Why bother?

An interesting thing happened in a college classroom the other day. The story recounted to me isn’t exactly surprising, but we did later described this situation to our kids in order to impart an important message.

Not surprisingly, the teenager was harder to convince than the tween girl.

Here’s what happened:

In order to prepare his class for an upcoming assignment, my partner suggested they do a mock-up during the second part of the lecture. Get together informally with a small group and debate some challenge while he is present and able to guide them along. A hands-on learning environment, so to speak.

One student wanted to know if they were getting marked on this today.

No, was the answer. This is just a practice. The marks will go on a similar assignment, a case study, which they will receive next week.

The practice session was to begin after the break (lectures are about two and a half hours in total…)

Well imagine the prof’s surprise when the student who asked the question was no longer in class after the break.

The student decided since he wasn’t getting marked, he didn’t need to stay.

The afternoon class also had a student ask that same question. This time however, the prof wanted to know why.

The student responded honestly.

“What’s the point if we don’t get marked on it,” he said.

The prof appreciated his honesty and told him so. Whether the dialogue continued after that I don’t know, but what I do know is that this preoccupied my partner enough to speak to our kids about it with me, later that night.

Our young teen son agreed with the student. This doesn’t really surprise me (but makes me sad…) He too doesn’t see the value of doing work that doesn’t earn him something in return.

“Why bother staying if I can get the same grade later”, he said. “Why bother doing the extra work?”

Extra work, he called it.

Immediately after our son spoke, his dad had this response:

“I’m not getting paid to act as coach and trainer on your hockey team. How many hours a week do we go to hockey? After I work full time, and commute long distances to both work and your sports? I’m also coaching on your baseball team. Should I tell them I’m no longer interested unless I can get paid? Does this mean I should just quit? Should the other coaches, who are also volunteers, just give up?”

My son stayed silent. At least initially.

We took it a bit further. I explained that good marks didn’t come easy to me when I was student. I had to study, a lot, especially early on when I had just moved to Canada from Switzerland and I didn’t know English. I had to go through a lot of dictionaries to get high enough grades to get into University. All three schools that I applied to ended up accepting me. This didn’t come from skipping class or not doing ‘extra work’.

My partner said:

“How is it your mom got all these recommendations for job placements when there were other students who had better grades than her?”

My partner is trying to drive home that hard work, and a good work ethic, will get noticed and will more likely result in positive outcomes. In many areas of life, not just in work.

He also illustrated that there are students in his classes who make a very demonstrated effort; ask questions, show up to class, and participate in practice sessions. Some of them however only manage to get good, not great, grades. Mid 70s or so. Bs…Nothing remarkable or earth shattering. Yet, when they apply for co-op programs and request recommendations from their prof, my partner is more than happy, and willing, to give them one that will increase their chances.

“I see their effort and I have no problem putting my name and reputation behind their academic achievements”, he explained to the kid. “But for the student who left class because he didn’t feel like doing ‘extra work’ in the practice mock-up, there isn’t much to recommend him on. Will he show up to work, for example, if he finds out another employee is sick, meaning he’ll have to pick up a bit of extra slack?”

I hope our efforts have made a bit of a difference in the kids, especially in the boy child. Frankly, it gets my gall when he demands something in return at the request to empty the dishwasher, or whatever…


High school will be such fun!

Wish me luck. I’m going to need all of my sanity for the next phase. πŸ™‚

18 thoughts on “Why bother?

  1. Wow, great topic. So many thoughts. First, I love that you have done so much to get where you are. It definitely shows work ethic. Also, I assume you are writing this blog for free? Yet another example of doing something for no pay, but the ultimate payoff is maybe writing a book or connections or just plain joy in doing so? I see this same thing in my own students. An A student who just about “following rules” is less impressive to me than the ESL learner or Special Ed kid who has C work but an A in follow up. Finally, having teens myself (14 and 16) the best thing I have found to combat this is discussions like yours but also volunteer work. They also do dishes morning and night – together. It fosters teamwork and contribution to the family. They don’t get paid extra and above their small allowance, but it is seen as vital to our unit as opposed to individiually rewarding. In a culture that emphasizes the amazingness of the unique and brilliant child, it’s very counter-intuitive for this L.A. mom to do it the other way. But… the rewards in their individual self discipline has been so rewarding. That’s must my two cents. SO ENJOYED THIS BLOG

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much and welcome! It is indeed a free blog, but I get SoMuch out of it by exactly this kind of dialogue. πŸ˜‰ No one pays me a dime…

      Parenting isn’t for wimps, is it, especially not the teen years. πŸ™„

      Our kids have chores too, it’s sometimes hit and miss. But we’ll keep talking, hoping something will stick. The empty nest followers on this blog keep say that it will. 😊


      1. As a heads up, my kids are far from perfect and forget chores sometimes. My goal is to just remind them and not yell. I used to be a big screamer and not only was it scary but not helpful. It’s really been in the past few years that changing out I’ve spoken has changed everything. Nothing like teaching art to 200 kids/day to enlighten me. Sink or swim!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Kudos to you and your partner for taking this opportunity to teach and enlighten. You are both spot on correct how you handled this. You’re doing a great job as parents. Keep it up. Even if your son seemed like he may not have gotten the insights you shared, he did. It sinks in. If not today, then eventually. Well done, both of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I hope so. He’s a good kid, but we all know the turmoil during the transitional teenage years can be challenging for all. I appreciate you commenting with your insights. My mom thinks the same too, I know. 😊


  3. Perhaps ask the boy child an even more pointed question: If you aren’t guaranteed to score a goal or hit a home run in a game, why bother practicing the sport? Practice is what earns the possibility of the reward. Its the same for sports as it is for grades.

    Or, To REALLY drive it home: Suggest you all skip practice one day. When the boy child asks why? Say that you don’t see the point in taking him because he HASN’T scored a goal/hit a homerun in a long time (or whatever is appropriate for the time frame). Then don’t go. See how that gets his dander up!

    Finally (maybe I am just an evil parent/teacher), take their dirty laundry and give it back unwashed. Or serve them dinner on obviously dirty plates. When they ask why? Your response could be, “Why bother? You’re just gonna get them dirty again.”

    *insert evil grin*

    Liked by 1 person

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