Some time ago I gave a pop quiz. The day before in class we had worked on some grammar. For homework, I asked students to review it. The next day I gave a pop quiz. Afterward, a student said, “I never expected that.”
“Really? I dropped big hints that I was thinking about giving a pop quiz. Did you review for homework?”
“No, I didn’t, because I never expected that.”
I was discussing with my colleague how frustrating it was when students expected to actually learn without putting forth effort. I have heard students sigh, “I failed again,” after admitting that the only studying they did was during lunch . . . for ten minutes . . . at a table crowded with friends and Cheetos. Let me restate that: I have heard students sigh, “I failed again,” while they lament how horrible it was for them because they studied so much . . . for ten minutes . . . during lunch . . . at a table crowded with friends and Cheetos.
Colleague and I went on to talk about how the best students often aren’t the most gifted ones; they are the ones who work hard. They do their homework every night. When these students don’t understand something, they don’t accept it. They ask questions. In a group, they don’t spend ten minutes talking about their weekend and when their teacher comes in earshot say, “Okay . . . number three. . . .” Sometimes these students earn an honest B or C instead of the A. But they stand out to the teacher as having dignity, motivation, integrity. And while their knowledge may be hard-fought, it is theirs entirely and it is hard-lost.
Watching these students has informed my jiu jitsu practice. I am not the best practitioner. But I strive to go regularly, to ask questions, to try hard. I know I never will be (at my age!) the best jitser, and I don’t care. I’m not going to win at Mundials. That’s not the point. Although I sometimes feel like my knowledge is hard-fought and easily-lost, Shark Girl is trying to learn, and that’s a very different thing from winning.