There is a new and disturbing trend that I’m seeing among students. They sometimes give up before even trying. I didn’t see anything like this before but in the last couple of years this started to happen.
Last semester, for example, my most brilliant student – really, an extremely bright guy who obviously enjoyed the course and was very much into learning – didn’t hand in one of the essays.
“Where is your essay?” I asked.
“Nah, I decided to sit this one out,” he said.
I thought that he might have been busy or overwhelmed with other assignments, so I suggested he take more time. Then, I suggested he come to my office and we work on the essay together. Then, I told him he could have until the end of the semester to do it. (I’m always very accommodating this way.) But he refused even to try. This was not a doctoral dissertation, people. It was a 2 page essay analyzing a text we read and discussed in class.
All the student had to say, though, was, “I don’t think I will have much to say about the topic, so I’m just letting this one go.”
Or take yesterday, for example. We are preparing for the mini-quiz, and I handed out activities to help students prepare because, as I’d warned them, this will be a tough mini-quiz. One of the students looked at the exercise, pushed it away and just sat there.
“Why are you not doing the exercise?” I asked.
“It looks too hard,” the student said. “I’ll just wait for the answers.”
This is a language class, so knowing the answers that other people came up with is of zero help.
I’m extremely baffled by this phenomenon. You are sitting in class, anyways, so why not at least try to do the exercise? It surely is more fun than just sitting there, staring into space. How can anybody give up without even trying? And I know these students. There is absolutely nothing preventing them from doing the assignments quite well if they, at least, tried.
These are not rich kids. The absolute majority is paying for their own education, and life will not be easy for them after they graduate. So this tendency to not even try makes absolutely no sense.
Does anybody have an explanation? When this happens, I don’t even do anything because it is so strange to me that I have no idea how to address it. Maybe if I understood the reasons for this, I could find a way to deal with it.