Students vs Scholars

shutterstock_22749364-1024x682Students vs. Scholars

Last year our school culture shifted away from “I have to do this.” “I have to teach these kids.” “This is my job, I have to be here.” “I have who, that student.” TO, “I get to do this work.” “I get to work with these students.” “I get to work here.” Don’t get me wrong we still face barriers and challenges just like every school does, but at our school we approach them differently. We look for solutions, opportunities to grow and ways we can change.

We are focusing on the Leader in Me – 5 Core Paradigms:

  1. Paradigm of Leadership – Everyone can be a leader.
  2. Paradigm of Potential – Everyone has genius.
  3. Paradigm of Change – All change starts with me.
  4. Paradigm of Motivation – Teachers empower students to lead their own learning.
  5. Paradigm of Education – Develop the whole person.

Knowing last year we had a colossal shift in thinking we looked for ways to sustain that movement and forward trajectory this year. What if we change one word and begin to address our students as scholars?

First, we were mindful to create a common language and define the difference between a student and a scholar. We researched and came up with generic definitions including: A student can be described as a learner especially one enrolled in a school or college whereas a scholar denotes a learned person with profound knowledge of any specific subject. They both can be used to define a person who attends a school or a college. A student can be described as a learner, who usually attains knowledge through teachers whereas a scholar is guided by other scholars of his or her field and also takes immense interest in conducting his studies and research independently.

Next we talked and shared ideas within our grade level teams at a staff meeting. Recognizing before something sticks you have to talk through it and put your thoughts out for others to hear and rephrase and add on to. Through these conversations we were able to brainstorm using thinking map structures to organize our thoughts and develop an understanding of the two terms, more of a working definition that we could share with students and families.

Here is what we came up with…

Students are…

Teacher driven, dependent, uncertain, learners, school member, learns from teacher, has general knowledge, follows, traditional, reads because they have to, novice, inside the box, and passively learns.

Scholars are…

Peer driven, engaged, multi-faceted learner, collaborator, problem solver, self-motivated, passionate, independent, innovative, wants to learn, desires to share knowledge, prestigious, focused, reads to learn, inquisitive, actively learns, advanced, studious, directs instruction, outside the box, pursues knowledge, and asks questions.

Students and Scholars are…

Thinkers, attentive, disciplined, learners, have potential, creative, inspire, achieve, energetic, hard-working, fun, open and engaged.

We will continue to add to and adjust our working definitions through the course of our work this year. We are excited to invite parents and students to share their thoughts around our new thinking.

It is exciting to walk through rooms or down the hallways and hear teachers refer to the kids in their class, the kids at our school as scholars, engaging in conversations around why we made the change and what it means. I can’t wait to see the impact simply changing one word will have on our students scholars, our school, our community.

I invite you to join the conversation and post your thoughts.


Jen Robinson

Jen Robinson

Maricopa, Arizona

Hello, my name is Jen Robinson. I have been in education for over 20 years. I began teaching in Buffalo, NY in 1992, as a pre-school special education teacher. My experience ranges from primary grades through high school. My husband and I moved to Arizona in 2001, where we were fortunate enough to teach at the same school. In 2004, I achieved National Board Certification and currently support candidates. In 2011 I completed my Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation. My dissertation research focused on supporting National Board candidates through their certification process. During the 2012-2013 school year, I completed my National Board renewal process. It was humbling and very powerful to step back into a classroom. I am currently an elementary principal. I am excited and hopeful for the new school year. I also serve on the Arizona Teacher Solutions Team where we are solutions focused in an effort to transform and elevate the teaching profession.

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