Listen. When I hear people say things like, “I can’t seem to get myself motivated today,” or, “I’d like to spend the whole day doing nothing” I know what they mean because sometimes I feel that way, too. Yet I also know that no one really ever does nothing. I never do.
My nothing consists of walking nowhere in particular, pulling little weeds from my garden, and needlessly reorganizing my books. While doing these things I might look unmotivated and unproductive but it’s this doing nothing that motivates me to do more. It’s when I dream and think things through and I am telling you because I want you to know me. You understand this, right?
I also want you to know that this is why I love the procrastinators, the dreamers, and the nothing doers in my classes so much. Getting to know who they really are is something else that motivates me. I think about them as I weed and walk and reorganize my books.
I know from experience that thinking of these people as unmotivated and taking them to task for not doing the things we think they should be doing will cause us to lose them. We don’t want that to happen. We want to pull these people in. But how? It’s simple: Listen.
Make them realize you believe their lives matter. Do this by taking their lives seriously, believing in their potential and demonstrating that — visibly. In a culture where taking anyone’s internal universe seriously is increasingly rare, you just might be the only person who’s ever done such a thing for them. Talk about motivation!
If you are suffering from motivation problems yourself and think this sounds nice but wonder where it’s leading, then I’d like to give you a challenge: Go to class, pick your most unmotivated student and find something to compliment him or her on. Say, “Where do you usually go shopping. I love your style” Or ask a question. Say, “You look really tired. Were you up late last night?” Then, listen. Repeat this process over the next few classes. I guarantee you’ll start to notice a change in both yourself and in your unmotivated student.
Now, start keeping an eye open for this student and other dreamers. Whenever you see them, stop for a chat. Invite them to join you for coffee if appropriate. Listen and share. Talk about your day, about whatever is going on with you, about how you’re tired because you were up late watching stupid YouTube videos. Tell them about your partner if appropriate. Refer to that person by name, as if these students were a part of your life. When they begin to understand they are a part of your life, they will start telling you about what’s going on in their lives. When they do, listen carefully. Of course, this process works with colleagues, too, and I mean both those colleagues you see every day at school as well as the ones who make up your professional community online.
We don’t listen to each other enough. Even as teachers, we rarely talk with each other about what’s going on in our lives, yet I have come to believe this is absolutely necessary. We need to share more and listen more carefully to each other. If we consciously do this, we will start to feel better about who we are and what we do. We will become less fearful, our confidence will increase and we will become more motivated.
This is what I was thinking about today as I weeded the garden and I wanted to tell you about it because I want you to know me. I want to know you too. That motivates me.