What’s the teacher perspective on senioritis?

 Do you ever wonder what teachers think about senioritis? Staff reporter Christian Wagner investigates the teacher perspective behind this issue. Seniors in the photo above hang out in the senior lounge. Staff photo by Christin Wagner. 

By Christian Wagner

“Whatever senioritis is, it’s nothing new,” APUSH and AP Economics teacher Charles Hanson said. Senioritis at Menlo has become known as a lack in motivation and performance in school after the college admission process is completed in the second semester of one’s senior year in high school. Common perception of this concept is specifically directed toward both the millennial and current generation of high school students, generation Z. However, the first usage of the word senioritis dates back into the late 1950s. In assessing the issue from a teacher’s perspective, it is crucial to recognize that this is not just something new to our generation, but something that our teachers have grown up with and experienced firsthand as a student.

Each year, students across the senior class experience varying degrees of senioritis. Education is built for the student, and, unsurprisingly, this aspect of the student’s experience has drawn large amounts of time and energy in the evaluation and confrontation of this concept of senioritis. However, throughout years of discussion and attempts to solve this problem (most notably the introduction of senior projects in 2001), the teacher’s perspective has been all but pushed out of the public eye.

“If the reason somebody looks like he hasn’t been working so hard in some of his classes is that he is working very hard in […] the classes he is very passionate about, to the partial exclusion of things they used to spend a lot of time on […] then, that comes out in a very positive way. […] Some of it is just plain cheesing off. [But] some of it is, ‘I don’t have to do everything any more, I just have to do some things,’” Hanson said.

This idea of concentrating on what a student is passionate about is something that might even prepare a student for what they will experience in college.

“With [senioritis] comes a negative connotation, [but] part of me thinks that these seniors are looking forward at this point. They’re looking past what Menlo is and at what’s in store for them. And if that pulls you away from some of your classes, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing,” sophomore and senior English teacher Cara Plamondon said. It is possible that senioritis, though implying a reduction in effort, may also represent a key stage in college preparation. To some it may be seen as crucial for a student to recognize and take advantage of the freedoms that lay ahead and study what they are most passionate about, but there always exists a line between embracing freedom and working around responsibility. “They’ve earned that choice, and they’ve also earned the consequences that come with that choice,” Plamondon said.

“I’ve been in their shoes before, [but at times] they’re not demonstrating that they can be counted on,” biology teacher Todd Hardie said. “In the toughest of times when you aren’t motivated to be in the classroom, you need to dig deep and find a reason to be there and show that,” Hardie said. Though students may express varying levels of reduced effort in the classroom, issues of trust and commitment often find their way to the surface of student life.

Since the introduction of senior projects, students have had the opportunity to demonstrate their shifting interests as they transition to college, but they have also become a primary way to exploit the lack of pressure after college admissions. “Some people make really good use of their time [during senior projects], and some people don’t. That’s not telling me something about senior projects, it’s telling me something about you,” Hanson said.

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