Ok folks, “Change of Habit” is no longer a charmingly campy 1970s movie starring Elvis as an inner-city doctor and Mary Tyler Moore as a conflicted nun (boy, that reference was a stretch, wasn’t it?) “Change of habit” is now also my theme for this blog.
What do I mean by all this “change of habit” nonsense? Einstein said the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We often use that expression here in the ARC to help students understand that, if they’re not doing as well as they’d hoped, or not getting the results they hoped for in a situation, they have to do things differently, change their habits.
Quite often, students have trouble taking ownership of the fact that their habits are the biggest factor preventing them from achieving their goals. The majority of the time, they latch onto a peripheral factor and lay the blame there.
For example, I worked with a student once who really struggled with History and was struggling academically overall, so I said to him “Are you achieving the results you want?” “No,” he replied. “Do you know what elements are necessary to achieve those results.” “Yes,” he said firmly. “So,” I said, “what do you need to do to close this gap?” He looked at me blankly. As the conversation evolved, he claimed he “just wasn’t interested,” or “couldn’t get motivated,” but refused to acknowledge (or didn’t realize) the fact that his terrible sleep schedule and spotty attendance might be habits that were directly effecting his performance in this class. Moreover, he didn’t seem to understand that changing his academic future was as easy as being willing to change his habits.
A lot of parents I have heard from can identify their student’s bad habits with the speed and accuracy of an OK corral gunslinger. “He won’t ask for help when he needs it.” “She’s disorganized.” “He procrastinates.” If I’m right, you parents have been battling these bad habits with your students for years; recently, you may have found yourselves saying things like, “You won’t be able to get away with this in college,” and, “In college, I won’t be there to get you out of bed, so you better get used to waking yourself up.” You’ve probably said things like this offhand to your student, but I would encourage you to have a direct, intentional, specific conversations in which you work with your student to identify habits that need changing, and ask him/her ways in which s/he can work on changing them this summer.
M point is, a lot happens between summer of freshman year and summer of sophomore year, but that’s really the absolute last span of time your student has to change bad habits. After they, they will most likely damage his/her academic career irrevocably, so there’s a sense of urgency here. Realistically, change has to happen in order for your student to be successful. I encourage you, I entreat you, while you have some time, to put an end to the madness.
Jessica Hume, Bellarmine University c/o 2005
Director of Writing and Parent Communications