Student Notes, pt. 3

A few months ago a class took notes on a documentary about Moby Dick. One student turned in her notes with a message to me on the back. Part lament about her peers, part motivation directly to me, part celebration of the material we were studying, it’s that last part especially that makes me love this little letter.

Here it is, if you can’t read the text in the picture.

Looking around at students in this classroom, this regular, non-honors or AP classroom…I see some of the smartest people I have ever met, people who are witty and are charmed by life, but are not paying attention. They are either entrigued [sic] or completely indifferent, either way it’s because they are not encouraged. They see this book and they see a story about a whale, not a journey or the fight for truth; they have the potential, it’s all there, but no one asks them to care, they ask for completion, for quantity, to get things done. They are exhausted by the idea of looking deeper.

I see these students, full of wonder overshadowed by lack of will, then I see straight up uninterested, boring students who do the absolute minimum, sometimes less, and they are dumb. They don’t think about anything. They don’t think about any of this stuff. It doesn’t interest them. Instead, they are laughing loudly on purpose (for attention of course, to distract everyone else from the philosophy unfolding in front of them because it’s about them, and they like it that way).

Mr. Huston, don’t sell this stuff short, it’s exciting, it’s not uninteresting just because few people believe it is, this is important and wonderful.

IMG_20170228_134216249

Advertisements

Running, Writing, and Life

“Most runners run not because they want to live longer but because they want to live life to the fullest.  If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that.  Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life, and for me, for writing as well.”  

   –Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (ch. 4)

 

A Great Quote on Living Deeply

I wrote on this subject a few weeks ago, but just today I came across this quote below.  It perfectly illustrates my own take on the other quote I used in that other post.  This is exactly what I have in mind:

I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.

–Linda Bentley Johnson, in the 1997 BYU Women’s Conference, about what kind of summing up she wanted her life to have.

(hat tip: Real Intent)

On Living Deeply

I’ve often seen this quote used as an inspiring motivator:

“Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming … WOW! What a ride!”

Most people would probably interpret that as, “Do a lot of what you want and have as much fun as possible.”  Not me.

I like the sentiment, but I like it because I hope to see myself ending like that as a result of achieving goals, serving others, and leaving a positive mark on the world: stuff that requires sacrifice and consistent hard work.

It reminds me of this quote from Thoreau: “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived.”

Continue reading

“Stop Grabbing the Electric Cupcake”

A valuable life lesson

A valuable life lesson

An analogy I came up with last week to help enlighten my students, far too many of whom have tried to slide by, giving the minimal amount of effort they could and still pass the class, and who (shockingly!) failed my class for the last grading period:

There’s a classic episode of The Simpsons where Lisa is doing a science experiment at home.  She puts a food pellet in a hamster cage, but attaches it to a little wire that’s hooked up to a battery.  The hamster nibbles at the pellet, gets a bit of a shock, and quickly gets as far away from it as he can.

Lisa notes in her journal that the hamster has learned a lesson.

Then she puts a cupcake in the kitchen, and likewise puts an electrified wire in the back.  Bart comes by and grabs for the cupcake.  It zaps him but, unlike the hamster, Bart does not learn his lesson.  He keeps grabbing the cupcake, and keeps getting zapped.  He’s immediately addicted to a pointless cycle of self-destruction.

Here’s the application:

Bart is like too many students who, seeing how delicious that cupcake is, keep letting their hunger for it overcome their common sense.

The cupcake is the elusive goal of getting by in a class without having to work very hard.

The wire and battery represent the inevitable failure that follows this course of action.

After all, as Einstein said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  How many kids must be thinking, “THIS time my plan to goof off and somehow be just good enough will surely work like a charm!”

Now, when I see students slacking off, or otherwise doing things that will hurt their chances for success, I tell them, “Stop grabbing the electric cupcake.”  They’re already sick of it.

If only I could get them to strive for the huge chocolate cake of well-earned achievement!

Motivation, Excuses, and Bukowski

I had a project due in my high school classes last week, and several students didn’t have it ready, with excuses like, “I was busy.  I have stressful stuff going on.  I have other classes, too, you know.”

At one point, I gently asked the class at large, “Is there anybody here who doesn’t have stressful stuff going on, and a busy schedule?  Anybody have no problems in life, and hours of free time every day?”  Of course not.  “So why is it that everybody else gets their job done? Because they choose not to let problems get in the way.  Because we all make our priorities.”

The difference is commitment, investment, and internal motivation.

Continue reading