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Is There a Cure for Senioritis?

May 05, 2016 11:59AM ● Published by Stephanie Lauritzen

By Stephanie Lauritzen

Cottonwood Heights - Every year a strange virus contaminates high-schools across the nation. Suddenly, seventeen and eighteen- year-old teenagers can no longer concentrate, suffer from a deliberating need to be outside and even experience a form of situational amnesia-especially when homework is involved. Experts refer to the virus as “Senioritis,” with educators, parents and school counselors left desperate for a cure. Fortunately, some innovative teachers and programs in Canyons school District may provide an anecdote-engaging classroom lessons and career-based learning opportunities that help students stay engaged in their learning even after the commencement ceremony.

Lisa Willis, the Work-Based Learning facilitator at Brighton and Jordan High School organizes “career exploration opportunities” for students throughout the district. “It’s important that students leave high-school prepared for the future,” Willis said. “Students stay engaged when they know they are heading off to college with an idea of what working in their chosen career might look like. We organize activities all year long that help students imagine life after high-school.” 

From activities like “Green Day,” where students visit Utah Valley University’s Thanksgiving Point campus to study alternative fuel, to “DigiGirlz” a Microsoft-sponsored program for girls interested in coding and tech careers, Willis believes helping students become aware of all of their options helps them stay motivated during their senior year. “Exploring career options in high-school helps students make sure they don’t waste money in college trying to figure out what type of job they would like. By starting during high-school, students might realize they don’t want to be a nurse, but would love working as a surgical technician instead. It also helps students realize what a job is really like, what kind of money they can expect to earn, and how to function as an independent adult.”

In addition to off-campus activities, Canyons schools are also offering Career Fairs, as well as opportunities to job shadow professionals in a variety of occupations. “This allows students to meet a professional working in their field of interest one- on -one, and experience what it feels like to ‘go to work’ every day,” Willis said. “It also helps students feel more like adults. They’re learning, but they aren’t in the school all day, and it can be very freeing and rewarding.”

Students also stave off Senioritis when teachers provide unique learning experiences inside the classroom.  Willis often works with teachers to coordinate guest-speakers and experts to come talk to students as part of a teacher’s curriculum. “It’s important for work-based learning facilitators to build relationships with teachers in order to work together and back up the teacher’s classroom instruction.”

Furthermore, some teachers might modify their curriculum and try new things in order to keep students focused and in class. At the end of each year, Brighton High social studies teacher Aaron Hadfield teaches a government unit requiring students to develop their own governments-complete with military systems and heads of state. For instance, for two weeks all of the students simulate living under a totalitarian regime, complete with uniforms and secret-police. Afterward, they study the U.S. Constitution  and democracy. 

 Hadfield believes that by making learning fun students are more willing to “buy-in” to learning-especially since they are heavily involved in directing the classroom activities. Hadfield’s class is now something each class of seniors readily anticipates. “I’m fortunate because word has spread in our community about this activity, and kids look forward to it at the end of every year,” he said. “So it’s often the big thing that keeps the students involved in learning up until the day they walk across the graduation stage.” 

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