(Why) do you care?

The language in the last two posts spoke to me, both Tasha’s reactions to signaling verbs and Reba’s use of the phrase “getting a source done.” (I could write a whole post on my thoughts when students have that mindset.) Likewise, I have spent a lot of time in my head considering whether what’s happening — or not — with student work is the same as what I imagine.

Last month, after asking my brother what he wanted for Christmas, I received a text saying he wanted shelves for games.

Me: Type of shelf?
Him: I dunno whatever might be good for game storage I guess
Me: How many games? Do you want them visible?
Him: I mean id assume visible I don’t know like 20-30 games right now they are all stuffed in cabinets

I Google search terms like “best video gaming shelves” and “creative video game storage” and toggle to image searches. Yet he keeps telling me the shelves I’m suggesting are too small. Finally he sends this picture…

his game photo

We live in different states and haven’t really played board games since before the pandemic. I really did go back through my texts because I was so surprised. My brain had just filled in what I expected to find.

And back to searching. As many of us have noted, librarian skills enhance our lives outside the library. I found ones with excellent reviews in our price range and sent him the links for approval. (We’re not big on surprises.) Later conversations revealed that determining the “perfect” shelves was the actual gift. He could have bought the shelves himself if he had known what he wanted to buy.

organization by color

(Though the installation was part of the gift as well.) And with an artist for a wife, organization by color was a MUCH more aesthetically-pleasing choice than my hemming and hawing as I tried to organize by category. (Genrefiers, I’m impressed. I tend to second guess placing anything definitively in one genre.)

Too frequently, I’ve heard people say that students aren’t completing work because they don’t care. But what if it’s that they care too much? Or aren’t sure of the next steps? Or are afraid of feeling embarrassed? (Or, alright, sometimes are required to take a math/language/science class and “just don’t care.”)

I was talking with a student this fall about his missing bibliography. He couldn’t remember his Noodletools login. Since this had happened previously, he was self-conscious about losing it again.

A student missed the meeting to workshop her Senior speech before giving it in chapel. She hadn’t written it because she’d been awake stressing about it for several nights and had pages of notes on her innermost thoughts but no speech.

Or the students who didn’t print their completed papers after writing essays on iPads because they didn’t realize they had to click the “share and export” button in order to reach the “print” button. They didn’t want to risk being seen as tech newbies by asking.

And here’s where I celebrate being a librarian and not a teacher. I don’t have to question if a student is trying to pull something over on me. Librarians simply get to help, no grades attached. I’ve found myself asking more and more frequently, “what’s your next step?” Or “what’s stopped you from getting to X?” Or “where do you want to be with this?” And while I might be ending on a Pollyannaish note, it’s been fulfilling to try to reframe “why don’t you care? into “what do you care about?”

5 thoughts on “(Why) do you care?

  1. This is such a great reframing, Christina, and an important one for us to keep in mind. I’ve spoken with several teachers who have noticed that their students seem to be missing basic research skills – which makes sense, given the last two years. I’m sure students feel it as well, but also many probably feel like it’s something they “should” know, and are self-conscious about asking for help. I think reframing it so we’re all coming from a place of working to figure out next steps would be helpful for all of us.

    • Thanks for the feedback and the validation that this may be a growing phenomenon. My students are definitely self conscious, especially in a class setting, about asking for something they think they should already know.

  2. You broach the subject that is being discussed in recent publications about students and reasons for apathy, or inattentiveness. I really appreciate your thoughts on the topic. Thank you for tying your post to the last two noteworthy posts.

  3. I love this post and your reference to Tasha’s and Reba’s posts and to Pollyanna. I’ve read quite a bit recently about toxic positivity, but perhaps I’m being a bit of a Pollyanna myself in saying I think, as Christina points out, the safe spaces we create are based on the positivity and upbeatness (is that even a word) we can bring. I love how a student can come in and a simple smile or greeting from us can make a difference in their day. It’s doesn’t have to be in big, life altering ways, but I do believe all the little ways we interact and help students, our non-judgmental approach to helping without shaming, can make a huge difference in the day-to-day life of an overwhelmed student. Plus, I ove the color coded storage system for your brother – it’s a game changer, pun intended.

    • I know, it’s way better than my thoughts for organizing! I love the look of the colorful shelves.
      Also, I have to say that today ended up a day where I certainly found myself feeling less “Pollyanna,” so know that even the best intentions don’t always translate perfectly into action.

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