DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Super Student: Myth or Fact

Written by: on October 10, 2016

Untitled design (2)During my first week in the DMIN program, I can recall my Facebook post where I said that I was “Feeling overwhelmed with everything I have going on in life right now…My superwoman cape isn’t flying so high…I need to make some adjustments to my commitments to make room for this new chapter”  Why did I feel as though I was expected to be “Super” in all areas of our life (Wife, Mother, Friend, Product Manager, Student, etc.)?   The pressure that “having to be super” places on us is surreal yet we continue to try to meet up to this audacious false reality. I am reminded of this notion of shame that was discussed in Pierre Bayard’s book How to Talk About Books You Have Not Read. “To speak without shame about books we haven’t read, we would thus do well to free ourselves of the oppressive image of cultural literacy without gaps, as transmitted and imposed by family and school, for we can strive toward this image for a lifetime without ever managing to coincide with it” (Bayard, 129). I think the same applies to freeing ourselves of shame in regards to shortcoming in our lives and being able to admit that the “Super” image that we are trying to convey we will never attain and should not feel bad about that.

This week we are reading a book entitled Learn How to Study:Developing the study skills and approaches to learning that will help you succeed in university: A virtual tutorial with Professor Derek Rowntree. He begins the book by dispelling the myths about what it means to be a super student and learning how to develop skills and study habits. He insists that higher education is not about perfect memory and fact based learning but it is about gaining a richer, and deeper understanding.  “What, then, do you really need to succeed? Three things: You need to understand what you want out of learning and what other people (especially tutors) expect of you. You need to develop approaches that will enable you to acquire the kind of learning that will satisfy your tutors while also getting what you want from the process. You need to convincingly demonstrate your learning in both formal and informal assessment situations” (Kindle, 316).

The book is organized in such a way that he provides his insight about a topic related to studying and then he provides questions that we can ask ourselves. Beyond the questions, there are also activities that we can do so that reading this book is more like reflective practice then just reading for comprehension.  “In general, it is better to have more than one purpose in studying. The more reasons you can find for doing what you have to do, the more energy you’re likely to put into it — and the more you are likely to get out of it. Students who remain open to the unexpected will often find themselves getting more out of a course than they bargained for” (Kindle, 422).

While Rountree spent 3 chapters discussing how to read critically, I found it more interesting to read how he unpacked the idea of  “Learning from Listening” in Chapter 8. Often times we assume that because we heard something meant that we were listening. Which if we can be honest depending on what was said, we may or may not have truly critically listened with the intent to understand. Active listening is something I am personally working on daily. I find myself having to listen to my inner voice that says “stop thinking and just listen”. My brain goes non stop. Even if it is processing contextually based on the conversation, lecture, etc., the spinning of my mental wheels can hinder my ability to fully understand what is being said. Rountree adds that it is not just what someone is saying but our focus should also be on the way in which it is being communicated to us.

Furthermore, in reading this book I found that there were so many  of what I would call “mic drop”  moments. These are moments as I was reading where the statement that he made struck a chord. For example:

  • ” But the fact is, you almost certainly wouldn’t be in university unless the admissions tutors believe you have got what it takes” (Kindle, 236). The first quote provided addition reassurance that I do have what it takes.
  • Even the best of students has anxieties and self-doubts from time to time. The real test is whether you can admit them to yourself, be clear about their cause, and seek to cope with them by taking sensible action” (Kindle, 306). The takeaway for me here was it is not just about knowing I have anxiety and self doubt but I must come to an understanding of it root cause and do something about it.
  •  “Don’t seek for understanding only in situations or activities you are already comfortable with” (Kindle, 697).  it is so easy to gravitate towards my comfort zone. To achieve understanding I will need to go out of my comfort zone. This is so true because I feel as though the global advances and the way the program is designed does just that!

So is being a super student a myth or a fact? Rountree would say (and I agree)  it is definitely a myth.  “Learning how to study in higher education is very much a matter of getting wiser about learning and understanding. If you are fortunate, you will be encouraged to see learning as something more creative than the memorization of true facts” (Kindle, 877). True learning  comes by going beyond the surface to gain a deeper understanding while being able to reflectively practice using critical learning skills and habits. In doing so, learning becomes a creative, dynamic and fluid activity by which everyone who desires can glean from and engage in.


About the Author

Christal Jenkins Tanks

8 responses to “Super Student: Myth or Fact”

  1. HI Christal,
    Being a super student is an aspiration for many who ar beginning their studies. As studies begin, some of those aspiring to be super, begin to appreciate accepting above average. It is what believe other expect of us or we want to prove to others that we can.
    Listening is a good tool but retaining is more effective when having to reiterate what you heard. I guess that is where we can pull from our inner library Bayard’s tips.

  2. mm Katy Lines says:

    I would challenge that a “super student” is not something that is easy or natural, but is not necessarily a myth; it can be created through a lot of hard work. That said, we would probably agree that our definition of a super student may not, necessarily, fit with Rowntree’s definition. I might suggest that a “super student” is one who thrives and grows through the learning environment. Who is willing to invest and reflect and be changed by the experience. Having all our ducks (or swans) in a row does not a successful student make.

  3. Stu Cocanougher says:

    “What, then, do you really need to succeed? Three things…”
    I can relate to that. By the time was in my fourth year of my 96 hour Masters of Divinity Degree, I was already in ministry and ready to GET OUT.
    Something switched in my mind as I viewed my classes. I still wanted to learn, but I separated my work into two categories: What I needed to do to get a good grade, and what I needed to learn in order to help me in my future. I may have become less of a “star student” but I learned to focus my attention on the books, lectures, and assignments that would be of use to me in the future.

  4. Jim Sabella says:

    Great post Christal! I have a feeling that everyone in our cohort is a high achiever and also packed to the limit with life and ministry. That’s the very type of person who has the need to push to the next level and will. I agree, the super student is a myth and I’m glad for that.

  5. Mary Walker says:

    Good encouragement, Christal! The trait of humility keeps coming through in our books. Trying to rework my MLP during the advance in London made me feel so UN-SUPER! I wondered if I was in over my head. Very humbling, but thanks to our wonderful advisors and my SUPER colleagues I hung in there. Someone, probably Jen, helped me to see that this was for my whole life, not just these next 3 years in our course. These principles in Rowntree’s book are applicable no matter where I go.
    God made us all unique. Quite frankly, some will never be super students in the sense of “college material”. They have other wonderful gifts. (To be a SUPER person is better.) It seems that God has given us in our cohort the gifts necessary for studying and now as we all are swamped with our research my prayer is that we all swim through successfully. One of Rowntree’s constant activities at the end of each chapter was learning from other students and I am thankful for all of you and I think we are great together!! Praise God.

  6. Geoff Lee says:

    Yes, we are all in the same boat Christal! It’s easy to think everyone else has got their stuff together, and you are the only one who is questioning or doubting yourself.
    And we can all get better at listening and learning from each other – we have a collective wealth of knowledge and experience, and the collaborative aspect of what we are doing is very valuable.
    Keep flying super woman!

  7. “I find myself having to listen to my inner voice that says “stop thinking and just listen.”

    Oh wow. It’s like you read my mind. So often I find myself trying to hear the person I’m talking with over the top of the thoughts in my head. I loved that Rowntree spent and entire chapter on listening.

    I do really love that Rowntree calls out the idea of the Super Student as myth. For me this doesn’t negate the hard work we do to become excellent students, it just takes the pressure off of us to constantly feel the need to be perfect in every aspect of our studies. I remember choking a little bit when one of the students from LGP5 said to get rid of the notion that we will get straight A’s or that straight A’s even matter, but as I move forward in this program I am seeing this as the permission to be a great learner even when I am not a super student. The quotes you gave and the way you framed them encourage us to be excellent learners. Thank you!

  8. Love this line…”learning becomes a creative, dynamic and fluid activity by which everyone who desires can glean from and engage in.” Beautifully said! When we learn, everyone benefits. It’s a collaborative process and it’s comforting knowing not everyone knows everything. We all have a little something to contribute to the learning process. Thanks for the insightful post.

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