On Excellence

Becoming an outstanding student is not the exclusive territory of those to whom it comes naturally.  Diligence and discipline are just as important as talent and aptitude.  Success in learning works, if you work it.

I know this is true from 20 years as a classroom teacher.  More importantly, I know because I was a successful student.  I received the DAR Excellence in History Award in junior high school, graduated at the top of my high school class, scored a 5 on the APUSH exam, and was awarded the Medal of Merit in Social Studies, making me the top history student in a class of over 700.

Can you achieve this as a student?  Absolutely.  The key to my success in school was not genius, but discipline.  Let me share with you what worked for me.

First and most important, I became a devoted reader.  Books, newspapers, magazines, stories – whatever I could get in the subjects that interested me.  The more you read, the more your comprehensive knowledge of a subject increases.  You become an authority.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the school library.  But I also spent hours outside of school in the public library.  I even worked as a library page at several local branches in my junior year of high school.

I also listened to the news.  Network television and newspapers as a kid, and National Public Radio and cable news channels as an adult.  The more you listen to what is going on the world, the more informed your essay responses on tests will sound.  The internet, of course, brings the entire world to your fingertips.  Take advantage of it.

Finally, I wrote.  Not just papers and assignments for school, but original fiction and nonfiction.  It is a well-known fact that more reading leads to better writing.  As you get to know your favorite authors, take some time to write your own stuff.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the voice you discover.

I leave you with a photo of me as a high school senior, working at my typewriter on my latest story.  This picture is almost 40 years old, before the internet and personal computers and cable television, but the principles of excellence that drove me then and challenge you today have remained unchanged.  Your success in learning depends, in the end, on you.

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at torinfinney.com