10/26/2013

Intense Ike


If you're looking for an example of a young over-achiever, you should meet my student Ike*. Everything he does is an overkill.

When I assign the class to write an email, he writes three versions, and also turns in a whole discourse on how email came to be. 

He reminds me of Auguste Rodin's “The Thinker,” that bronze sculpture which is cast in over 25 multiple versions (plus many more in various sizes) and is strewn around the world. This must have been modeled by the likes of Ike.

I am not ratting on Ike; in fact, I feel privileged to have a student like him who takes me seriously—so seriously he spends sleepless nights on a project.

“Do you ever sleep?” I asked him once. 

“Sometimes,” he replied.

“Enjoy what you do. Otherwise, you're headed to . . .”

“Burn out,” he finished my sentence. “How can I do that?” he asked.

That was the hardest question asked of me, next to, “What do you enjoy more, reading or writing?”  

“I like working as hard as you do,” I said, stalling for time. “In fact, I can write non-stop from morning till night, but I feel great doing it. What do you enjoy doing?”

“Sports,” he said. “Running and basketball.” 

“These make you happy? Very happy?”

“Yes!” he exclaimed with a ghost of a smile.

“Do you feel the same way when you do your projects for my class?”

Silence.

“Try to figure out why you go beyond what is required,” I said. He compensates for my students who turn in haphazard work.

“I want a grade of D,” he said frankly. (D is for distinction, the highest grade one can achieve in the university where I teach.)

“Well, a D is forthcoming,” I said. For effort and intensity, I thought. 

“It is?” He seemed shocked, but couldn't keep a grin from breaking.

“I am here to help—find time to consult me before turning in your work,” I said.

Your grammar is faulty and your work is not thought through, these I said silently until these words came out of my mouth, “Ike, I appreciate your walking the extra mile. But I suggest you focus on just the requirement, instead of doing more. You'll have more time to make it better, I promise you.” You'll have more time to sleep, too.

Then I added a cliche for good measure, "Quality, not quantity."

Ike allowed himself a toothy grin, easing up a little. He heaved a sigh of relief, as though waiting for that bit of reassurance.   

We do need to be reassured about the things we do. That's why God reassures us again and again that His grace will always help us. In Hebrews 4:16 (ESV), “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 

I get a serving of this grace every time I talk to Ike, and I hope he does, too, when he talks to me.

*Not his real name

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