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Naturally intelligent students make the WORST students!

Why? Because they are able to make it a considerable portion of the way through their career as students, and never really need to work at learning.

Which means they never develop good study habits.

Which frequently leads to developing alternative habits that fill their extracurricular time. (Cough! Screen-time addiction! Cough!) Those alternative habits then become obstacles when that time needs to be repurposed for study.

Inevitably, a time comes when the material they are covering in school finally turns out to challenge them. For some of them, this will happen in the transition to middle school or junior high. Others will experience it as they enter high school. A rare few will make it all the way to college or grad school, and these are the least fortunate of all. (College is an expensive place to learn that you don’t have good study habits.)

Once this group of students is challenged, they can react in three different ways. The first group struggles, but manages to develop sufficiently good habits that they can…get by. In the process, their grades will slip down a tier or two, but they’ll in general avoid D’s or failing grades. Typically, the habits they develop are a mix of good and bad: they’ll try to pay attention and take notes in class, and will try to complete most or all homework assignments. On the other hand, they tend to procrastinate when it comes to test preparation, and studying tends to consist of rereading material. This group is the majority of "smart" students. They could excel if they realized it is just a matter of their study habits, but they rarely realize it is truly their approach rather than their intellect.

The second group excels. They respond to the challenge effectively, budgeting their time to make school and learning a priority, using quizzing and flashcards for review of material, and engaging with material in the classroom through asking questions. This group is by far the smallest group.

The third group is intermediate in size, and surprisingly large. It is the cohort of “smart” kids who respond to the challenge by giving up. Confronted with evidence that they aren’t as “good/smart” as they had always assumed, they either become depressed and generally withdraw from engaging with school, or resentful, and actively reject their education. In a self fulfilling prophecy, their resulting poor grades seem to prove their conviction that school is now impossible.

Thus, the majority of naturally intelligent students turn out to be average or below average students in the end, with a surprising number dropping into the category of “worst students” not because they cannot learn, but because they will not invest the time needed to do so. Because they lack self-discipline.

And that’s the topic for next time! Self-discipline in students: cultivating effective learners.

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