The last few years of teaching have seen an unprecedented shift in student behavior. Violence and mental health crises have spiked … but so has another condition.
Absenteeism. Not turning in work. Work that is turned in is incomplete, incorrect, or done with minimal effort. No matter what form it takes, a general attitude of not caring is sweeping secondary schools in particular.
It’s not just because “kids these days.”
In fact (*leans in closer and whispers*) it’s not actually the students’ fault.
As TikTok creator @msvolksonlineclassroom points out in her video, the issue is complex and multifaceted. There can be a ton of reasons why an individual student, one particular school, or a whole group of schools might be apathetic that don’t fit the mold in other cases.
But it’s hard to look at what’s going on today—both in schools and out—and wonder, “How did we not see this coming?”
Take a look at her Tiktok here:
Let’s take a look at some of her talking points.
“Whether it’s on a conscious level or not, kids are seeing that the work they’re putting in … there’s no reward.”
@msvolksonlineclassroom isn’t saying we should give kids a standing ovation for doing what they’re supposed to. She’s positing that when kids see their peers who do nothing all year get passed to the next grade level or throw a stapler at the teacher’s head and get sent back to class, what’s the incentive for following the rules?
“Those 10 kids that turned it in on time [while their classmates got full credit turning in the same assignment later], why would they ever do that again?”
There’s a larger conversation here about standards-based grading and the benefit it has for the students who need extra time to master a concept. But what are we doing to benefit the students who master it earlier? And no, giving them extra work in the meantime is not the answer (see her response about G/T burnout further on in this article).
“I think another part is just this huge sense of existential dread.”
Students don’t see a reason to engage with a world that may very well be unlivable in their lifetime.
The very phones that offer them connection are also steadily chipping away at their mental health.
They’re being told their teachers are “groomers,” their schools are increasingly dangerous, and home ownership is nearly impossible with student debt.
Can you blame them for checking out? I don’t.
Here are some insightful comments from viewers:
These are all valid points.
- We need safer schools.
- We need education reform based on research and led by teachers, both at the K-12 and higher education levels.
- We need better access to mental health resources for students in schools.
- We need to treat our planet like we actually care about the kids who inherit it.
- We need to examine our systems and policies at every level and ask whether they are actually adding value and meeting the needs of every child.
We’re grateful for @msvolksonlineclassroom’s contribution to a very complex conversation.
What are your thoughts on student apathy? Let us know in the comments!
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