27 April 2011

Lucky

What words would you use to describe the perfect student?  I was thinking about this last night (while sitting in absolutely terrible traffic) and this is the list I came up with (in no particular order):
  • intrinsically motivated
  • intelligent
  • hard-working
  • receives enjoyment from accomplishing a difficult task
  • courteous
  • passionate
Obviously not a complete list and I would love for others to add to this.  Let me explain why I am talking about this.  I have the unbelievable good fortune of tutoring a student who has every one of these traits.  She is 15 years old and has already received a 5 on the AP Spanish, AP English Language, and AP Literature exams, is currently being tutored in AP Calculus and AP Chinese, and is receiving extra Chemistry instruction (originally I was tutoring her for the AP Chemistry exam, but her schedule got in the way and we decided to just supplement what she is doing in her honors class).  She has attended seminars at Harvard (even though they are for college freshmen) and is planning on doing a 2 month internship in China in the fall.  Her parents are incredibly supportive and have always given her every opportunity she could want to allow her to completely develop her abilities.

I am sure you are thinking "why does she need extra Chemistry help if she is so gifted?"  It is a long story, but let's say that her teacher is not the most transparent about what is going to be on assessments.  My job is to attempt to predict what the teacher might ask and how she might ask it, and then find problems to match that.  So we are working on some pretty high-level topics for an Honors Chemistry class (for my science people: Kinetics, Thermodynamics, Redox, Nuclear) and I always try to give her AP Exam problems because that seems to be the difficulty level of the teacher's test.

Anyway, we work through a problem and when we get to the end, my tutoree says "Wow, that was so awesome.  Can we do another?"  I smile, and find another one that has a twist in how you need to answer the question.  After I explain this trick, she says, "That is so neat.  It is so cool how they want you to make those connections."  I stare at her.  No one, not even Chemistry teachers, call AP Exam problems 'neat.'  I have been tutoring this girl since September and I still cannot wrap my brain around the idea that she actually gets excited by solving challenging problems, wanting me to find more, even harder questions.

I hope every teacher has the good fortune to have a student like this one at least once in their career.