Senioritis Tips for Motivating Bored Students in their last Year of High School

Students with Senioritis need Teachers who love technology as much as they do! Let’s face it, the seniors who are enrolled in upper-level math classes and honors or AP English and Science classes are motivated already. Their problem may be that slightly different form of senioritis called burnout. They’ve been working for years to get to this point where they can fill out a multitude of applications to colleges and for scholarships. Then, there are the rest of the seniors suffering from senioritis. They’re the ones who took as many required courses as they could through their junior year and now are drifting as seniors waiting for graduation day.

How on earth does a teacher appeal to both of those groups and inspire them to get involved in class projects and activities? One great way to deal with senioritis-TECHNOLOGY! We’re dealing with a group of students who have grown up with a whole series of game systems that have nothing to do with the old Atari you knew about. They all have cell phones that work as mp3 players, and, of course, they all have mp3 players. They often are more computer savvy than you are! So what is an old teacher to do with all this digital stuff brewing in their students minds as they cover “curriculum” necessary for the ACT or SAT? Be brave, my teachers, and jump into their world!

Students are proficient with technology you don’t even know about. Start by involving them with what you do know. Create a PowerPoint presentation that flashes images of technological items you may not be familiar with. Ask them, “What is a Wiki?” “How do you upload videos to youtube?” “Do you know how to Podcast? What is a podcast anyway?” Then challenge them to create PowerPoints of their own to answer your questions and introduce you to new technology you don’t know about.

If you’re one of those lucky teachers who does know a little bit about technology, start incorporating it in your classroom lessons. For example, I have a weekly podcast for my seniors who are part of the College Summit program. Not only do I use it to remind them of assignments and share information with them, I have guest podcaster who is a student. This student writes a weekly column for the school newspaper where talks about the strange and stranger in our high school. I invited him to join my podcast with an expanded version of his column for the school paper. He loves it. The students love it. It’s created interest in the College Summit program and in podcasting!

Is MySpace a terrifying place for you? Wander around in there for a bit, and I promise you will be surprised at what you find. There’s lots of music, plenty of kids, and believe it or not, there are causes. MADD is there with some excellent sites built by parents and loved ones of those lost to a drunk-driving accident. There are authors and even characters by authors! (My favorite is the character of Odd Thomas from the Dean Koontz books. Odd has his own MySpace page now, and it’s great fun to visit there!) Build your own? Why not?! I have one that is dedicated to the students of my school. I post videos of pep rallies and pictures from class, from the cafeteria and the hallways, to teachers giving a smile. Not only do my current students love it, it has become a way to keep in touch with my former students, too. Now I can go into the classroom armed with information of what that senior from last year is doing at the college he or she is attending this year. Suddenly, the students are interested in how that friend managed to get into that activity!

Are there more things out there to use to motivate these senioritis victims? Of course there are! Technology is not the only way to reach students who have run out of steam. These students aren’t old adults yet, and they still respond to contests and group activities. You know they need some fire lit in order to get them to finish those senior projects for English class? The first three to finish receive…school lanyards with an attached USB Flash Drive to take off to college with them. They’re thinking of quitting with just a few months to go until they graduate? Enlist the help of your business and community partners to get them involved. Let them leave school early to go to work there or perform community service, and have an award ready for them for that hard work. Have them create their own “perfect world” scenario their senior year. What would they like to be doing and learning, and manage how you can incorporate that into your classroom lessons.

For example, all seniors need to know how to communicate with others. It’s in the curriculum for Speech, for English, and even for Technology standards. Have them practice by delivering demonstrative/how-to speeches on topics they choose for themselves. Ask the teacher with Life Skills materials of stoves and refrigerators if you can trade rooms for a class period, and let your students teach their peers how to make brownies and banana splits, or the perfect pumpkin pie to share with their family at Thanksgiving, or the most outrageous flower arrangement for the holiday table. Students who scrapbook would love to share their craft, and their friends would love seeing their pictures and the unique crafting of those pictures and captions in one place.

Seniors need to be planning for life after high school. Have them interview each other about those plans. (They’ll have to think about the plan in order to be prepared to give the answers!) Have them role-play college situations that are scary. You’re the teacher, you’ve been to college, you can play the part of the dean who calls the student in to discuss the prank that was pulled last week or the grades that aren’t quite up to par in a class or classes. Help them learn to deal with those situations by putting them in those situations. Many of your seniors will be leaving home to live somewhere else for the first time. Present them with the kinds of situations that occur when roommates from home outgrow each other and find new friends. Help them prepare for homesick blues by introducing them to new activities to keep them occupied and break up study time at college. Ask them to outline what they think a typical week at college will be like, then have a college student come in and dispel their pre-conceived notions! Use those former seniors, especially the ones who suffered from senioritis themselves, as guest speakers who can answer questions and raise questions that your students don’t know to ask yet. Make it a big deal, too. Reserve the auditorium for that guest and have an audience microphone ready to travel through the crowd as the seniors think of new questions to ask.

All seniors need to know that they are special because they have made it this far. Graduation should be more than a ceremony at the end of the school year. Plan events and activities just for seniors throughout the school year. Have door prizes donated by those business partners. Let your senior cliques get together and provide a skit for the entertainment warm-up at pep rallies and assemblies. Show off the musical and art talents of those seniors, many of whom will get no recognition all year if you don’t. Make school a place where seniors want to be because they are a part of so much. Use them as tutors at after-school and remind them that this activity will look good on their college and scholarship applications and on job applications. Involve them in every spot you can find a way to involve them.

Senioritis is a condition that can be killer for teachers. It doesn’t have to be. Make sure you give the seniors time to talk, and above all, make sure you hear what they are saying. They can guide you into making this the best senior year a student could have if you let them. Model those communication skills. Begin by listening, then provide feedback, and finally refine and hone their ideas into workable situations that will keep them interested at school. If it’s their idea, they’re much more likely to be motivated to do the job, and their senior year will pass in a flash-as it should. Give them plenty of memories to keep, and give them places to keep them. Be the teacher they need you to be, the one who understands senioritis and is willing to go the extra mile with them to make their senior year one they are proud of.