|Professor Saundra McGuire conversing with students after her presentation
On February 12, toward the end of Saundra McGuire's presentation on study and reading approaches for a group of students (primarily the guys in our program), there was this special moment that was notable in part because of how inconsequential she made the moment seem. After talking with the students about a range of ideas and strategies, McGuire said, without missing a beat, "ok, you [the class] can earn an average 3.8 at the end of the semester."
There was silence among the guys after hearing that seemingly lofty goal. Perhaps, McGuire sensed their trepidation and unease.
"Well if we can't average that 3.8," she added, "I suppose we could settle for a 3.5. But our goal is 3.8."
She did not soften her words with a laugh. This was no punchline, no joke. It's as if she had added that high grade point average comment to a typical list. Don't forget to brush your teeth every morning. Look both ways before crossing a busy intersection. And oh yeah, earn a 3.8 for the semester. Nothing unusual.
McGuire was on campus to lead a series of presentations primarily for SIUE faculty and advisors that focused on assisting students. As the Director of the Center for Academic Success at Louisiana State University, she and her team have been interested in "helping students to discover the metacognitive processes involved in mastery learning of science (as contrasted with rote memorization)."
For decades now, there has been considerable discussion about "standards" in the scholarly discourse concerning the education and mis-education of African American students, especially young black men. In one brief moment, McGuire elevated the academic expectations of a group of collegiate black men. Remarkably, she made the moment seem unremarkable, just a typical anticipation.
Related: A Notebook on Collegiate Students