Friday, August 22, 2014

What motivates anyone to work?


While planning for the upcoming school year, I've been thinking a lot about motivation. All summer long I marveled at my stay-at-home life of leisure: first, a 2-week vacation to Taiwan, followed by a full week of severe jet lag, and now I'm wrapping up 6 weeks of knitting about 10 hours a day for fun and supervising a mostly cooperative but somewhat lazy in a normal teenager way 13 year old daughter, plus occasional sprinkles of social outings with friends and family. Who wouldn't want to do this all the time?!

"Why work?" was a recurring theme last year, my first year teaching high school students. The most popular culture reference to answer this question is Drive by Daniel Pink who is not exactly my education guru (July 2013 post "What does Daniel Pink know about public education?") even though his book A Whole New Mind tried to assure me that I as a right brainer will rule the future. Autonomy, mastery, and purpose - I'll focus on Drive's Three Big Ideas and ignore Pink's inconsistent application of those Big Ideas to public education (and parenting) to help me shape this school year's instruction.

Here are my own Three Big Ideas for this school year:

First, intrinsically motivated learning is the collective goal (for adults and teens alike), the foundation of the entire school year, and the explicit theme for the first few months. I don't expect to fix anyone's motivation problems. I just want to communicate directly and clearly that students are in charge of their own personal growth, which includes intrinsic motivation to work, delay gratification, quit complaining, etc. Instruction will include reading excerpts of The Four Agreements, reading and annotating nonfiction/current events articles, reading workshop, and basic writing conventions (capitalization, punctuation, homonyms, sentence structure, seriously, I'm not lying).

The next two Big Ideas are instructional units that relate to course/content specific goals (and yes, common core learning standards, which I mention here to increase readership of this blog). One, literary analysis unit that will include reading classic literature such as Greek mythology, The Odyssey, and Lord of the Flies, study/review of literary terms, story development, writing workshop (you guessed it - paragraphing, definitely literary analysis, maybe creative writing, probably not NaNoWriMo). Two, a brand new (to me) argument/persuasion unit that will include more nonfiction texts, Julius Caesar, research, and writing workshop. I expect to enjoy flinging logos! ethos! pathos! all around me.

Extra note about writing workshop - I'd love to move lessons beyond boring basic rules (how many ways can you teach capitalization, apostrophe, homonyms???) to ... Style! Voice! Wit!

Irony aside, those Three Big Ideas in Drive motivate me to go back to work - autonomy, mastery, and purpose. #ILOVETEACHING