A freshman student walks into one of my classes in the fall. He smiles. I smile. He is there to learn, to make it through the semester with a “B” or maybe an “A.” I believe he is in my class to improve himself. He will have done his best, even if he should fail my class.
In social work we believe that nobody sets about any task with the intention of doing his or her worst. So, should a student put his or her grade at risk by not submitting an assignment, we absolutely believe that he or she did his or her best. We do not question that at all.
The point is this: as social work teachers, like other teachers, we have achievement standards for all our classes. However, the concept that “every student is doing his or her best at all times” causes us to look at what we wanted from the student and what we got—if we did not get what we wanted, we decide how we can go about causing the student to reach the standard that we wanted.
The best that some students do cannot always be changed to the best that we want. We cannot cause every student to reach our higher expected standard. But as every student leaves our classrooms at the end of the semester, we know that each one did his or her best with what was provided to him or her. And that we did the same.
It’s a theory that causes us, the teachers, to think of how we can improve our best teaching. Instead of suggesting to a student that he study more next time, or that he complete his papers and hand them in on time, we, because of this theory about people’s behavior, will hold our tongues while we review our own behaviors, to include our teaching.
Yes, I suppose it’s odd and wacky when you think about it, but it work for us!