Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Motivation Mystery

I'm not sure what has happened to me.

I have sneaking feeling that it has something to do with developing something looking like a normal life, but my motivation is just not what it used to be. Maybe I'm burnt out. Maybe I'm running out of ideas. Maybe I'm just still tired (oh yeah, I'm really tired). Whatever it is, it has to stop.

My kids are not motivated. I tried to dive back into class by finishing up with The Outsiders and it was like pulling teeth. My students love this novel. I love this novel. It kills me that they won't analyze it. There is so much there to talk about and they just won't talk about it in any kind of meaningful way. It actually kind of hurts.

How have we gotten so of course that they won't do anything more than the bare minimum? At one point I thought that I had them. I was even getting really hopeful with the attitude shift I've seen in my popular girls (they think I'm cool), but it all seems to have gone downhill again.

I think what is more disappointing than my students lack of motivation is my response to that lack of motivation. I get so frustrated in class that I almost feel like I'm bullying them. I don't want to be that teacher. I hated that teacher. That teacher sucks.

But how do I avoid it? There is no end to the pressure that you feel when you're standing up in front of 30 students, you ask a question and 30 pairs of eyes just stair back at you. Silence. That silence is so painful. Then the panic sets in, how do you rephrase, readjust and pull out a meaningful answer on the spot? In my world, you very often don't. And it hurts even more than their silence.

I am completely convinced that if I can motivate myself I can find a way to motivate my students. I do not believe for a second that my students can't be pushed to dig deeper, think harder and get to the heart of material we're covering. Teachers who say that are, for lack of a better phrase, copping out. If you are going to blame a 12-year-old for not putting in the effort on material he doesn't understand or particularly like then you are seriously in the wrong line of work. I refuse to look at my kids like that. They are not stupid or smart, they are kids. You can't just be born stupid or smart, it's how much you work, how much you're offered and how much you take in.

My kids aren't lazy, they're unmotivated. There is a difference. Laziness falls to them. Motivation falls to me.

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