Are Students Lazy? It's Doubtful

There isn’t much to say about the belief that students are lazy other than to remind myself and others that students are not a homogeneous group. Calling them collectively "lazy" is to be guilty of a different sort of laziness—the laziness of grand generalizations. Some students are indeed quite lazy by my unusually high standards for writing and reading productivity. But that isn’t a fair comparison. They are college students, after all, not college professors. Still, other college students put my standards for productivity to shame. Some, for example, work 12 hours a day every day of the week. They skimp only on sleep. Other students work multiple jobs while taking care of children. Many students are involved in varsity sports, student government, campus organizations, and mentorship programs. 

I can only think of one student from the past four years who kept a schedule that was less demanding than my own. She explained that her only responsibility was to show up to class and do well. The rest of her time was spent hanging out. She didn't even work a part time job. Still, it never occurred to me to call her lazy. Fortunate, perhaps--not to have to work or raise her siblings--but never lazy.

Just like college faculty and humans more generally, college students work with dedication towards the goals they have set for themselves. From what I have seen, students are creative and productive towards these goals. I have learned that it is much easier and significantly more rewarding to trust my students when it comes to achieving their learning goals. It is easier because I am no longer required to micromanage every conversation, discussion, and activity that takes place in and around the classroom. It is more rewarding because I get to see the creativity and diversity that students bring with them in pursuit of their goals. Trusting them is far better than being left frustrated wondering why they can’t do something the way I think it ought to be done. After they have accomplished their goal, I’m often surprised and embarrassed that I hadn’t thought to do it the way they thought would be best.


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