A good student is quiet, unless the teacher expects them to speak. When they speak, they say both what the teacher expects and desires. They say it so the rest of the class can hear, without being forceful. They work diligently, taking notes and completing assignments in class. They always submit their assignments on time and to the standard. They are pleasant, come from safe, nurturing homes, wear clean, quality clothing, and are involved in healthful extracurricular activities. They are fit, involved in school sports, and always encourage their peers. They keep their hair neatly styled. They don’t swear, but are popular. They are never challenged by the work assigned, but nor are they ever bored of it. They consistently take on additional projects because they want to learn more. They never seem stressed or bothered by the world around them. They epitomize what the teacher wishes about their own youth.
The commonsense definition of a good student depends entirely on the perceptions, expectations, and regrets of adults. Further, the ideal student is the student who would benefit most from the teacher’s planned instruction. If the student does well, without additional help, but never requires extra work, they fit perfectly into that teacher’s classroom. If they had 24 such students, why, they’d be set!
Middle class or higher students, with strong family lives, are privileged by this definition. Students from lower socio-economical backgrounds are disadvantaged. Children who have memorized and perfected repetition of the teacher’s worldview will do better than those who have radical or individualized thought. Students who struggle and students who excel will both be overshadowed by the students who perform competently without challenging the teacher.
It is impossible to see the individual challenges of students through this film of commonsense. The students who daily face trouble will never see success, and will always be struggling in the teacher’s eyes. The students who excel will never have difficultly, and their questions will always be an annoyance to the commonsense teacher. The students who fit the ideal will never be able to express their fears and challenges, because the commonsense teacher will only see their idealized aspects. The view of the “good student” will always categorize and sort students, until their individuality fades from view.