Here is a light-hearted analogy I saw some time ago and as a student you may find it helpful to think about what kind of student you are and what kind of student you could become. The biggest enemy is often ones ego and if you let it out of control it can play havoc. SO:
Let us suppose your tutor I thinks of you as a top class football team with him/her as the Coach. At the moment you are in the second team but he wants to promote you if you are good enough to the first team. So as you read this analogy of student life and learning ask yourself which profile best fits you?
The Coach wants to win all the time, never compromise on quality performances, and picks the team to do that, so if he picks you he places his whole confidence in you to give your very best effort and he expects nothing less. Consider, the work you do for your tutor as being like playing in a match and there is no point in playing a match unless you want to win so he needs confidence in you to follow his instructions and you need to trust that he knows what he is doing and has your very best interests at heart. In fact the Coach has several kinds of player available to him as follows: (so ask yourself which one fits you?)
Reliable – he has some promising players with real talent, players who are can see well prepared, they know the basics, they accept advice and criticism, they discuss things with him, they disagree with him; they are learning – they are not perfect but The coach sees potential and with a little guidance from him and hard work (practice) from them they can get even better and be promoted to the first team and play in the premier league.
Lazy – these are the players that don’t want to do any training, they don’t want to practice, they don’t care about the Coaches' opinion, they have no awareness of how hard it in the premier division and they accept no responsibility for their own progress – if they don’t get in the team it’s the Coach’s fault or in fact any other reason that comes to mind. One notices with these players that its not that they are unaware of their needs as such but want some sort of short cut to glory in the team. The Coach will never pick them because they cannot be trusted and they are not fit enough, will never be fit enough, to play in the big league.
Content - there are some promising players but they don’t want to bother with the basics, they think they know it already and they are not very good at listening to advice or watching other players or team work. The Coach feels real concern because he can see them wasting their talents by a kind of obstinate arrogance so he is not going to be able to use them in the first team as they don’t have even the basic skills. What to do with these players a big problem – how can the Coach get them to learn the basics, get them to put in the practice, get them to see that unless they put in hard work now they will never reach their true potential and look back on it with regret, how can the Coach get them to face up to their own shortcomings?
Sometimes Coaches take a chance and and might promote you on condition you show what they can do but sadly often they never get to play in the first team because they cannot show their talents because they have not perfected them – they think because they are promoted to the first team the Coach is bound to pick them to play in a match. But the Coach is not going to risk losing a match with some one who is not willing to give 100% effort – The Coach is putting in 100% and expects the same from you. He is not going to pick you unless you have put in the training and learn all the skills needed – it’s a risk not worth taking and eventually he is going to exclude you altogether.
Self Satisfied - this group is the saddest of all, they know everything and can do everything and have seen everything. If you ask them to do a bit of training they say they don’t need it, if you offer them advice they ignore it because they know better, if you tell them to play in the centre they will move to the wing, if I take them off the field they throw a tantrum, if you try to work with them they say you are wrong and don’t understand what they are trying to do, if you put them back in the second team they accuse you of victimisation, spite or favouritism and so on. This group saddens the Coach most because often they are indeed the most talented, the most gifted and with the most potential but they never see their fatal flaw and that is in life one needs just that bit of humility, self- awareness and effort so that you are ready to learn from anybody at all – yes anybody.
The Coach – none of the above means the Coach is infallible but he does know a lot and has a good deal of experience and the team principals will hold him responsible for failure. Players come to him for help and advice; players come and argue with him about tactics, players prove themselves to him, players come with skills they want to improve and from all this activity the Coach learns more himself but underneath it all the coach is passionate for success and passionate that every player reaches his full potential.
1. Tiger Woods, one of the finest golfers ever; wining 13 majors but at the start of each season he goes to his coach saying “let’s starts from the basics again”. He is not too proud or arrogant to go right back to basics and learn it all again, practice, practice it all again. He does not say I am a champion, I have won 35 tournaments therefore I don’t need to practice, I have nothing to learn, I don’t need any one to give me advice, no one can teach me anything.
2. A few years ago I heard this story and sadly it shows that we are often all Prima Donna's at heart. An academic some years ago had a research student working for her on problem solving strategies and whether they could be transferred to neural nets. She was expert in problem solving strategies, had published several papers and there was no one who could tell her anything, her ideas were new and I was tops. She used to see the student a couple of times a week and in his little office he had complicated coloured diagrams stuck on the wall with algebraic like characters at the end of lines, arrows and circles. Her problem was, she did not know what they were but thought she ought to but I could never bring herself to ask else She would show myself up as being a bit ignorant in front of the student – after all she was the expert wasn't she?
Eventually curiosity got the better of her and so asked what they represented - they turned out to be diagrams on how to juggle with three coloured balls!
You see there are no foolish questions and you only become a fool if you stop asking questions. We are all as ignorant as the next man or woman so don’t hold back, ask questions and never think you know it all – if you do you will live to regret it. Newton said “If I have seen further than other men it was only by standing on their shoulders” and the proverb “He who criticises a man will in the end find more favour than he who has a flattering tongue”. There is nothing to be ashamed of when you realise there is something you don’t know, there is everything to be ashamed of when you do nothing about it.