Motivation slumps plague students


Jane Rogers

Charlie Rogers (9) tries to read a book for class without getting distracted.

A sharp ringing noise bursts out and my eyes open groggily. My fingers extend in search of the snooze button on the alarm clock, hoping for just another few minutes of solace in bed before beginning the day. Just a few minutes becomes an hour, then two, until finally it’s noon and lunch is being made downstairs. After lunch, it feels like I have so much time on my hands, so I allow myself to push out the work, deciding to watch a movie. After the movie I still seem to have so much time, so I read a book, watch some Youtube, talk to a few friends, eat dinner and without me even realizing it, the day is gone.

The stay-at-home order has changed our schedules, our interactions, and countless other aspects of life in a completely unprecedented way. There are no first period bells, no teachers enforcing phone rules, and no friends to hang out with. These abrupt changes affect motivation.

In a survey from TSP, 80% of the 105 student respondents said they felt a decrease in motivation over the past month. Due to this, students are looking for ways to cope.

In many ways, e-learning is similar to the learning environment of college. Studying is self-paced, Google Meets are like lectures, and it’s up to the student to make their environment a good place to work. Aakash Setty, VHHS alumni and junior at Brown, commented on how motivation slumps have affected him during this time.

“Personally, a big driver keeping me motivated is the amount of money that I’m spending on college since there was no reduction in tuition,” said Setty. “But the social aspects of school like learning in study groups, working on group projects, and knowing that your peers are all going through the same struggle is missing.”

Ariel Shifrin mirrored a similar sentiment, reflecting the things he tries to do in order to make up for these missing interactions.

“I miss the collaboration aspect, and it makes the school [assignments]… that we have to do remotely more difficult,” said Shifrin (9). “I’m video calling and trying to text as often as I can so I’m keeping in touch, but it’s just not the same.”

The change can cause students to feel overwhelmed. Every day begins with a flurry of new messages and tasks from teachers with varying due dates and time requirements, and this becomes difficult to keep up with.

Ms. Benson, department supervisor for Career and Technical Education, weighed in on this.

“It’s really tough… to keep organization up. You know, [students] are getting a lot of emails every day, from assignments that are being posted on Google Classroom and individual teachers,” said Benson.

While it’s good to know what is affecting motivation, it’s even more important to understand that these feelings are shared by many, and there are things that can be done to feel less overwhelmed.

“No matter what you’re feeling, whether it’s frustration or anger, or maybe you’re not feeling anything… just know that your feelings are valid, and it’s okay to feel like that,” said Ms. Heinlein, one of the counselors at VHHS.

She also touched on the importance of setting up a schedule and giving the day some sort of structure.

“I think the most important thing [in fighting motivation slumps] is to establish routine. You know, try to go to bed early, set an alarm in the morning,” advised Heinlein. “Make sure to have breakfast… and while doing E-learning take frequent breaks”.

Based on the TSP survey, most students have been doing a good job with these things. 71% of respondents wake up before 10 a.m. In addition,64% reported exercising on a frequent basis, 61% spend time outside on a daily basis, and 91% said they have meaningful interactions with people during the day.

“I definitely feel more motivated when I choose to exercise. When we were in school I was in a sport so it’d be from like 3:30 to 6:00,” said Rodkey. “Now, I usually [excersise] in the morning, just wake up and hit it. Sometimes, I might do it with my whole family or just my sister”.

Even with an exercise routine, it can be difficult to find the drive to get work done when aware of the restrictions on grading penalties.

“I think our students are smart, and have paid attention to the wording of the rule that has come out from the state about grades and no harm done,” said Benson. “I think a lot of students who are really motivated by grades may now find that motivation is gone.”

While it can be difficult to get things done without a teacher to reprimand missing work, or a zero to show up in PowerSchool, this can be an opportunity to experience school in a risk-free environment that allows you to make mistakes and gain knowledge in the interest of gaining it.

“Your teachers are taking their classes and boiling them down to the things that we think are really important to learn,” said Benson. “Hopefully, students can find motivation to learn those things just for the sake of learning them.”