Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blessed Overachievers

School began Monday, and I am already receiving e-mails and calls from students. Yesterday I had this exchange, by telephone:

Student: Hi, Dr. C. I already e-mailed you, but I wanted to cover all my bases, so I'm calling you, too.

Me: Okay.

Student: I ordered my book a while ago, and it was supposed to arrive today, but it didn't. And we have reading due tomorrow. Is there any way I can borrow a book so that I can complete the reading by class time?

Me: Oh, I wouldn't worry about it. I still have students on the waitlist, and I can't let them in until tomorrow, so they won't have texts yet. I won't be giving a quiz on the reading until next week.

Student: (Silence.)

Me: Okay? Does that help? Don't worry about it. Okay?

Student: Yes, but, you see, I'm an overachiever.

And there is the word, that glorious, happy, fantastic word. If you are not an educator, you cannot understand how much beautiful music this word creates inside me, warming me from my toes to the top of my head. I love all of my students--no, I really do, I'm not joking--but I have an especially soft place in my heart for the overachieving ones. Yes, they call me and e-mail me a lot. They turn in rough drafts (sometimes four of them for a single essay), and that may make them a bit more high maintenance. But they are truly fabulous, and, of course, now I'm going to tell you why.

Reason #1: They don't rest on their talents. If anything, they underestimate how skilled they already are, fearing they are going to fail if they don't work extra hard. Any advice or comment they receive they feel grateful for, take to heart, and strive to work on. And this is such a contrast to those who have talent, but don't use it (so disheartening).

Reason #2: They don't see their learning as my responsibility. If they aren't getting something, they already know it's their job to either figure it out or ask for help. I don't even have to meet these students halfway, for they are working diligently from the first moment they step in class.

Reason #3: They are active learners. They do all their homework, participate in all discussions, and do everything I ask (and often more). And they demand to be taught. Nothing makes them more upset than feeling like they are taking a class and getting nothing out of it. Yes, they want a good grade, but they want that grade to mean something.

Reason #4: Their enthusiasm is contagious. If I have one overachiever in class, by the end of the course I have at least eight, for their resolve and work ethic rubs off on other students. They make me enthusiastic, too, and I start getting bummed when I have a weekend, for it means I won't see them for a few days. Teaching for me is invigorating, and a good class makes it even more so.

So, this morning, I lift my coffee cup to all of those overachievers out there. Here's to you, and may you be an overachiever for the rest of your life!


  1. You know, I always thought I was an overachiever, but now I'm not so sure. Maybe I was. Teachers did like me.

    I can see why they'd be a great addition to a class. I'm glad you have (at least) one.

  2. I am if I like what I'm doing.

    I hate to say, if I feel the work is beneath me, i don't go above and beyond. I spend most of my time looking for ways to get somewhere that will challenge me.

    But for a teacher I can see how this can help immensely.

    Good luck.

  3. I think part of my job is to excite students with what is going on in the classroom, but I also love it when they come in with their own enthusiasm.

  4. I've been told by a teacher that I am an overachiever. I used to worry that I was stressing the teacher out. Thanks for the encouragement :)

  5. Yes! This is the kind of student my kids are (well, except perhaps in your subject--they're more math/science geeks...[well, except for the Goth, who is great at math/science but wants to be a writer {you've never read such interesting and well-written lab reports!}]). Let's here it for the Geeks!