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The Student Perspective

Seeing things from the student’s perspective is challenging. After watching one of Dr. Kevin Leichtman’s videos, I realized that there might be a few things regarding education that I have never thought about. Understanding motivations behind student actions is a priority. The Perfect Ten offered me a new opportunity to think about where students are coming from and what they are trying to achieve. 

10 Stories and 10 Students

Dr. Leichtman selected ten stories from ten different students and put a book together to guide students, parents, and teachers. When I heard about this book, it felt like it could not have been more perfect for me as a high school teacher and parent of a high schooler, middle schooler and elementary school student. My first read of this book is from the lens of a teacher. I have already recommended it to my students and even seen my kids browsing the pages. I am excited to also look at this book from the perspective of being a parent. It gives me new ideas and thoughts on how my kids might be processing school, thinking about their future, and defining success.  

There is a lot of pressure to be perfect.

There is a lot of pressure with grades, scholarships, and the push to become top of the class to secure acceptance into the best colleges and set up for an amazing future. While navigating high school is exciting, full of growth opportunities, and a push for students to step out of their comfort zone and stretch forward, making the way to the top of the class is only part of the story. Dr. Leichtman says that the perfect student is so much more. The definition of perfect includes responsibility, resilience, kindness, confidence, optimism, patience, a willingness to embrace an identity, outworks others, and is mentally tough. Each story had different lessons and perspectives and a mindset lesson that serves a purpose in teaching people how to be their best selves. 

The First Story Hooked Me

The first of Dr. Leichtman’s stories was about a girl named Rakhee. She did not fit the typical profile of a student with straight A’s. Rather than focusing on grades, Rakee’s true strengths were her ability to be creative, innovative, and hustle at full speed. One of the things that stood out about Rakhee’s story was that I have probably had a student just like her, and failed to know him or her in order to encourage passion. The author, Dr. Leichtman had a way of explaining that when a teacher might think Rakhee is being chatty and taking away from classroom time, she might be trying out ideas for her fashion company among friends and classmates.  

Mental Toughness Doesn’t Have to Come from Negative Situations

Hilary’s story gave me a lot of hope. I was inspired by the way she explained that mental toughness comes from identifying your purpose rather than simply being in a tough situation. She emphasized that limits cannot be pushed and toughness cannot be gained when the purpose is missing. Hilary’s message not only gives students perspective and reason to keep pushing forward, but is an empowering message for people of all ages.  

What if your Optimism Doesn’t Work

Camilio’s message is about optimism. I am inspired and re-directed by the question, “Will you allow your mind to lead you to the best possible outcome, or will you allow it to consume your thoughts with the worst-case scenario?”  I like the way Dr. Leichtman says, “The worst thing that can happen is that your optimism doesn’t play out as you would have hoped.”  We dream.  We teach our students to dream, and there will be times when the dreams don’t happen exactly how or when we visualized them. Applying optimism to how we visualize shifted my perspective.  I think back to the number of times I have imagined myself achieving a running goal.  The Perfect Ten reminded me that it is about learning how to dream, living outside my comfort zone and if something does not play out exactly as I imagine it would, maybe there is something different or better in store for me. 

Having Resilience Doesn’t Mean You Know how to Apply It

Hanna’s story explained that while a person might have access to resilience, he or she is not always ready to use it.  Resilience is about learning how to bounce back quickly from a mistake and not allow difficult moments to automatically lead to bigger difficulties. 

Kindness is a Creator of Opportunities

I liked the idea that genuine kindness is the ability to lift others up and encourages them to rise beyond their current self-perceptions. Emily encourages people to be your number one encourager and accept a more kind demeanor by dropping judgments and jealousy for a better outcome. This was a different way of applying kindness.  

Humor as a Way to Escape

Braden explained that when there were days where he felt like he was hitting rock bottom, being silly, making jokes, stories and reading comics made him laugh and allowed him to forget about the really tough things. It makes a lot of sense when I think about humor from this perspective. I also think back to the number of times students have been silly and used humor in the classroom. I know there are times that I have been quick to shut it down in an effort to move ahead with my plan. Understanding a student’s motivation gives me a new perspective about the reason why students do certain things.

Work Ethic is the Ultimate Equalizer

It was exciting to listen to Zain’s powerful story about how he embraced competition. I am excited to see a student who follows a traditional model and chooses to align him, or herself with academic and athletic excellence is also highly regarded. His work embodied the quote, “If you are not getting better, you are getting worse.”  It was neat to read about how discipline and a focus on work ethic rather than talent were what set Zain apart from other students.  

Shifting Perfect

I appreciate how The Perfect Ten speaks new life into the word successful. It is important to remind students that they are worthy, important, and have value to contribute. When we embrace new ideas for what the ideal student should be magic unfolds. The privilege of reading stories of 10 students has helped me understand todays’ students. Dr. Leichtman cannot say enough about empowering students by letting them share their voices. Sharing our student’s voice through story gives other students permission to see that they too fit with the definition of a perfect student. 

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