The epidemic has begun, and there is no known cure. The symptoms of this crippling disease include laziness, excessive apathy, and chronic tardiness. Additional symptoms may include a general lack of studying, repeated absences, and a casually dismissive attitude. Victims of this illness frequently shrug their shoulders and say things like "whatever" and "yeah right."
The disease is senioritis, and it will strike nearly all twelfth graders between now and graduation. It is highly contagious and has been known to cause a rapid drop in GPA and, in extreme cases, failing grades in required classes.
The onset of senioritis usually begins with a letter from a college or university that starts with the word, "congratulations." Symptoms may appear within a few days or even a few hours. The result is nearly always the same: a complete and total disregard for homework, quizzes, and tests.
Within a week or two, infected persons may begin daydreaming in class or start sleeping during videos and lectures. Those with advanced symptoms frequently cut classes altogether in order to hang out with friends at a nearby McDonalds or Chipotle restaurant.
Like many teachers at my school, I have begun to notice some of these symptoms in my senior students. I became truly alarmed when I recently submitted interim grades for third quarter with an unusually high number of failing grades, mostly due to missing or incomplete homework. I knew then that senioritis had infected large numbers of my students.
So I asked my students to write a short response to the question, "What can we do about senioritis?" Their answers reveal the extent of the problem and the threat posed by this dangerous disease.
Most students admitted that the situation was essentially hopeless and that most seniors had already contracted the virus. One student confessed, "It is inevitable. Once seniors get into college, the mojo is gone!"
Another put it more bluntly. "We can't do anything about it," she said. "It's like the plague. You can't stop it until everyone is gone."
Yet another student wrote, "Teachers should just stop giving us work, and let us watch movies, color, and eat in class." This student, who clearly has an advanced form of the disease then admitted, "Senioritis is getting really, really bad!"
One student offered a more practical suggestion. "One of the only things I can think of is for colleges to actually take second semester grades into account in admitting students and not allow their G.P.A to fall more than half a point." Realizing that this will likely never happen, the student then suggested that, "teachers can give more work during class and less homework."
By far, the most popular suggestion was for schools to simply cancel the second semester altogether as it is a total waste of time. "Either cut school a semester early or make final grades count with regard to college," wrote one student.
Another student stated the problem in no uncertain terms. "Once we get into college, we are done with high school!"
Well, after reading these comments and many more like them, I have decided to try a radical new approach in hopes of stopping or at least lessening the impact of senioritis on my students. This week I put all of my seniors into cooperative learning groups and told them that all assignments for the rest of the year must now be completed by the group working together and sharing information. In this way, each student will hopefully be motivated to do his or her part of the assignment so that the group as a whole will receive an acceptable grade.
So far this approach seems to be working. When I did a homework check in my classes today, most of the groups in each class had actually completed the assignment! Students were generally well prepared and did better on a quiz that I gave them on the material at the end of the class than I had expected.
I am hopeful that this cooperative approach will help to stem the tide of senioritis, at least in my classes. It is certainly not a cure, but it does seem to alleviate the severity of the symptoms.
After all, as any student will tell you, the only real cure for senioritis is graduation - and that is still several months away!