Teacher and coach

“That’s too much work” [Updated]

Here’s a list of things that my students (all high schoolers) have told me are too much work.  I am not making any of these up.

  1. Pushing buttons on a calculator
  2. Taking off a coat
  3. Sharpening a pencil
  4. Getting a pencil from a jar
  5. Getting a piece of paper from a stack of paper
  6. [UPDATED] Adding staples to a stapler

I’ve actually been told these things are too much work by multiple students.  In the interest of clarity, here’s how each of these conversations generally go.

Pushing buttons on a calculator

Student: Mr. B, how do you find the mean of these numbers?

Mr. B: You enter the numbers into a list in your calculator, then you select the “Mean” function from the menu.

Student: That’s too much work.

Taking off a coat

S: Mr. B, it’s too hot in here, can you turn up the A/C?

B: Why don’t you take off that coat you’re wearing?

S: That’s too much work.

Sharpening a pencil

S: Mr. B, don’t you have one of those electric pencil sharpeners?

B: No, just the regular manual one by the door.

S: Oh.

B: [after student makes no move to sharpen their dull pencil] Are you going to sharpen your pencil?

S: That’s too much work.

Getting a pencil/piece of paper from a from a jar/stack.

S: Mr. B, I don’t have a pencil/paper.

B: Did you check the pencil jar/paper stack?

S: That’s too much work.

Readers will notice that for the last example, the student(s) in question do not already have their own pencil/paper.  These are high school students who come to school, many regularly, without pencil or paper.  While there’s still a part of me that is insulted that some students would come to class without without these basic tools, in the interest of choosing my battles I reluctantly I keep a jar of pencils and a stack of paper at the front of the room for these students to use.

While these examples are somewhat humorous, they highlight one of the challenges that I face with many of my students, which is simply getting them to do something that requires even a little bit of effort.  Most of the math problems that we do in my classes require that a student work thru multiple steps in order to arrive at an answer.  Even when the students know how to do each of the individual steps, they will often claim that doing all of the steps just to find the answer to one problem is “too much work” and simply refuse to do those problems.  Problems that require one step, okay; problems that require two steps, maybe; problems that require more that that, forget it.

I occasionally point out to my students that work is what they’re there for.  School is not intended to be a place where they come to be entertained, its a place where they come to work.  For many of my students, however, this is a tough sell.

Image by Mac63 on Flickr.

Updates

Adding staples to a stapler

S: Mr. B, your stapler is out of staples.

B: There are some more in that box right there; you can refill it.

S: That’s too much work.

5 Responses to ““That’s too much work” [Updated]”

  1. bledsoe says:

    Hi Pam, and thanks for the perspective from a businessperson concerned with hiring competent workers. More and more I’ve come to realize that much of what I do is not teaching math but teaching kids how to work. I used to assume that my students would learn that at home, but often that’s not the case.

  2. Pam says:

    I am pretty sure they are so used to things automatically given to them that working on a three step problem is a total waste of time. The new generation is spoiled. Not all of them mind you, but enough to make me worry about the future of American manufacturing in a big way.

    How can we design anything of value if we cannot do common math.
    Pardon my typos, I am stressed out about hiring folks in 10 years who cannot add or subtract or find their way to the break room.

  3. bledsoe says:

    I wish I had more students who screamed about their grades at the end of the semester. More often they just shrug as though it’s no big deal. I find that many of my students don’t actually expect to pass, say, Geometry, the first time thru; they just try to kind of absorb whatever they can (without doing too much work) and hope to pass it the second (or third) time.

    And yes, I’m pretty sure this was happening when we were in high school; we just weren’t those students.

  4. jeanne says:

    I see this at the community college level too, but sometimes it takes on different flavors. They don’t understand a concept, but they didn’t bother to do the homework and they cut out early on lab. They don’t get a particular application, but they can’t be bothered to ask a question, go to the learning center (free!) or send me an email. They do muster the energy to scream about their grades at the end of the semester, though, and sometimes even offer to submit a boat load of assignments just before the end of the semester if I would only agree to grade it and let them avoid consequences.

    I always decline. It’s too much work 😉

  5. I was gonna leave a long comment, but that’s too much work.

    Srsly, at the risk of sounding like our parents, I don’t think this was happening when we were in high school. Was it? I mean, was it really? Maybe we just weren’t those students.

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