08 August 2012

How Healigan got her DRIVE back

   The most useful book I read this summer was Dan Pink's Drive. I chose it to do some study on motivation, particularly as it applied to my students. They are often driven, hardworking and dedicated. But so many of them do not seem to enjoy learning or school, and that messes with what we accomplish together. And after my first year teaching AP Lit and pre-AP BritLit , I have become well acquainted with extrinsic motivation, as Pink calls it, having begun to dream "will this be graded?" after hearing it so often with the goal-focused AP students. No one ever asked, "will I like it?" So I thought Pink's book about the payoffs attending intrinsic motivation and flow might give me some direct answers.
   Instead, I was reminded of how critical the flow is to me. I believed that my teacher-mind needed rest. I was so wrong!
   I had planned to spend the summer reading, what I wanted, when I wanted. No need to concentrate, focus, work to a goal. NADA. That's how English teachers relax... and prepare, simultaneously. But life intervened, and so I was forced to remember that other activities might be what I really needed this summer. I  needed to remember what motivated me to jump on stage every morning, dance in front of my classes all day and then go home and read 25 essays--well. Teaching requires equal parts of performance art and scholarly study, which do not always balance themselves without a long lasso of discipline and unrelenting focus. But after the tough year that I had, how was I to remember how to get into the zone?
   And this morning, two weeks before the circus ring lights up, I got it back. I was stringing beads onto wire, linking them with my trusty needle-nosed pliers, and then doing it all over again because the first time was not good enough.  Three hours later, I had a great summery bracelet that is no longer going to be a gift. I need to wear this bracelet  to remind me of how I love being in the zone: I lost track of time in those 3 hours and it felt great. Flexing my flow muscles started refilling my power pack for September.  And my gardening, knitting, moviegoing, blogging and even taking care of post-surgery parent gave me focus back. So direct answers from Dan Pink were not forthcoming; instead, his book just snagged on my subconscious understanding that practicing flow is how you enjoy flow. Bring it on.

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