How You Can Help the Genius in the Classroom
In this increasingly digital age, it is inevitable that our young, tech-savvy students will teach us how to use the metaphorical remote control. They will grasp the next gadget long before we do. They will snicker at our feeble understanding of the social networking of their time. They will help us troubleshoot technology issues in our “smart” classroom as we flounder at the podium, pushing LED buttons with exasperated grunts. In this way, our students will always be one step ahead of us.
However, there is a more complex way that the tables can turn on teacher and student: the moment a professor is trumped by a student’s talent and ability. I teach film-production classes, including cinematography and directing, and I regularly encounter students who are more talented than I was at their age because of their innate ability to work with technology and their access to more-advanced technologies every year. I know that one day I will encounter a student who is more talented than I am at that moment. Or worse, I will be faced with a student who is more talented than I will ever be.
Teaching a gifted student is an act of humility. Some of my brightest students fall asleep in class, rarely heed my advice, and still produce stunning work. If I ever encounter a true prodigy, perhaps I might convince myself that I am responsible for stoking the fires of her nascent talents. I might puff up my chest and purport that she needs my tutelage in order to advance. But the most talented students can also be the most challenging to teach, and the least in need of mentorship. It is worthwhile to consider how we can reach those students, and why it is important to do so.