group cannot accept his decision because we made a higher quality of book compared to the rest of the class. We all knew that we can easily hand in our book in time by making low quality books but we prefer spending more time and effort to the project. From then on, I questioned if we were diminished from being a “good” student just because we wanted to provide a better project. The lack of justification in this situation allowed me to disregard the notion of categorizing which students are “good” and not.
The concept of “good” students basically just highlights students who can follow simple instructions from the teacher. Outside those highlights are students who cannot walk inside the line of the box. As a result, we must avoid the idea of having “good” students in our class, as well as avoid unintentionally ostracizing the rest of the class. We have to be open in taking challenges from our students because this will help in the development, not only of our students but also our own. Hence, these challenges may be easier said than done but at least, being aware will guide us in better management of the situation than being ignorant. Certainly, there are more to learn but this knowledge will help me in establishing a firm stepping stone to enhance my own teaching philosophy.