College acceptances go up, effort goes down. This year though, instead of fighting it, I plan to embrace it. What I have realized in my brief tenure of teaching 12th graders is that senioritis is a phenomenon not built upon teenage entitlement or teenage laziness as I thought, but built on a teenager’s want to turn the page before the teachers want the page to be turned. I’m going to let my seniors turn the page by giving them more college-level assignments, more adult-level tasks, by putting them in situations where they can teach others, rather than always learn from.
Of course, I still need to assign the work, the papers, the projects that the curriculum requires. And I will. But this time with a different structure. Students will be more independently driven when writing their term papers, will be guided more instead of directly instructed, and will be held accountable just as much for their abilities to manage their time independently (a grown-up skill in their mind) as they are on actually producing a product (a student skill in their mind).
But what’s really exciting, and in the same vein, is that I now have the opportunity to get my students out on internships. They just finished writing their cover letters and resumes and at least ten of them hope to spend the hours of my class in the field working in law offices, non-profits, and other businesses. In this way, my students will get to feel like adults. That’s what they want anyway, it seems.
Further, I am excited to find opportunities for my students to work with younger students as much as possible. Whether that involves seniors helping to coach the mock trial team for sophomores and juniors, or emphasizing the program I advise whereby seniors mentor freshmen, allowing seniors to feel like they are trusted with a task that involves more than meeting the standards of a teacher, will drive engagement up. Why? Because those types of assignments, which demonstrate just as much learning, mastery, and expertise of content as any other type of assignment, don’t feel like school.
That’s my goal! Wish us luck as we try to go with the flow, make the school that seniors want so desperately to be out of feel not so much like school, keep the work meaningful and the effort high.