Who doesn’t remember being antsy to get out of high school once and for all?
Being a senior in high school is an exciting time for students, but being wrapped up in the countdown to graduation can sometimes turn into a serious illness: senioritis, what Urban Dictionary defines as, “A crippling disease that strikes high school seniors.”
Urban Dictionary jokes senioritis symptoms include wearing sweatpants and athletic clothing in excess, but on a more serious note, also laziness, “lack of studying, repeated absences and a generally dismissive attitude.”
OK, so maybe it’s not a medically documented ailment, but it is real, says Debra Natke, a 12th grade English teacher who has been teaching seniors for 30 years.
“There’s no doubt,” she says. “I think that the senior year has gotten a bad rap that you shut down in a senior year.”
Parents typically begin to notice signs of senioritis around midyear the senior year – or possibly sooner. Signs include poor grades and incomplete assignments, cutting class and increased absences, and sometimes actions as drastic as using alcohol or drugs. Parents may also notice their child being lazy, just as the Urban Dictionary definition notes, having a hard time getting out of bed for school, or wanting to spend all their time with friends.
Unfortunately, just because students are graduating and may already have their post-secondary futures planned doesn’t mean they should blow off their last year of school.
Keeping students motivated
With her students, Natke makes sure she’s adding fun assignments and humor to keep the kids motivated in class, but also lets them know, “this is not the time to shut down” and, “we’re in this together,” she says.
While Natke says she has good students who stay pretty motivated, she does make sure she’s communicating with her students’ parents weekly and letting them know if there has been a drop off in grades. She suggests parents check their student’s grades themselves, too, and make an effort to stay in touch with their senior’s teachers.
For her students who are a little less motivated? “I always try to see if I can motivate them by saying, ‘You know we don’t want to do this in summer school – how can I make this work for you?'”
Natke, at least in her experience, says she’s seeing fewer cases of senioritis.
“Every year it gets better because I think the message is out there now, you know, wait until you’ve got that final grade and then have fun,” she says.
Many of her students have plans for college or are going into the military after graduation, and so that definitely helps. Having a post-graduation goal or plan is “the key,” she stresses.
“The kids that know where they’re going (and) know what they’re going to be doing, they’re monitoring their own grades,” she says. The fact that some colleges want to see grade updates per semester or request last semester grades definitely motivates, she adds.
Are you noticing signs of senioritis in your teen? It’s time for a talk. Ask them what can be done to overcome it. Most importantly, aside from checking on your teen, is to not punish them by taking away “senior privileges” like prom.
Parents play a big role in keeping their teen motivated, as does the teacher. “It’s the three of us – we’ve all got a piece of this pie,” Natke says.
This post is updated regularly.