It's here. At high schools across the country, students are experiencing the dramatic checking out we associate with the final months of high school.
Recently I spoke directly to seniors about this, asking: Why? Why do so many seniors believe self-imposed senioritis to be part of the pre-graduation rite of passage?
In the written responses, many said they assumed there was nothing more of value to be learned. Everything they had to know or do to get to college had been completed. Though not everyone expressed this viewpoint (some students expressed excitement about the remaining semester), the dominant opinion was that the reason for going to high school -- getting to the next level -- had been accomplished. Their grade point averages and AP scores didn't mean much anymore, so why try?
We hardly needed more confirmation of the way American education is treated as an instrumental good (and, to be fair, I probably had a similar mindset when I was a senior). But it raises the question nevertheless: How do we get students to think of education not simply as a means for advancement, but also as a means for wisdom and insight independent of a credential or a career?
One of my colleagues has this apropos line: If the fish aren't biting, you can't blame the fish, you have to change the bait.
In education today, what is the better bait? We can't blame students. Rather, as teachers, we must become innovators; we must see persistent senioritis as the call to be more creative in how and what we teach.
These past few weeks, not wanting to ignore senioritis, I've begun to talk about the concept of "the beginner's mind," inviting students to be open to being suprised, to refuse the standard assumptions that accompany this part of high school. What possibilities, I ask them, might be open to you if you remain curious and hopeful, refusing to commit to pre-conceived notions?
Some of my students are intrigued. There seems to be a glimmer of hope. I'll report back in a few weeks and let you know how things are going.
For now, though, what do readers think? For educators, what strategies do you recommend?