Part of it could be mid-semester slump, it's true. When I (and I'm sure pretty much every other student) am up to my eyeballs in things I have to do, it's easy to get overwhelmed and go into non-functioning mode. That's what happened last week, I think. Stress levels spiked, and I really didn't want to do much of anything, frankly. Two jobs, a full credit load, and outside stressors can do that to ya. Yep.
But I don't think that's the entire explanation for my lack of motivation in some of my classes nowadays. You see, I have come to realize the value of authentic learning tasks--things that actually matter in the real world, things that go above and beyond arbitrary things like essays that will get read once and thrown away, or worksheets that I'll probably never look at again. Lately I've been feeling stifled, mired down in minutia and unable to pull free and devote my time to things I actually care about. It gets frustrating. On my Facebook status the other day, I posted, "Sometimes I feel like college gets in the way of my education, and it irritates me." I think that's at the heart of my feelings of restlessness as of late.
Now, you might say that one person's minutia is another person's passion, and I get that. But I have little patience for arbitrary tasks that you can theoretically translate into some skill that you may use sometime in your life down the line. Grr. Why not do something meaningful NOW?? Why not devote our energies to real tasks while we're still in college, while we can take advantage of the enormous resources available to us while we're still at university? Why does doing all these little tasks really matter anyway?? Now, don't get me wrong--I'm not advocating slacking off and trying to get out of work. (If you know me, you would realize that that isn't the way I am at all.) I'm talking about taking a good hard look at your priorities and what you actually care about and saving your best self, your best time and energies, for those things and letting some of the other things go.
And guess what? Sometimes those "other things" can be homework assignments.
It's really difficult to properly elucidate this concept so that people don't misunderstand me. Homework is important, yes. I understand that there needs to be some sort of qualitative assessment of our learning, because that's the way the school system works, and you have to learn how to meet deadlines, yadda yadda yadda. Those things have their purpose, and that purpose is all well and good. But I would submit that sometimes these formal constructs we have for education can get in the way of learning about things we really care about and making our college education what we want it to be. There are so many things I would learn about and research more if I didn't have to jump through some of the hoops that come with traditionally structured college courses (long worksheets, for example...).
Some things I would do if I didn't have to do my homework:
- First, foremost, and overarching: Devote my best time and energies to answering my own questions and meeting my own learning outcomes that I've determined for myself. These are some of the things I have found myself particularly passionate about, and if I found the answers to these questions and learned nothing else, my education would be worthwhile.
- Read David A. Bednar's newest book, Increase in Learning, and a host of other titles I've had on my to-read list for the longest time.
- Devote more time and energies to my study of Carl Jung's theories and how they have bearing on the our culture. He's brilliant, and I think our psychologically splintered culture would do well to learn about his theories of individuation and wholeness.
- Read more Milton. Because he, my friends, is the man. Sometimes difficult to access, I'll admit, but he's the man nonetheless.
- Blog about my ideas (look at me being such a rebel right now--I'm blogging instead of writing an essay....)
- Research String Theory--who says English majors can't study modern physics? Some may think it preposterous for me to try to understand this theory given my background, but I'd love to try taking it on. Besides, it's just priceless to drop that term in a conversation and look at people's faces when they learn my major. I love throwing people off like that.
- Learn more about open education--it's the new frontier, people.
- Take the time to connect with other people via social media who are interested in the topics I care about. Learning in a vacuum does no good.
Recently I've been thinking that I want to be someone who brings important ideas, ideas that are more difficult to access, into the mainstream. Forget sitting on the sidelines, watching the big players do their thing--I want to be out there making my own shots and setting the world on fire. How exactly I want to do that, I don't know. But I do know that I need to break out of these traditional learning paradigms and re-evaluate my priorities a bit in order to find out.
Photo credit: photosteve101 on Flickr