Periodically, I get a feeling in my arms and/or legs requiring me to move them. If I do not get up, wiggle around, stretch, flex, or be active it drives me crazy. The urge to move is consuming. It’s happening right now and I can’t seem to find a way to satisfy it. I’ve tried jumping jacks, push ups, dancing, jiggling, sitting and standing in different poses. It’s still there bothering me. I am sitting here trying to write and I keep twitching, moving different parts of my body as I type this. I wonder if this is what it’s like to have Tourette’s? As I sit here in my seat having the hardest type in the world just sitting still, I am reminded of my students.
If you try to get an adolescent to sit still for 6 hours a day, you’re going to be largely unsuccessful unless you have something mind-blowing for them to do for those 6 hours (or the newest Call of Duty game… I digress). They’re more or less made to be loud and move around, and yet I get angry when they are. Then I go home and have my own difficulties sitting still, when no one is around to tell me it’s bad. It’s familiar rhetoric, but instead of creating a bunch of mindless, inactive worker bees (an oxymoron?), shouldn’t we instead be trying to cultivate these tendencies and guide them on more productive paths? Let’s find a use for all that energy, for the loud interjections and jokes that seek to draw attention. There has to be a better way.
I have the good fortune to work at a very innovative school where questioning the traditional modes of education is encouraged. Our student’s are allowed to learn about whatever suits their fancy (within reason and occasionally following some guidelines) and demonstrate their learning in a way that they feel is appropriate. Yet a lot of them are having trouble getting out from underneath the weight of being told what learning looks like and what is appropriate to learn about. My students can do almost anything they would like, and yet I am repeatedly stuck reading papers and going over slideshows.
I have one student in particular though, that is having a lot of trouble even just getting work done. Motivation is a big issue for some of my students, but this one in particular. In conversations, a common theme has been “I could die of a brain aneurysm tonight, so why should I care or take the time to plan about my future?”
I’ve had trouble answering this question. I don’t believe in an afterlife, so the argument from reflecting on my life there holds no water with me and I am not going to argue a position I don’t believe when I’m not intentionally playing devil’s advocate. I imagine one could get a point in old age where a similar reflection would occur, and you might come to find that your life was a disappointment. But then you die and don’t care anymore. So what?
The opinion of other people might have weight with some. But not this student. They don’t seem to care what other people think. If you don’t think that you should put effort into living because in the end you’ll die and everyone that ever knew you will die, unless you’re the one in million MLK Jr. or Gandhi or Stephen Hawking, what argument can persuade you?
I don’t have an answer. I agree on all of it. But there is something about who I am and where I’ve been that makes me strive for more. I don’t want to get to the end of my life only to look back and feel like I wasted it. Even if everyone I ever knew will eventually die and history will forget me, I want the people that did know me to feel that I was significant in their lives. I haven’t identified what it is that makes me feel this way, so I have a hard time articulating an argument for it. Some day, maybe. Right now I’m stuck.