In praise of weak students

In praise of weak students

Academically strong students are a delight. They bring out the best in us, we can interact with them at a deep level, they react quickly and efficiently to our advice and produce work of which not only they but their teachers also can be proud. An intellectual friendship develops not just between us and the strong student but between the scholars who delight us and that student. After all, we were probably an academically strong student ourselves years ago. Good students make good teachers, we say.

But there is a case for saying that weak students are not only equally important, but also make good teachers even better.

We work in the upside-down world of higher education where it is the academically strong who get the top grades, the prizes, the special applause at graduation. But, according to Paul in 1Corinthians chapter 1, it is the weak who should confound the strong, and in chapter 12, he shows that the weaker parts of the body are especially indispensable and are to be treated with special honour.

Wherein lies the value of a weaker student?

  1. In getting our priorities right. Even in an educational establishment, the value of a person is not to be defined by the processing power of their brain.
  2. In teaching us patience. OK, so we have to explain the best way to exhibit critical use of secondary sources more than once. But it is good for us. And in such circumstances, impatience is an educational crime.
  3. It is easier to add value from a lower base and often when a weaker student has someone to show interest in him or her, they can blossom with growing confidence.
  4. The academically weaker student often has compensations of strength in other important areas of formation, such as ministerial skill or spiritual development.
  5. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that students who do not do very well in academic studies at college are often used significantly for the kingdom and sometimes exceptional academic achievement at college does not transfer to usefulness in kingdom work.
  6. As Paul says, there is a certain choice on the part of God in this direction, in the words of the Authorised version, “that no flesh should glory in His presence”.

Of course, an academically strong student on fire for the Lord is a formidable Christian servant who can have wide and deep influence on others and the cause of Christ. But perhaps such a student prospers in kingdom work most when he or she considers themselves weak; when they have learnt the lesson God had to teach that great intellectual Paul to believe “when I am weak then I am strong”.

We are all in the business of ensuring “that no flesh should glory in His presence”.

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3 Comments on “In praise of weak students”

  1. PAUL COOKEY Says:

    This is true. Personally, I have learned to understand God’s patience with me every time I fail to understand His will and plans. My weak students remind me of my failures in living up to my scorecard before God. I have learned to be very patient with them even to a fault given acceptable academic standards just to make sure they are all carried along to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives. Indeed, God teaches us more than we can bargain for in our weak students. Shalom! Paul Cookey (TCNN, Jos, Nigeria)

  2. brianmwilu Says:

    Very helpful post. It is very common for us theological educators to concentrate and build sound relationship with academically strong students and not with the students who academic struggles. But, it has been clearly stated in the post, being academically good does not automatically entail being good ministry wise or being spiritually mature. In most cases, its those who used to be academically weak that God tend to use amazingly in the ministry. This tells us that all students are important to us theological educators and that all are to be valued, given the most deserved attention and care.

  3. Susanne Waldner Says:

    Very helpful, thank you for this blog. Humility is the key!
    (Susi Waldner, Italy)

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