Work for it, success in the classroom dependent on effort


Feature photo by Camryn Devore

Ann Fitzmaurice

[dropcap style=”light” size=”4″]M[/dropcap]ounted on the front chalkboard of Chris Fischer and Nicole Clemens’s Advanced Placement (AP) United States History and AP Language and Composition class is a list of classwork to be completed by the end of the unit. These assignments, piled into a single packet the teachers call a “portfolio,” are all given at different points during the unit, but they are all due at the same time, allowing for students to decide when they want to complete their work.
Whether or not the students do all of the assignments, however, is dependent on their work ethic. Junior Emily Ma believes that although she may not have the greatest work ethic, she’s learned how to use her time efficiently.
[quote]“I know that I will eventually do the work and do the work well,” Ma said. “If there’s no deadline I don’t do the work immediately because there’s usually more pressing studying I could be doing in the meantime. I definitely procrastinate, but I also prioritize.”[/quote] By choosing what work is a priority in order to decide a sequence of events is a common strategy and one of the most important in organizing coursework, according to a study by Especially with a heavy workload, choosing which assignments and classes are more important can help with stress as well as balancing extracurricular activities. Sophomore Shanley Silvey is involved in a number of extracurriculars including dance, marching band, Mini MizzouThon and Young Democrats. In order keep track of school and all of her activities, Silvey said she doesn’t usually procrastinate, but when she does she finishes her work the night before or the morning it’s due.
“I balance school with other activities by doing assignments as I get them so they don’t pile up,” Silvey said. “[Although] I could improve on [my] study habits in school, I [try to] use my AUT time wisely.”
Silvey tries to organize herself by writing in a planner and separating her binders and folders. Despite a heavy workload from several honors and AP classes, Silvey attributes her high grades to her motivation to study and work hard during class. With the average high school student taking home three or four hours of homework a night, according to a poll by the University of Phoenix, a strong work ethic is necessary for many high school students.
“I used to do homework as soon as I got it, but as time went on the amount of homework increased, and the time I had for homework decreased,” Ma said. “I had to prioritize my work so that my semester grades wouldn’t suffer.”
While grades motivate Ma to work harder in class, Psychology Today warns that report cards can often harm a student’s motivation and work-ethic. Students who are only motivated by their grades can often find loopholes from doing work in order to achieve a high percentage, such as leaving all the work in an online class until the last day and producing mediocre work in order to get it finished, as Ma did last semester. Other loopholes can include cheating and taking easier courses to secure a higher grade. AP Language and Composition teacher Nicole Clemens, however, believes grades are a great tool to incentivise students to raise their work-ethic, as they’ve been taught to value grades.
“Grades are a kind of currency among peers, teachers [and] colleges. But there is a strong relationship in my experience between students who are motivated by something other than grades and students who are academically successful,” Clemens said. “Grades are the boss for a lot of students, but they certainly aren’t the only motivation. My students are motivated when they enjoy the content in a big picture, ‘I love English’ kind of way or a smaller, ‘Hey, did you know Helen Keller was more than just a blind and deaf lady?! Read this!’ kind of way.”
Along with urging students finding interest in their work by allowing them freedom in classwork, integrated projects are a way to get students motivated, according to an article by MindShift, a classroom advice website. Integrated projects allow students to choose a subject they want to study that relates to the class unit and complete it for a grade. Giving the students an option to choose how they want to learn increases their passion and thus decreases procrastination.
[quote]“There’s also a motivation and value component,” Clemens said. “If you value what you’re doing, you’ll spend more time on it and do a good job. If you’re in it simply to get the points and so your parents don’t yell at you about an NHI, that’s the perfect recipe for procrastination.”[/quote] For Ma, however, procrastination is hard to avoid while trying to balance seven classes. In some periods, she takes notes over the textbook, rewrites notes and does the homework immediately because she knows exams are 45 percent of her grade with no corrections. In other classes, Ma walks into the room without studying at all because test corrections are an option.
“Last semester I procrastinated pretty bad on an online sociology class, and I was really behind at the end of the semester,” Ma said. “I ended up completing about 50 percent of the semester’s work in two days.”
Deadlines can be a big motivator for students, according to an article by the New York Times. Additionally, when someone verbally commits to doing something, they are more likely to get it completed on time. In Clemens’s and Fischer’s AP United States History class, students have the option to revise their portfolios after the date they are supposed to turn them in as long as students complete the assignments with optional revisions by two weeks after the original “due date.” Students, however, begin to internalize that the “due date” is not the actual due date, and they still have another two weeks.
“For a lot of students, deadlines are motivating. There’s an end in sight; it has to be done because there is no plan B. But for a lot of students deadlines are too malleable. Like in AP U.S. with the two-week window,” Clemens said. “But, really, the same holds true for me as a working adult to some degree. I know I have to grade all the time, but the day IPR grades are due is a hard deadline that looms over my head that week, and I’ve got to get it done even if it means I have to adjust some other things in my life to make it happen.”
How would you describe your work ethic? Let us know in the comments below.