I’ve struggled for a long time to understand why every semester without fail that after the first week or so of classes I’d lose the fervor and excitement for school. Where did my love of learning go? Where was my motivation?
There have been many days (and long nights) where I wrestled with these thoughts and wrestled with whether I should be wasting my time wrestling with these thoughts. Was my mind wasting time thinking up excuses to avoid work by thinking about my lack of motivation? These nagging questions will not leave me alone though and there are many things that came together for me recently that I need to share. The threads are hard to follow but, I hope you will be patient.
This is a very blanket and vague statement but I believe that the current system of schooling encourages selfishness and an individualistic nature. Learning as demonstrated by our schools seems to be a one man journey with an importance placed on achieving the number one spot. In school you learn because it is important for you to make the the best of yourself. I do believe it is important that there be some internal motivation but the lack of emphasis on community has always left me feeling empty.
I will admit I am a competitive in certain aspects of my life (such as sports) but schooling has never been one of those places. And as a human I can not help but be selfish in certain aspects of my life but in terms of schooling I’ve never desired to learn for me and my own advancement. The times I’ve genuinely enjoyed learning were those moments that brought me a feeling of closer connection to and contact with my community of learners.
For example, I spent a good part of the ’07 fall semester reading the poetry of Yeats and others because I felt that brought me closer to certain people in my learning community that I respected. I ended up forsaking some of my “real” work for absorbing the reading material my learning community suggested. Lets just say that that semester ended very poorly for me grade wise. But a whole world of poetry I had never experienced had been opened up to me. It wasn’t just the fact that I was reading new works but, I was experiencing them in a brand new way.
I have a strong desire to draw closer to those in the caravan who travel with me during this stage of my journey. All of this leads me to say that this strong desire to learn alongside and from these caravanistas does not limit itself to a school context but reaches far beyond. There are many people in my community that I want to talk about but for this post talking about DTLT will have to suffice because it represents so much in one group.
I easily have the best student employment on campus as a student aide for DTLT. Those who have come before me and currently work with me probably will vouch. I’ve worked at DTLT since the fall of ’07 and I have always looked forward to going to work. Everyone there pushes me to think and challenges me when I need it (which is constantly apparently heh). I have freedom at my job and an expectation that I am responsible with that freedom. I have learned so much more than I thought the job would ever teach me. I get to be surrounded by people pushing the boundaries and doing work that is not found at most universities. Many of the things I have learned on my own while working at DTLT were influenced by my desire to be a part of the community and to contribute the way the staff of DTLT do to their mission. In my mind spending time learning the things they are learning about is my way of honoring their work and the people of DTLT. They probably don’t even know the extent of my insanity on certain things.
I’ve never worked so hard to get myself into the lives of people because of a strong desire to know them. As time has gone on the people of DTLT have become my family, a home away from home, and I love them as such. For whatever bizarre reason these people mean a lot to me and so my desire to learn from them carries from work to their lives at home. I know these people and I know their families. Sometimes I feel like I am performing a grand experiment as I observe how each family works and all the millions of intricacies that can occur within one family. I love their kids like they were my siblings. And I want to show their children that people outside their family can come into their lives and love them for seemingly no reason. In fact I can think of no greater joy in my life right now then to be able to love these families well and even though it makes little sense to me why I feel so compelled to do this, I don’t question it, I just do it.
After saying all that I turn back to the question I started off with, where does my motivation for school go every semester? Well, when the solo journey of classes is put up against the community of DTLT is it really that hard to understand why my focus wanders elsewhere? When I have this tangible and meaningful community of people to learn from why would I spend anymore time then I had to on my solo class journey? Again, this is not to say that classes are a complete waste of time, they certainly are not and I have some more thoughts on learning and classes but that is for another post. In short, schooling does not provide the community and meaning-making I desire and in addition, I can easily find that community and meaning-making in abundance in other places of my life.
Maybe I am no closer to a solution to my problem but at least I feel like I understand it better now, perhaps I finally see some sun shining through in what forever seems like a dark cloud hanging over me.