The Chomp

The Student News Site of Gateway Regional High School

The Chomp

The Student News Site of Gateway Regional High School

The Chomp

The Student News Site of Gateway Regional High School

Lacking Motivation – A Problem Countless Students Share

A Middle School and High School Collaboration
Mrs. Kelly Barrett
Lack of motivation and exhaustion affects everyone, even the Editor-in-Chief. Even AP students. Cold, dark winter nights after long school days can take their toll.

Something that almost all students share in today’s society is a lack of motivation coupled with an addiction to procrastination. Maybe there’s a game you’d want to play over completing an essay, or perhaps a practice for a sport you have to attend. Or, really, maybe you’re just long overdue for a good nap. Whatever may be the cause, getting motivated is tough. It can feel tiring to be pushing off an assignment, but it can be even harder to get started. 

Most speculate that this lack of motivation started in the Pandemic years. When the world is seemingly ending, why even bother getting out of bed, let alone logging into Zoom classes or doing work that likely won’t even be looked at? Most students found themselves sleeping through their Zooms, tuning in, and then leaving the room, or not even joining in the first place.

In a world full of so much uncertainty, there wasn’t much teachers and parents could do to boost motivation and help students to stay on track. Everyone was constantly anxious, parents were either working or figuring out how to keep their families safe, and teachers couldn’t control student outcomes from afar.

Coming out of the Pandemic, students, especially those affected in the younger grades, are still lacking the motivation and foundational social and academic skills. Some of their lack of motivation likely stems from feeling behind in the subject matter and lacking the study skills that they need.

“Personally, I am not behind academically, but I get so distracted I sometimes forget to turn in assignments just as much as I did during Zoom learning. I think I spent too much time structuring my own days back in 5th and 6th grades that now I sometimes struggle with expectations of me during the school day,” says Spencer Barrett, grade 8.

“I keep trying to fix it, and fortunately and often unfortunately I have a teacher mother always on my case to get myself together.”

Motivational skills are not something you can acquire overnight, or even alone, especially if it’s been some time since you’ve felt motivated, but with the right patience, even an accountability partner, the right procedures, and will, it can happen incrementally over time! Here are some tips to regain some motivation:

Time Management

A big part of getting started is having the time set aside that you need. Both being able to find time to work and managing the work in slots is important. If you need to get an essay done, and you know it will take a few hours, you can set aside a specific time one day to write or short bursts over many days. It may work better for you to divide the time over a few days. Pacing yourself and allowing yourself breaks can help a lot with staying on task.

In addition to this, set miniature goals for yourself, such as ‘introduction should be done by Thursday.’ These help you stay on track and give you checkpoints to look forward to. If you find yourself stressing about the overall finishing of an assignment, use these smaller dates to track your progress. It’s less daunting to think about completing each body paragraph by certain deadlines than to think about the big due date. By breaking work into steps, it’s much easier to stay managed. 

Reaching out when needed

“When I’m personally struggling to get an assignment started, it can be beneficial to contact someone for assistance,” says Ace Smith, grade 8.

Maybe the teacher who gave you the project, or maybe a friend doing the same work. Especially if you find yourself confused by the instructions, it never hurts to ask for help. Even if it’s just over something smaller, like finding the right format or source, don’t feel too bad to ask for clarification. 

Something that seems to also have arisen from the Pandemic is the inability to ask for help or communicate effectively. Especially for those who were affected by the Pandemic in grades 3-7.  You just have to remember that friends and adults are there to help you and want you to succeed. The worst someone can say is no! You have to speak up and use your voice.

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses

Being able to reflect on who you are and how you work is incredibly important when it comes to acquiring motivational skills. If you know that your strengths are creativity and organization, and your weaknesses are ambition and time management, you know what you have and what you need to fix. Then, you can reach out for assistance and plan a system that will help you to improve.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you are feeling down and regret not being able to keep up with peers, just remember that you are not alone. More students than not are critically lacking motivation to the point that countless studies are in place analyzing the phenomenon and its projected recovery time. It isn’t necessarily your fault, but it won’t improve without your effort.

I, Laurel, happened to enjoy the time away from in-person school during the Pandemic. I was definitely anxious about the state of the world, and my family had our own tribulations, but nevertheless, I feel as though I was able to keep the majority of my skills. I did sleep through 8 AM 8th grade French more times than not and was known to ditch Zoom math when it got boring. The Pandemic affected me at the end of middle school, however. I had already gained most of my study and social skills and wasn’t so much in the foundational stage where I was learning how to be a member of society by learning how to interact with peers or even learning to study. I may have been more mature by already learning and solidifying those skills, but not everyone has.

Kalise Miller, grade 11, says she feels this of our junior class in discussions we’ve had about motivation over the past several months.

She recently reported, “Since not much was really expected of us in the pandemic years, it is hard to fully get back.”

She also noted that since Gateway reintroduced activities like pep rallies and brought back school events like sports games, not as many attendees show up, and they aren’t as enthusiastic as in years past. We discussed wondering what it will take to rebuild motivated crowds.

As a junior today, I still find myself lacking motivation and resorting to procrastination tactics, even though most people find me highly disciplined. Especially since I am in numerous challenging AP classes, I find myself ready for bed the second I get home, not ready to open my backpack and get back into work mode.

I often find myself engaging in unhealthy habits, like sleeping from 4pm to 9pm and doing work until 3am only to wake up for school a couple of hours later. This isn’t sustainable, but in the moment it sometimes feels like the only option. On other days, I just keep going right after school in order to check things off my list, whether I feel motivated or not. I think this might be the cure–grit–which is stick-with-it-ness.

I think we need to change the narrative of what motivation looks like. It’s not a smile plastered across someone’s face stating I love what I’m doing. It’s impossible to love what you are doing 100% of the time. Grit is still showing up. Putting one foot in front of the other anyway even on our not best day. Plugging along. This is motivation too. 

— Laurel Barrett, grade 11

As a society, we want instant gratification. But not everything is fun or feels good in the moment. I’d rather veg out and watch Netflix or Facetime with friends for hours, and don’t get me wrong, I sometimes do, but to stay at the top of my game (and class) I sometimes just put one front in front of the other and get stuff done whether I’m exhausted, annoyed, or completely bored.

I want to go to college ideally out-of-state on merit so that my parents can redirect my college savings towards law school. I think having lofty goals from a young age helped me persist while the world was in peril, and to a great degree, I think it still does as others navigate the winter pallor of procrastination, but I’m a self-proclaimed nerd. In my free time I read about the rising prices of college, and I want to get out of my comfort zone, perhaps beyond New Jersey, and those two concepts don’t vibe, so I know to be able to do that I will have to receive merit $ because out of state colleges easily run families between $30-$40K per year WITH a decent amount of financial aid. Without, it’s upwards of $60-$80K. Most people don’t have that kind of loot lying around.

I blame my mom. Her stories about starting the next stage of her life in Boston in her early 20s have just always intrigued me, and then last summer, I spent weeks there, and whether I land there for college or in another state, or in NJ after all, I just want to spread my wings. I want to expand my worldview and see what I can do. I want to know what I’m capable of when I push myself to my limits and beyond.

I’m honestly curious of the end result. That’s what pushes me. I think about my goals every single day, and that’s how I stay motivated academically. It’s why I take advantage of every opportunity that I am given to succeed.  I want my record to represent the best of me. It’s my name. I mean, I’m no tragic hero, but if my name is on it, I want it to reflect who I actually am, not some slug version of me that I’ll look back to regret. Competing with myself, impressing myself, and being proud of myself is my own church door.

College application selection is so competitive, even among top students. When I get tired and want to just lay like a log like I am in this feature photo, what gets me up is imagining my future, transcending NJ. Castles don’t exist without foundations (I’m laughing now at imagining my mother laughing at this hack job of a motif that will likely only land for her PLC). It’s sad, really, the quips that run through my mind that are now commonplace from growing up with an English teacher mom!

But it’s true. I’ll say it again as a pro-Latin nerd: Rome wasn’t built in a day. The biggest thing to take away from years of waning motivation is the cliche that we are all in this together. The Pandemic, though it felt so long ago, was only a few years ago, and we are still learning and battling its effects. So, let’s try to live in the moment with the future in mind and rebuild any deficits. Be patient with yourself, but remember to force yourself to step it up as well. It takes 21 days, I hear, to set down new habits. Fake it until you make it!?

My future motivates me. What motivates you?

Make a list. Put it on a post-it. If you look at it everyday, you can manifest what’s on that list. I didn’t believe it, but again, another story from my mom is about a top student who had a post-it. He achieved the post-it goal because he stared at it every day. My post-it goals are engraved in a mental post-it, but I start every day seeing it and believing it.

My friends joke and say my brain needs to be studied because I am mastering APUSH. But there’s nothing special about my brain other than being great at memorizing and synthesizing things. I think I am good at grit though. I rarely sit still. It pleases me to be productive. I’d rather be studied for that.

Take a tip or two of ours into account and consider coming up with a plan that works for you to get more motivated!

You can do it! It might be as simple as putting your phone down to talk to someone new when a teacher says talk to someone about X, Y, or Z. It might feel lame at first, but talking to someone instead of living in your phone or own mind could end up being the best part of your day.

I have to force myself to be social. It’s getting easier. It took me until junior year to make good friends as the new kid. But you know what, my friends motivate me! If you find the right friends, they can reinvigorate your motivation too.

Ask yourself, what’s one new thing you can do today to show up for yourself? What will motivate you to crush a goal? What will motivate you to set one?

Envision your future. What does it look like? What are you doing? What makes you happy?

Now go make that post-it.

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About the Contributors
Ace Smith
Ace Smith, Staff Writer
Hi! My name is Ace Smith, and I am an 8th grade student. I participate in marching band, indoor color guard, theater, and a handful of clubs. In my free time, I enjoy art, writing, performing and music. When I’m not at school, you’ll probably find me doodling with music in my ears (but who’s to say I don't draw in class?). Writing, especially creative writing, is one of my top passions!
Laurel Rose Barrett
Laurel Rose Barrett, Editor-in-Chief
I'm Laurel Barrett, and I am in my second year as the Editor-in-Chief of The Chomp! I am currently a junior, and my favorite subjects are English and Science. My hobbies are reading, writing, and creating artistic projects, like posters and models. I am a lawyer in Mock Trial, a President of Book Club, and I am an NJ-JCL Executive Board Officer. I'm also a member of Latin Club, NHS, World Language Honors Society, and Gateway's Mentor Program. Additionally, I am the social media manager of a NJ non-profit called P.U.R.E. Girls, Inc. and enjoy volunteering at Angels Community Outreach. I plan to become a patent lawyer in the future and practice somewhere in New England. I look forward to interviewing featured teachers, writing opinion pieces, and creating book reviews for The Chomp this year! If you want to join our team, feel free to email me @[email protected].
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  • J

    JoshFeb 13, 2024 at 8:23 pm

    Laurel, thank you for sharing this very personal piece. When I was your age, people always told me they would give anything to be my (your) age again. But I read things like this and I get a profound sense of how hard it is to be a kid today. I will also tell you, even as an adult, I have many of the same problems you have. It helps to tell people your goals. Your friends will help keep you on track.

    • L

      Laurel BarrettFeb 14, 2024 at 11:54 am

      Thank you! I’m so glad that you liked it! Junior year has definitely been the hardest year of high school yet, but I am definitely learning important skills and ways to keep up!