Thursday, March 24, 2011

Student Apathy

One thing that's really disheartening for me every year is that there are always a few kids who refuse to put in anything extra into the class. They show up, they'll do whatever you tell them to do in class, and then they leave and then NOTHING. Their mathematical brain shuts off on the weekends and they don't do anything, and they think you are crazy for expecting them to retain anything from Friday, on Monday. If you have a quiz on a Monday, they'll just take a zero, because the alternative is that they'd have to do something at home on Sunday to review, and that simply is not going to happen.

That's super disheartening, because it makes me feel like I am the only one that cares about their learning or their grades, and that I'm fighting the fight alone. I think they think that it's easy for teachers to have faith and to keep wanting the best out of them. If only they knew how deeply affected we are by their apathy.


  1. It is a frustrating part of teaching for me as well. Do you ever get students who will mysteriously start doing homework, get your hopes up, and just as mysteriously go back to nothing after a few days?

    Paul Hawking
    The Challenge of Teaching Math
    Latest post:
    The currency of a weekly art show

  2. Yep, or the ones who just fluctuate in general effort with no real reason.

    I think the thing that bothers me the most about all this is that I AM so affected by their upswings and downswings. I wish I could just weather it all and be endlessly optimistic nonetheless, but truthfully their apathy beats down on my faith a little every week. End of Q3/beginning of Q4 is always really hard, because I want to see all of the efforts I've put into them pay off, and it doesn't always or hasn't yet. And then it gets really hard to be as optimistic when I face them the next week.

  3. Sounds like you find it really hard this time of year. I'm guessing it's twice as hard with your moving from school to school every few years: I think one of the advantages of staying in one place for several years is that you do occasionally hear back from those students and, as cliche as it sounds, they do tell you that they finally took to heart your and other teacher's efforts to help them and not give up on them and they're getting their act together with college, work, life, etc. It doesn't completely eliminate my frustrations--especially since I know some won't get their act together after high school--but it helps.