Was I a smart student and did that matter?

All of us have probably come across the acronym IQ at least once in our lives. It is also highly likely that we have used it in some context or the other. What does it really mean and how do we understand it? 

Most of us understand IQ to be a measurement of intellectual potential or capability. But how does one measure this capability or potential? IQ tests have been around for more than a hundred years now. There has been much criticism of such tests and a lot of discussion regarding what it measures. There is also a lot of differing theoretical understanding of the concept of IQ, from Spearman’s General Intelligence or the g-factor to Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory. 

I do not wish to get into those details in this post. Let me rather look at my own experiences and see whether people viewed me as highly intelligent and whether that impacted my education. 

One of the popular and easy ways of measuring intelligence in today’s world is by comparing the test scores of students in a class. And I was one of the high performing kids. Similarly, teachers generally note the attentiveness of a student and the way the student participates in the class discussion, answers questions, etc. Being very extroverted and not at all shy to voice my opinion, even by this measure I was always viewed as highly intelligent.

So, we have established that I was smart, or at least I was considered to be so by many people, including teachers. Now, did that affect my education and if so, how? 

There was this particular English teacher who considered my English to be better than that of my peers. Now when my classmates did not bring their book one particular day, said teacher punished them rather severely. And the next day, when I also did not bring my book, all of us (including me) were pardoned and the teacher clearly mentioned that since I was part of the group and I was generally a good student, an exception was being made! 

I was often given public speaking opportunities at school. Often when there was a special event, I would be chosen to deliver the speech because of my improved linguistic capabilities. I grew up in a school where many of the students had parents with no English knowledge, and I had parents fluent in English. So, this was not that impressive an achievement. However, the results did favour me. 

And every time I performed poorly or behaved badly, I was told by the teachers that they expected better of me. And being someone who craved the approval and validation of others, I strived to prove them right when they did so. 

Here are a couple of ideas Dr. Gordon Stobart talks about in one of his lectures: 

  1. Students who are given more opportunities tend to do better in those areas because of those very opportunities. 
  1. Students who are categorized as high ability tend to perform better because they tend to live up to that label. And the same is true for those who are labelled low ability. 

The very fact that I was given more opportunities allowed me, in other words, to increase my proficiency even more. And the fact that more was expected of me motivated me to strive better. And the opposite was probably true for some of my peers. 

What does this mean for me as a teacher? 

I think the way I view students would dramatically affect the way they would view themselves. And that, in turn, would affect their performance. If I view my students as weak students or poor in studies, I would deny them opportunities by giving them to the stronger kids. I would expect little of them and they would give me little in return. 

On the other hand, if I view students as students with potential, I would give them opportunities. I would set high standards for them. And these would enable them to grow and motivate them to learn. 


  1. Dr. Gordon Stobart’s lecture on the course ‘What future for Education’ on coursera.org
  2. Photo by Natasha Connell on Unsplash

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