Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Lingering Stench of Apathy

I realized on my second day of class that my lesson plans amounted to a list of things I thought my students should learn. Without talking to them to understand who they are, what they want, and where they are going, I undermine the values that brought us all to the program in the first place. So I started a conversation to better understand why they had chosen to take my class and what they were hoping to get from it.

I wasn't really excited by the bored responses I got. "I'm here because I need an English Credit to graduate." Apathy hung in the air like a lingering fart. Actually, there aren't any graduation requirements that say you need an English Class in exchange for your diploma, so, that's not a legit reason to be here. Let's try again.

Nothing gets me more excited than talking about what it means to know yourself. I melt when I remember that I have a choice in everything. And I gush when I think about acting from a sense of internal drive, joy, and pleasure. These things are fundamental to personal fulfillment.  We discussed.

From there we took a look at success and the factors that lead to it. We read about experiments put together by behavioral scientist who proved that internal motivation, doing things for the satisfaction that they give us, is as strong as and far more sustainable than our biological drives or the promise/threat of a reward/punishment.

So I'm having a blast creating new lesson plans that strive to meet their needs but I'm still a bit perplexed why they aren't fully engaged. Why do they look at me like I'm crazy? How can they not find this subject totally enthralling? Do they dislike learning? Our first day of class I gave them a bunch of low ropes exercises and they totally got into it.  So this is my task--to find a way to keep giving them a problem that they are excited about solving. Otherwise I will certainly die of asphyxiation from the the lingering stench of apathy.
With the help of a corn slicing contraption that looks like a torture device my freezer is full of corn.
My freezer is not filled with nectarines however. Of the 40 pounds I've brought home, this bowl is all that remains. The rest are...gone.
Grilled polenta with nectarine salsa.

Hommage to Cally and Co's share cropping days. Pulling the last of their stuff out this week, ready for bigger better things, but always in style.

From my trip to California to meet ma petite petite.

My brother with Ramona Blue.


  1. I start school next week m'self--I teach writing to college students. A colleague and I just did a presentation on how to make college writing classes not suck! I feel so optimistic, but there is always apathy to battle...hang in there and I hope it all goes well. Incidentally, I'd love to hear more about what books you're teaching...

  2. How to make writing not suck...I could use a copy of your notes! Seriously. I teach to a group of remedial high school students who are home-based learners. I pulled most of the novels I wanted to teach from the YAL National Book Awards finalists, but it turns out one of my classes, mostly 16-18 yo boys, despise fiction. They want to choose their own books to read and I was thinking that some of Jim Burke's work might make this possible. I've also been using the book Drive by Daniel Pink to talk about motivation. Kinda just pulling it together as I go. How long have you been teaching? What do the demographics of your students look like?