There are approximately 15.1 million high school students across the nation. There are roughly 6,500 distinct languages, 4,200 religions and 195 countries. There are different parenting styles, backgrounds, family incomes and expectations. There are different skill sets— some have an innate skill for science and others harbor a knack for history. In layman’s terms, the world is so diverse that, even in the smallest of communities, it’s hard to group any set of people into one category. But, still, the assumption of some teachers is that whenever a student isn’t living up to their expectations, they aren’t trying hard enough or they are being lazy.
This is an unfair assumption, for a few reasons. Many students suffer from apathy, which is a lack of interest or motivation to do certain things. Others have a high workload and can’t devote as much time as they’d like to for each subject. And some students, despite trying as hard as they can, just struggle.
Apathy among high school students is common.
According to a 2003 National Research Council study, student apathy among high schoolers had increased by 40 percent at the time of the study. Causes of such apathy can vary. According to psychologist Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., apathy can be linked to issues or conditions such as sleep deprivation, poor diet, lack of exercise, depression and/or bipolar disorder.
This is an unfair assumption, for a few reasons. Many students suffer from apathy, which is a lack of interest or motivation to do certain things.
And while some of these problems can be solved rather simply with a change in habits, other causes, such as depression and bipolar disorder, are harder to solve. And since these disorders can appear at any time, before any proper diagnosis, it can be hard for teachers to notice any symptoms.
Another possible cause of lower-effort work and productivity in the classroom for some students is a high courseload.
Many students, including those at CCHS, take on one or more AP classes at a time and balance them with extracurriculars, leading to an onerous schedule that can sometimes cause time conflicts in an attempt to look good for colleges.
According to the Princeton Review, “While 90 percent of students say that getting good grades is important, less than 10 percent say that succeeding in school is important because of the value of learning.”
Over 40 percent of students responded that getting into college is the primary reason for their desire to get good grades. As a result of high standards set for themselves, whether by their parents or on their own, students often overwork themselves, straining their mental health and possibly leading them into apathy, or causing them to suppress their own efforts to keep time from being too much of a burden.
Some students, as hard as they try, just inevitably struggle.
This is something that teachers should be able to recognize and, although they may not be able to do much about the situation, it can create a level of understanding between the student and teacher— something positive for both sides.
In many cases, this could be reflective of how their parents did in certain subjects when they were students, or economic disparities existing from the time they were born. Economically disadvantaged students, as well as children of parents without graduate degrees, typically don’t do as well as other students.
“Only 11 percent of low-income, first-generation college students will have a college degree within six years of enrolling in school, compared to about 55 percent of their more advantaged peers who were not low-income or first-generation students, according to a Pell Institute study of students who first enrolled in fall 2003,” The Postsecondary National Policy Institute said.
This factor is one for teachers to consider when reflecting on student achievement, and should prompt some teachers to reconsider their frustration when a certain student “just can’t seem to get it.” It’s not that they aren’t trying, it could be that the class’s content isn’t as accessible to them compared to other students.
Not all teachers make the assumption that certain students are lazy. In fact, most teachers are patient and understanding when it comes to struggling students in their classes. But the “lazy student” is a rarity in most cases. This is something that teachers should be able to recognize and, although they may not be able to do much about the situation, it can create a level of understanding between the student and teacher— something positive for both sides.