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Rolling…downhill…losing….motivation

Well parents, it’s beautiful outside here, and I will admit that, even as a grown adult with self-discipline, I am hard pressed not to ditch this basement office and leave a note on the door that says, “Find me in the Quad.”  I bet some of you feel the same. If we feel that way, imagine how very little motivation your students have to sit in a classroom and listen,participate, and take notes. Yeah. That much.

The thing is, this is the time of the semester when it’s really important for students to stay focused–a lot of critical things can happen in the next couple weeks. Most students will take the last test before the final exam, or finish the last assignment before the big paper is due, and then spend the next couple weeks in class preparing for the huge amount of material that will be on the final (this varies by student and major, of course, but it’s usually some permutation of that general scenario). At the same time their last bit of performance is important, they seem to rapidly lose motivation and interest. I think the guys in the math or science department would call this relationship inversely proportionate, yes? Meaning as one thing gets bigger, the related thing wanes away. Dern. What now?

Keep checking in with your students about what they have going on, but don’t go overboard. I think we have all experienced those times when we try so hard to encourage a student to do something that we start hovering or pushing, and then the student is even less likely to listen and take our advice.

Talk to your student about finals–how many have you got? when are they? which will be hardest? how will you strategize for it? (All this info is in course syllabi and online).Encourage him or her to look forward to something fun after finals week and grades, but not so much so that all your student can think about is that new car/puppy/trip coming up, and loses focus on right now.

Mention how little time is left (less than twenty days of class) and have discussions with your student in which you break that down, so it doesn’t seem so long and intimidating: “Easter is next week, and that’s only a few days, then after that you have (insert fun time here) and (insert work/study time here) which should help the time go by fast. It’s not that long at all!”

Send your student encouraging notes/pictures/facebook messages/emails/USPS mail etc.We actually do this for the freshmen. At this time of year, we collect pictures of their entire freshman year, and then make a cool collage video, so the whole class has access to a video scrapbook of the first year. This reminds them how good and excited they felt when starting college, and why they did it in the first place; it helps them briefly reflect on what they’ve accomplished this year and bolster their motivation.

If your student has had a rough year, now is probably not the time to have a “post-mortem” conversation about everything. Be firm, but encouraging, and make your expectations clear and unwavering. After grades come out, then you can sit down, re-evaluate, and set goals and boundaries for next year. But flying off the handle or dissecting it now is only going to worsen things.

As they get all stressed out, I will share with some of my mom’s favorite advice to me when I neared the end of a ragged semester at BU.

1) Very few things don’t look better after a hot shower and a good night’s sleep.
2) If you’re stressed about something, take action on it. Don’t just sit around stressing.
3) Will this be important in five years? No? Then it’s not really worth this much stress, is it?
4) It’ll all come out in the wash.
5) One day at a time.

Good luck! It’s almost over (again).

Jessica Hume
BU Class of 2005
Director of Writing and Parent Communications, ARC

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About Cassie

I'm the Director of the Writing Center and Director of Parent Communications at Bellarmine University.

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