Solving Senioritis

The annual disease that affects thousands of seniors every year is once again back in full force. Senioritis draws away attention as the graduating class slowly becomes glassy-eyed and unresponsive to learning in general. But what does it really mean for society to simply accept that one fourth of high school students can essentially goof off for half of a school year? Can we ever solve senioritis and make it into something positive?

I’m writing this in a bout of decreased motivation, otherwise known as just not feeling like myself. It is so easy to be drawn in by the allure of slacking and coasting, and I need to organize my thoughts to figure out how to best combat this feeling. No guarantees that anything I write will be backed by educational pedagogy, but at least this will help me think through things.

1) Senioritis is primarily a form of entitlement.

By the time a high school student reaches senior year, they have had three years to reflect on what it means to be the graduating class. For every spring prior, the underclassmen have heard of the famous slacking that seniors have. In general, they probably have heard of how little consequences come by and yearn to have the same things for themselves. In addition, many people seem to view second semester senior year as a reward for doing well in school for the previous three years. If they have checked off all the boxes as they should have, when March rolls around, they will be admitted to a college and have no true responsibilities remaining. So, by the time students become seniors, they believe that they not only would be able to drop their guard a bit, but that they should have the right to do whatever they want.

When we take such a view on senioritis, it’s clear that there is a problem with expectations. Students are put into a culture where senioritis is constantly joked about, even in freshmen year – everyone has had that one classmate who, first day of high school, claims that he is suffering from senioritis already. The culture in high school is a very rapid feedback loop, where the behaviors of the present seniors only reinforce the original myth of senioritis. Given the system, is it possible for a student to stay precisely as productive as they have for the past three years in senior year?

2) Senioritis assumes that learning is a chore, rather than a joy.

If we assume that senioritis is an escape from learning, and that senioritis has its roots as being something fun or enjoyable, then we must conclude that learning is what is wrong. And oh boy, do we get that reaction a whole lot. Seniors often come off as having a “I don’t give a fudge” attitude (which is clearly selfish in the lack of sharing chocolate confectionary) because they have found school to be useless. All of this points to a mentality that the telos, or end goal, of high school is to get into college. It’s very similar to being a lame duck in politics, as brilliantly written in this The Atlantic article. Everything is done, and it’s simply a waiting game to start the next stage of my life. What do you mean I still have to learn?

This mentality is dangerous for students to work in, because it simply discourages people from working hard and doing their best. It pressures students away from learning for the joy of learning, and towards learning as a chore.

3) Senioritis only exists in the minds of the senior.

Luckily, there is no physical symptom of senioritis, nor is there any physical causes. Instead, senioritis fully rests behind the motivation for a senior to go out there and actually learn something. For me, my problem is not with not having the motivation to learn, but instead, finding that the previous methods of learning were insufficient for real engagement in the topic. I’ve been trying to change up my regular habits in order to find a new normal, something that I can stay engaged in for a long time. There have been a couple patches of rough sailing, where I realize that my changes have been too radical or just not suitable for my time constraints, but in general, I have been more satisfied with myself. I’ve been able to read more and exercise more, two goals that I have had since the beginning of high school. And, I believe that I am still productive and engaged in class!

Even though this month is a time of both disappointment and joy for the graduating class of 2015, I want to encourage everyone to keep their heads up and look towards our future. Second semester senior year is not intended to be a tedious, “business as usual” doldrum as it seems to have become, but a time of intellectual excitement. It is when we seniors can truly take charge of our education and become better learners and better people.

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