crossed fingers

Got a little spooked today.

My 8th grade students actually sat and listened to me for about ten to fifteen minutes. In a row.

I try not to talk that much; their attentions spans are brittle at best, and I’m not really sure exactly what held their attention, but here was the topic:

What makes you not do your work?

1. Don’t see any value or worth in it.

2. Boring.

3. Don’t understand it.

I did a random poll on what does make you do your work?
1. Grades.

2. Parents.

3. Parents and Grades.

Not a single kid said it was because it made them feel good about their work.

I realize developmentally, kids show growth and maturity by going from extrinsic to instrinsic motivations. That’s really my only litmus test for adulthood.

I could almost graph a chart: for the honors students, the “don’t see value/boring” would be weighed heavier, and for my core classes, the “I don’t get it so I bail at the first sign of trouble” would prevail. The reasons shift like light on a spectrum.

But here’s what maybe caught their attention, or kept it –when I told them I’m not graded on anything. I shared with them a project I just completed, and a colleague gave me his thanks. I shared that my husband doesn’t grade me on how well I fold laundry (he wouldn’t dare, but still). I don’t get a report card letting me know I’m “successful.” I do what I do because it’s right, it’s part of growing up, and it feels important. I feel what I do is valuable.

Their time as teenagers will be over before they know it. I had them laugh when I said, “Imagine my son calling me when he’s in college asking me if he can stay out past midnight?” You start off under a lot of control when you’re small, and then move toward independence. That’s what the adults in your lives want for you. Really. And my job is to make sure you can carry yourself with intelligence, articulate what you think, and move forward. That’s it.

Before my 7th period class, I talked to Mr. Spittake about his recent antics, and after awhile, got an honest answer from him. The question put forth was, “What do you want people to remember about you? What do you want me to remember about you?” First he gave me his standard, somewhat manipulative answer that he wanted me to remember him as a good student, etc. I basically said,  “Cut the baloney,” and then he gave me a real answer: “I don’t care what you think about me.” I said “That’s more like it. You should care what YOU think first. Thank you for your honesty.”

But then, when it was that class’ turn to talk about what motivates them – he’s the one person who said it’s how you feel inside when you get your work done, and done well.

Hmmm. Maybe there’s hope after all.