I just came back from meeting a group of students who will begin their first semester here next week. There were eleven of them, most looking eager, some not so much. I can’t help but wonder if they’ll all be here in May. I’ve learned to be doubtful about this, but I’m trying hard not to predict the outcome.
On the first day of class I will ask them what’s the percentage of their commitment to staying in the class. Last semester all but one of said they were 100% committed. The one other said she was 95% committed. At the end of the semester, 9 out of 14 finished the course, as well as the entire semester. So what happened to the other 5? Lots of things, mostly having to do with complicated lives in one way or another. This isn’t to say that the others had smooth sailing through the semester.
When I reflect on why some navigated well and others not, I look at some of the differences between the two groups. One difference was their maturity or the degree to which there was recognition of the ups and downs in life. The successful students knew there would be obstacles, but planned for them in advance.
Another difference was the level of commitment to a clearly defined goal. Those students who knew why they were here, no matter the reason, hung in. Some students actually developed clearer goals during the semester and this helped them turn things around.
The two groups also differed in their ability to learn from both successes and “failures”. Success taught some students that hard work and their own skills paid off and that failure wasn’t permanent and could be remidied with hard work and support. In essence, the nine students who made it through their semester had challenges, both personally and academically, but knew and learned how, in spite of the challenges, to say on course.
Intention isn’t always enough. I think this will be one of first lessons we talk about after all students most likely will tell me that their 100% committed.