When students fail to do an assignment on time, or accomplish a task as scheduled, I have often wondered why. Are they lazy or are they procrastinating? I think there is a tendency to lump those two things together, when in fact they are quite different. It turns out that laziness is a manifestation of lethargy, apathy, being unmotivated, or avoiding effort. Procrastination is more about postponing actions, putting things off, or making the conscious choice to do something else – or nothing at all, rather than the task at hand. Though this is just skimming the surface of these definitions, and there are lots of subtleties and aspects of each, it is interesting to see their differences. As I think about both laziness and procrastination, it seems to me that inspiring our students is the key to our helping them with either.

Think about it: Whether a student doesn’t do a task because they are apathetic or because they are just plain putting it off, in my layman’s mind, they aren’t very motivated or excited about the task. It seems to me that we could go a long way toward helping students who exhibit either of those concerns by inspiring them so much that they can’t wait to do what we are asking of them. If I can get a student truly excited about a piece, wouldn’t they want to practice it? If I sell an improvisation assignment well enough, wouldn’t they want to do it? I remember one particular test for a class in college that I couldn’t wait to take. I know that sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. That amazing teacher had inspired us so intensely, so powerfully, that we were chomping at the bit to take the test and show how much we learned. And when I compare that experience to the many tests that I dreaded taking, the difference boils down to how motivated I was; how inspired I was by my teacher. I know I am oversimplifying a complex issue, and making it sound like the solution is simple, but I think we can go a long way toward helping our students by thinking that way.

Peter Loel Boonshaft, Director of Education
KHS America

About the Author

Dr. Boonshaft, Director of Education for KHS America, is the author of the critically acclaimed best-selling books Teaching Music with Passion, Teaching Music with Purpose, and Teaching Music with Promise. He was honored by the National Association for Music Education and Music For All as the first recipient of the “George M. Parks Award for Leadership in Music Education.” Dr. Boonshaft was selected for the Center for Scholarly Research and Academic Excellence at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, where he is Professor Emeritus of Music.