Student apathy: how do we combat it

Vincent Niewald News Editor

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines motivation as “a motivating force, stimulus, or influence : Incentive, Drive”. However, that definition can mean a lot of different things to different people. For students who struggle with it, it can be one of the main reasons that school is such a terrible place for them. For others, motivation can be what makes school such an easy thing. Motivation, once lost, can be one of the most difficult things for a student to regain. For instructor Piper Porras, helping out those students who have lost their motivation is a matter of seeing what is really going on.

“The way that I try to help them is number one, finding what’s under the layers. Most of the time, it’s not about me, it’s not about a certain class. It’s about a lot of things going on outside of school. Sometimes it’s a combination of in school plus out of school problems. I try to figure out what’s under all the layers. Sometimes I pull them aside and I’ll say ‘Hey what’s going on at home, or is there anything that’s wrong, that sort of thing. I also try to find things kids are doing well and make sure to tell them that. ‘Hey, you did a really good job on that, Can we try that again? Can we continue to do this?’. So most of the time it boils down to relationships,” Porras said. 

It’s not uncommon for students to have off days in school. Sometimes, life can just weigh a person down. For some kids, that weight doesn’t go away, or they have other things weighing them down, and they end up feeling like school is something secondary to all of those other things happening in their lives. Teaching students like that can be difficult, and teachers like Porras have had to come to terms with setting aside their egos. 

“There have been sometimes I’m like ‘What am I doing wrong, why are you making my life miserable?’. They’re not trying to. Nobody wakes up wanting to make your day miserable. So giving people the grace and the courtesy, but I don’t know that we can force someone to have motivation. For some of these issues kids have, I can’t fix it in a block every other day. Some kids really do need some therapy, or intervention. I’ve heard that just being exposed to healthy people on a daily basis can be good for kids, but some kids don’t have that when they leave here and that’s really hard,” Porras said. 

Daily, positive interaction can be highly beneficial for students. According to The Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), a national information system providing educators, researchers, and the general public with access to education literature and resources, “Students…perceived that social interaction improved their learning by enhancing their knowledge of literacy and teaching and their critical thinking and problem-solving skills,”. However, not every student is always falling into these traps where they lose all motivation for school. Some, like senior Sydney McManigal have learned how to keep themselves on track. 

“It can be pretty hard sometimes because I get overwhelmed with my busy life and then just want to relax, rather than get things done. I just remember how hard I have work so far and that I need to continue working hard to maintain my GPA. I just remember how important grades are and how they benefit you as far as college and scholarships. It also just helps you practice overall work ethic for any type of job,” McManigal said. 

Every student gets overwhelmed, no matter who they are or what classes they are taking. Each of them has their own ways to deal with their buildup of stress. That, and they are able to surround themselves with friends who help keep them motivated. That, combined with parental and teacher support is a recipe for success. 

“My social circle is extremely important because they always push me to be better and we all hold ourselves to high standards. This helps us keep a healthy competition. My teachers are constantly reassuring me that I am doing good and help me realize that I’m too hard on myself sometimes,” McManigal said. 

Porras believes that while it is very important for teachers to try to pick up those kids who are really feeling the pressure, it’s also important to not forget those who are doing good. Even the good students can use encouragement from their teachers to help keep them motivated. 

“Sometimes we focus so much on the kid who’s not motivated, we forget to tell the kids, ‘Really great job those of you that continue to care and always have’. But motivation is tricky. I think you have to help people love themselves first, and then they have this desire to do well in every area of their life. But if there’s some deep, social emotional issue that’s going on, I don’t feel like some kids have the emotional capacity to care,” Porras said.