High School Teacher Stresses Her Impatience With The 'Learned Helplessness' Of Her Students — 'I Didn't Think It Could Get Any Worse'

She claimed that so many of her students are simply just not engaged in their work.

teacher woman wearing sweater and glasses sits at desk looking frustrated and annoyed with crossed arms. Krakenimages.com | Shutterstock

A high school teacher has admitted that she's reached her wit's end when it comes to the amount of work and productivity that her students don't seem to put into their work and learning as a whole. 

Posting to the subreddit r/Teachers, she claimed that it's incredibly frustrating when some of the students in her classes have no desire actually to be in the classroom and are often just disengaged.

The high school teacher stressed how frustrated she felt with the 'learned helplessness' of her students.

In her Reddit post, she explained that she teaches mostly high school students, and one particular student, who's a junior, often exhibits unproductive behavior and would rather sit in his seat and do nothing than do the work assigned to him. She recalled one instance where he had a paper assignment in front of him but was just staring off into space instead of completing it.


"I asked him why he wasn’t doing his work he said, 'I don’t have a pencil.' When I asked him if he’d asked anyone for a pencil he just stared at me. I finally asked, 'Would you like to borrow a pencil?' He nodded," she wrote. "I gave him a pencil from my desk. I walk back around a few minutes later and he’s still staring into space."

student raising his hand to ask a questing during a class at lecture hall. Drazen Zigic | Shutterstock


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When she asked him once again why he wasn't doing his work, he simply told her that the pencil she'd given him was broken. Except it wasn't broken, she noticed, but rather needed to be sharpened. 

During another incident, the principal announced to the school one morning that the internet connectivity wasn't working, but he would let everyone know once it was finally fixed.

She recalled having a class full of 30 high school students who were all saying that their computers weren't working, despite clearly hearing the school principal make an announcement that there were issues with the internet that day. 


"I can’t anymore. I still have juniors, who have been told a million times to take my assessments they need a school-issued Chromebook and expect me to provide them with one," she admitted. "I came home this afternoon, went into my half bath, closed the door, and screamed at the top of my lungs to get out this frustration/rage."

Other educators have admitted that their students lack the basic foundational skills they need to progress.

In a TikTok video, a former teacher and vice principal admitted that many students in this country are facing a "literacy crisis" and are far behind on their reading levels for the grade they're in.

"Our children cannot read, let alone writing [sic] a paragraph, let alone comprehension,” she said. “They cannot read. They do not know how to sound words out. They were not taught that.”

@huney_combs America is in a literacy crisis 📚!Note: This post is meant to be informative. I included mostly headlines from news articles to hopefully assist with where to start with your research. I hope this is helpful and starts a real dialogue on the state our education system. #literacy #scienceofreading #education #booktok #equity #phonics #blacktiktok #poc #america #usa #crisis ♬ original sound - 🍯

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“And if you’re wondering, ‘Well … why [do] my kids just keep getting passed on to the next grade?’ Because that’s what they’re doing now,” she continued. “They’re not holding the children back. They’re moving them on. They’re graduating them, knowing that your child is illiterate."

Another educator, who opened up about her high school students' problems in the same subreddit, "r/teachers," explained that 35 out of the 62 seniors she teaches won’t be able to graduate because they won’t “come early” or “stay late.” Meaning, that they refuse to attend the first period and stay through their last period of the day.

Group Of Female High School Students Talking By Lockers Monkey Business Images | Shutterstock


It's gotten to the point where even teachers are fed up and exhausted with trying to find a solution between the lack of engagement from their students and their declining academic success because of it. The term "learned helplessness," which the high school teacher used to describe some of her students, often ends up being used in schools.

According to Edutopia, the best way for teachers to handle learned helplessness is to realize that these students may just be struggling and deserve more attention. 

Unfortunately, teachers are struggling to help the students more with the limited resources provided to them.

They're already being severely underpaid, overworked, and facing numerous challenges and setbacks from the education system itself, not to mention from parents, school admin, and the school district.


There's only so much a teacher can do before there needs to be an intervention, either with the school administrators, or the parents of these children, to address the root causes of learned helplessness and provide the necessary support and resources that will be able to help these students not only succeed academically but emotionally as well.

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.