By Rachael Gerron
Web Content Contributor
Who would have thought being in college during a pandemic would be hard? Maybe it wouldn’t be if there was some guidebook or something that could have prepared us for this. But we were just thrown into a mess and met with “understanding during this tough time” while still being graded as if the world wasn’t in chaos.
I have struggled a lot academically ever since the pandemic started, and I know many others have too for so many different reasons. I’ve lost a lot of the motivation I once had for school, and for a while, I couldn’t quite put my finger on the reason why.
But after a lot of frustration with myself and with my zoom classes, I’ve realized that my lack of motivation goes back to before the pandemic even started. Throughout my life, I think a lot of my academic achievements have been a result of being a people pleaser.
In high school, I would go above and beyond to make sure I was a good student so that teachers would like me. I couldn’t stand the idea of not being liked by an authority figure I respected, so I generally did well in school, and I was rewarded for it.
However, there were exceptions to this rule, and I wasn’t a straight-A student by any means. I had a few math teachers who acted like I was a lost cause because I did not understand the material, and when they gave up on me, I did too. In retrospect, if I didn’t feel that it was possible to please my teacher, there was no point in trying anymore.
Of course, this teacher pleasing changed a little bit starting my freshman year of college, but the negative effects of it weren’t yet drastic enough for me to notice. But looking back, I remember focusing more on classes that were smaller, where I had a more direct relationship with the teacher, because of the praise I would get from the teacher, and making a teacher not like me for any reason is horrifying to me. I knew if I didn’t do my best on my homework, I would have to look my teacher in the face the next day in class and see their disappointment.
On the same token, I didn’t have the same pressure for classes with hundreds of students because they didn’t know me by name – in fact, they probably just had their teacher’s assistant grade my assignments anyway.
But it wasn’t until the pandemic started and classes moved online that I realized what was going on.
Last year, classes suddenly became extremely hard for me to focus on. I remember saying that my classes didn’t feel real. It felt like I wasn’t learning, and ultimately, it just felt like there was no point in being in college.
But I’ve realized that a big part of my lack of motivation is that I don’t have the ability to please teachers because teachers aren’t even present beyond an occasional Canvas message.
While I haven’t fully figured out where to go from here, having this realization has at least helped me to understand the reason for my lack of motivation recently. People-pleasing in general I something that I need to work on, and this is just another sector of my life that’s been affected by it.
I need to realize that my worth is not determined by the praise I get from a teacher, and education is only as beneficial to me as I let it be.
Obviously, there are many reasons why class online is a flawed environment. I still get frustrated that my so-called higher education has, in some cases, been reduced to recycled lectures that teachers recorded in the summer of 2020. But I also think rewiring my brain to want to succeed for my own benefit and not to please others is ultimately what is going to get me through these classes.
This is a topic that I haven’t heard much discussion around when it comes to academic burnout during the pandemic, and I’m sure there is much more to the conversation than I have covered from my experience. So, if you can relate to this, I hope you know you’re not alone, and please feel free to share your experiences in the comment section.
Featured image by Rachael Gerron.
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