The title of this blog is from an old favorite movie of mine, Empire Records. It’s the story of several young people between 18 and 22 who work in a quirky record store. It’s your typical angsty teen comedy, and it was considered a must-see when I was a teen. On the day in which the story takes place, one of the characters does something very bad, and begins to act strangely, responding to questions with esoteric, philosophical answers. When his friend asks, “What’s with you today?” Lucas responds, “What’s with today, today?”
In some ways, I feel like this quote epitomizes the student experience at this time of year. Freshmen aren’t new anymore, and they’re starting to get a handle on the fact that college can be nothing like what they expected, or everything like what they expected, depending on the moment. They are (sometimes) getting a little kick in the butt from the reality of adult situations and responsibilities. And all the students tend to start feeling the winter doldrums a bit. I remember being a college junior and realizing for the first time how easy it was during winter to convince myself that my whole life was gray and damp and gloomy, and thus terrible and clearly not as awesome as everyone else’s (I know, that’s so melodramatic, but I was barely twenty! Gimme a break!)
What I mean is–this is how this subject relates to the title–students sometimes struggle with these gloomy, mid-year days feeling fractured, difficult, and hard to wrap their brains around. They’re still recovering from Christmas break homesickness relapse, they’ve got their first round of tests or papers (many of the students I work with have told me that they have 2-3 tests next week) and some report depression or test anxiety. Regardless of the long break at Christmas, their endurance is waning. It’s hard to see spring and then summer at the end of the tunnel.
The best way to support them is to encourage them to be active, to get out of their dorm rooms, go to the SuRF, take a walk down Bardstown Road, see a movie, go to a basketball or lacrosse game, head up the street to the Bard’s Town and see a play, poetry reading, or improv show…whatever it is that suits their fancy. Check out this video to see what I mean.
This time of year also brings about the pressing desire to stay in bed, especially for college students. This is when I start to hear them say, “Oh I just want a nap so bad! or “I could do my homework…or I could go back to the dorm and take a nap…” or “I totally slept through my alarm and missed a quiz! I was so tired!” Encourage them to give themselves some sense of regularity as far as sleep schedule (Nurse Alice has said that, even if students don’t get as much sleep as they should, keeping a regular schedule is a MUST) and to otherwise stay active during the day. A nap is ALWAYS the sneaky vortex of warm comfortable loveliness which completely destroys student motivation during the day. Think about it, if you went home from work at lunch and laid down in bed with your soft comforter and fell asleep, what are the odds you’d go back to work, especially if work was something you perceived as optional? Geez. I have to quit talking about naps or I am totally bailing on this blog to take a nap at my desk. See what I mean?!
This gives them no excuse. A college must-have. Click on the picture to see what it is, and please note the product description for the Tocky.
The point is, students can sometimes feel unanchored, unfocused, and unmotivated at this time of year, and those feelings are totally reasonable, but they can’t succumb to the swift downhill slope to slacking off. Help us keep them motivated. When they make it to the sunny spring days, it’s much easier from there.
OK, that’s what I see. What trends have you noticed with your students right now?
BU c/o 2005
Director of Writing and Parent Communications