We would all love for students to be engaged and focused in their work. We would all love if every student put as much effort into doing their schoolwork as, say, they put into finding out the latest gossip or finding out information on the latest Xbox 360 game. But maybe, just maybe, instead of focusing on what students find interesting, we should instead ask why students find what they do interesting.
The question seems kind of silly…interesting things are interesting. There’s not much deeper you can go than that. If that’s the case, though, then students believe that doing school work is not cool because…it isn’t.
All the adults of the world would love to believe this weren’t so, of course. It’s a whole lot easier to say that kids don’t do schoolwork because they are rebellious, angsty teenagers who haven’t made peace with the establishment, or that they are lazy victims of some kind of media, whether it be TV, video game, or music.
Yes, some students are lazy. Yes, other students are deliberate troublemakers. Some students also simply can’t do the work they are given, so they are discouraged from doing work at all. However, even among the most intelligent and most capable students, some do not do work. They are capable, and they are driven in other events, but homework, it seems, is not for them.
Everything points to one reason: schoolwork as it popularly is set up today is not particularly engaging. The sad fact, however, is that by the time it needs to be engaging, it often isn’t.
For example, math has very engaging theories and subjects within its umbrella. However, no one can be expected to run, jump, skip, and hop until they first learn to crawl and then walk, and math, very painfully, is the same way. Because students only learn the fundamentals of algebra and geometry in a meaningful way later on in school, they are turned off by the ho-hum nature of the subject. This disinterest is furthered by repetitive problems to drill the basic concepts in. These hundreds of homework problems may be beneficial to struggling students; after all, they need to be familiar in seeing the way certain problems look and feel, but for advanced students, this is boring and disengaging.
Very rarely do students see that at the end of the tunnel, there are actually real applications to the math that they dread. Very few high school students now take calculus. Even fewer take a traditionally non-math class, like economics, that applies calculus – and that’s where the real “cool” stuff is.
The unfortunate fact is that schools have little resources to change this status quo, even though every teacher wants to make a difference and get to the cool stuff. This problem is not isolated to only math but can also affect nearly every other subject. Most students don’t get a chance to touch the “cool” stuff until college – and by then, some say it’s too late.