The Lazy Ones

As a teacher, I like to think that I’m relatively well-able to handle most personality types in my classroom.

  • Drama Queens? Check
  • Class Clowns? Check
  • Great Debaters? Check
  • Curious Questioners? Check
  • Know-It-Alls? Check
  • Entitled Princesses? Check
  • Feet Draggers? Check
  • Time Wasters? Check
  • Social Butterflies? Check
  • Unhelpful Helpers? Check
  • Cry-Babies? Check
  • Hopeless Romantics? Check
  • Idealists? Check
  • Pessimists? Check
  • Competitive Jocks? Check
  • Wall Flowers? Check

Name a personality type, and chances are a teacher has dealt with that type at some point in their teaching career – often with varying degrees of success and failure. No matter the personality type, there are good and bad attributes about each, and therefore, there is always something to learn, something to gain and something to lose by working with each type. That’s the nature of the game. It’s our differences that make our experiences worthwhile.

And while I have learned a lot from working with each personality type, there is one type that I have learned nothing from; one type that has resulted in more frustration and hair-tearing out than any other; one type that I have had very little success with over the years.

That type?

The Lazy Ones.

The Lazy Ones are nearly impossible to motivate. No amount of coaxing, bribing, prodding, pleading, or threatening works. You can’t engage them enough, entertain them enough, or pique their interest enough. You can’t convince them, persuade them, or cajole them. They simply do not care, and they cannot be bothered to do the work.

In an effort to engage the student, the teacher will jump through all manner of hoops in the hopes that something will trigger an interest, a curiosity, or an innate gift, that will then catapult that student into “contributing member of the classroom” mode.

And it never works.

The teacher can use all form of pyrotechnics, dancing animals, explosives, musical theater, and celebrity endorsements and still… nothing. After all avenues of engagement have been exhausted, the teacher will receive, at most, an eye roll and a shrug, and the head returns to the desk, the body slumped over to resume it’s napping position.

Phone calls to parents, failing grades, after school talks about “potential” and “innate abilities” result in more nothingness, and the teacher stands there helplessly as another “lazy one” slips through the cracks despite exhausting every avenue available.

So, what’s a teacher to do? If the intrinsic motivation to learn something isn’t there, can any manner of extrinsic motivators do the trick? What do we do with the lazy ones? Can we save them from themselves? And how do we prevent ourselves from burning out in the process?

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4 thoughts on “The Lazy Ones

  1. Jana says:

    My son was one of those. He is incredible bright and we knew it. But he just wasn’t motivated – by anything. He would sign up for a bunch of AP classes and then end up failing most of them because he didn’t bother to do the homework. He gave up any extra-curricular activity because he would rather be home playing video games (and yes, we restricted video games or attempted to use them as a motivator – it never worked). He went to college, ignoring my advice to start with easier classes, and promptly flunked out – losing his state scholarship forever in the process. I despaired – thinking he would be 30 years old and still living at home (although I told him often that would not be the case). He got a job working as a scribe in the ER and loved the excitement of the medical field and, after talking to the staff there, decided he wanted to become a paramedic. He started classes, loved them, and was doing well – and then he didn’t complete a required background screening so he could do clinicals – and flunked the program. He started up again the next semester – and this time he wrote down one of his clinical days on the wrong day – so he flunked clinicals (which meant he couldn’t get his EMT certificate, even though he was an A student in all of the other courses). This semester, he is taking those clinicals again, as well as some other related courses, and so far, so good. He has certainly learned some life lessons about obligations, deadlines, and organization – and I do see him implementing new skills to make sure these things don’t ever happen again. He does finally seem to have found his place and really loves working in this field – so I’m very happy about that – and I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

    So, I guess what I’m saying with my long, convoluted story is that perhaps, with maturity, many of these Lazy Ones will grow out of it, find their niche, and go on to lead productive lives. I think that, like in my son’s case, it will be harder for them in the long run. I’m sure my son will look back and wonder what he was thinking and why he didn’t apply himself sooner – but I think there is hope for at least some of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • annieemmy says:

      I totally agree. It’s easy for me to forget that some of my very successful friends were exactly the same way as kids. Sometimes it’s something they just need to grow out of. I LOVE your story though because it shows that just because you may not have results as a teacher, oftentimes something will click down the road and it’s not a total loss. Thanks for the reminder, lady!


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