Teaching Enthusiasm


My poor class.  I really don't enjoy making an example of them, but they are really teaching me a lot this year.  A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Teaching Kindness.  In this post, I talked about the lack of respect my first year college students seemed to have for me and others in general.   Most of this disrespect, I believe, comes from a general attitude of not caring--not caring about others but not caring about anything.

It's been hard to create a spark, to create an energy, to create an excitement in my classroom.  Oh yes, as a trained professional, I've been taught that I need to cater to all different learning styles--auditory, visual, verbal, social, interpersonal, kinesthetic, etc.  As a result, I use podcasts, YouTube videos, PowerPoint presentations, writing lessons, meditation, role playing, exercise, music, everything and anything to get my students interested.  Heck, I'd even get up in front of the class and perform a tap dance if it would get their attention and dare I say, make them crack a smile.

I don't like to stereotype or make assumptions, so of course, not every eighteen/nineteen year old falls into this category, but I do sense a growing trend.  I understand that teenagers have hormones--their number one priority at this age, oh how I hate to say this, is getting laid.  (Lil' Lewie you are barred from reading this post ever!)  If not getting laid, then their goal is to increase the prospects of getting into a relationship with this emotional/physical intimacy.  These students also seek companionship and acceptance from relationships with their peers, etc.  I get it.  I don't think I'm that old of a fossil yet, even though my students would probably think differently.

Still, while I realize that school and learning may not necessarily be the priority here, I'd like to see them take an interest in something SOMETHING.  After all, school equals their future.  It equals what they may end up doing for the rest of their life. 

In my communications class, we talk about mass communication and stereotypes.  We talk about cultural and gender differences in communication.  We talk about effective listening strategies.  We talk about critical listening, evaluating speaker credentials, and evaluating the content of speeches (particularly persuasive speeches).  And, finally, we practice giving our own presentations both with using visual aids like PowerPoints and video and without visual aids.

To me, this is exciting stuff.  Not everyone enjoys going up in front of the class and speaking, but we do lots of exercises to learn how we can be better at communicating and listening.  At one point, I had my students watch a debate between the two candidates running for State Senate.  "Are any of you going to vote on November 2?" I asked.  The class became so quiet I could hear a pin drop.  "Are you guys registered to vote?"  Nope, not a single student raised their hand.  "What's the difference between a Democrat and a Republican?" one brave student asked.  Being as neutral as possible, I tried to explain the differences between liberal views and conservative views when the same student who asked the question said, "That's okay, Miss.  I wan't really that interested."  Another student piped in, "We don't need to know this for the midterm do we?"

Ugh!  Where's the interest?  Where's the enthusiasm?  Where's the desire to learn about the world, humanity, the arts, history, or even about our own country and government?  I realize not all college campuses are like this--college students, historically, have been the ones fired up to promote change and to form rallies to demonstrate their views and ideals.  Still, my bunch probably wouldn't even move from their seats if a fire was reported in the building.  "What, do we like have to go outside?" would be a question from at least one of my students.  "This sucks," would be the response from another student.  I hear these comments all day long...Yes, the "Do we have to do this?" to "This sucks."

Everything I learn in the classroom relates back to my little guy at home.  I look at him and see an outpour of enthusiasm for life.  Everything he does shows passion.  If he gets to do something he enjoys, he's wildly excited about it, and if it's something he dislikes, he's equally passionate.  He wants to learn how to say things and how to do things by himself.  He wants to learn about how to become a big boy (a.k.a. his future) and gets upset with me if I stunt the process by saying, "No, you can't do that yet.  Not until you're older" as I take the knife out of his hand.

I wonder...when does this enthusiasm for life turn into a "this sucks" mentality?  Is this a natural progression that happens to most teenagers or is this an attitude that's somehow passed down from parent to child?  Or, finally, is this "I don't care about anything" mentality a product of children that are given too much and no responsibility? 

I don't have the answers.  Oh, how I wish I did.  All I can say is that my goal is to build a love for learning with my little guy.  I want him to be excited about exploring and researching.  I want him to be passionate about his opinions, and I want him to care, deeply, about his actions and how he treats others.  I have my mission.  Do you have one too?


  1. well as a former P.E and health teacher, grades kinder through 8th, I know that they sometimes lose that "excitement for learning" somewhere between hormones and about 6th or 7th grade!! You seem like you're doing an incredible job getting their minds to explore, they'll come around...hang in there! I have an associates in journalism/communication and we had a young professor that quit on us because she said we didn't care enough...sad, but true. HANG IN THERE, you have a passion for this-they'll get there :) Keep showing them how much YOU love it and it'll get them excited. I still have students from my jr high health class coming up to me from 3-4 yrs ago, saying how they changed certain things because of my passion for exercise and health...what a feeling!

  2. Thanks Marissa. I'm hoping that if they're not expressing excitement on the outside that at least, they might be motivated on the inside.

  3. Oh Annette, you're doing an amazing job with a tough group! I don't know why our young adults are so dispassionate about the world around them. When you write about your class, I worry about what kind of world Lewie and Georgia will get to inherit. For what it's worth, I would have loved to have a professor like you when I was in college!

  4. This is so horrifying and shocking to me! I remember how excited I was to vote after I turned 18. The level of apathy is awful.

  5. A love for learning is such a gift to give to a child. And so hard to not let it get extinguished.

  6. Annette, these stories about your students really disturb me. I wonder the same thing - is this just "kids these days" ...is the problem the parents...what's going on? And don't they realize that this isn't mandated grade school? This is college...that they have to PAY to attend. Maybe that's part of the problem...all of the parents are paying and the kids are just seeing it as another boring obligation. Your class sounds fascinating. If I didn't already owe a million dollars in education loans, I'd sign up! At least take heart that Little Lewie won't be like these kids. Not possible.

  7. Stopping by from Thirsty Thursday Blog Hop! Feel free to stop by & say hi :-)



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