Here’s how the game is played. Everyone stands up, and I say a statement. If it’s true and applies to you, then you have to sit down. As the class stood, I thought I’d start off with something easy so no one would have to sit down right away. “Sit down if you have watched Tik Tok for over five straight hours,” I said. As a student sheepishly sat down among incredulous ooohs, the student defensively shot back, “But I deleted it. I don’t use it anymore.”
Adults might revert to old and grumpy, when I was young, mode, “These kids, they’re on their phones all the time.” In defence of my student, I watch football for three straight hours, and one could easily chastise me for watching grown men tackle each other to chase after an oblong-shaped ball. People entertain themselves in different ways.
I suppose the core objection lies in the feeling of some inherent wrongfulness in not doing something useful or productive with one’s time. We understand the mental and physical need for breaks and relaxation, but there’s no hard and fast rule about how long such respites should last and what activities constitute recharging and refreshing and what constitutes a dulling of senses and being. Not so long ago, Tea, Maria, Sahil and Ms. White sat in front of the graduating class and kicked around the idea of what being spoiled meant. They addressed humility, doing chores, the blessing and curse of wealth, and the subtle distinction between the careless nonchalant dependence on others and the appreciation of support in our lives. Foremost and recurring in their comments were attitude, perspective, and approach.
If you scan my report card comments, you’ll see “needs to work harder” or “requires stronger work ethic” sprinkled here and there. There’s something to be said about meticulous focused intensity on an assignment or fined-tuned study in preparation for an assessment. We may be fortunate to not do sweaty, muscle aching ditch digging type work, but the process of building, creating, refining, and learning is work in another way too. Some students protest their hard work is not commensurate with their marks. Some are stretched with a busy palette of activities. But let’s set aside grades for now, although Mr. Huygens or Ms. Gyton could give you an earful about assessment.
Regardless of outcomes, a certain pleasure, a certain assurance pervades in giving a complete attempt. David takes the occasional nap in class. But when I’m watching him at lunch write an equation on the board, drawing a graph representing the equation, and asking me how a particular point relates the two, you can see there’s wonderous persistence in the effort of the thinking. Programmers know well the feeling of the struggle and the triumph of completion. Kiara and Rory have talked about the feel-good, knowing satisfaction in creating a working program that supersedes any related grade.
No one likes busy work. We want our work to have purpose and meaning. We want our learning to be intrinsically valuable, even if we may not see an immediate and direct application. When Paige or Cadence or Logan show up on a regular basis early in the morning to ask questions and go over concepts, they’re imbuing value to the process, layering more to the strengthening of character and growth, and accepting with relish the mantle of responsibility. Sure, there are marks involved, that’s there. But they’re also saying the road to completion is important, that the trust of accountability given to students is worthwhile and honourable. Unsaid in words, but said in action is this: What I’m doing improves me, and stirs something inside me that is good and right.
Hard work matters, yes it does.
TikTok for five straight hours? Yeah, maybe, sure, it’s a bit much. But perhaps, it’s time to turn from what not to do and focus on what to do instead. An interest, a meaning, a giving your all, and a knowing of how much you cared.
A good day’s labour, well spent, and then a good night’s rest, well earned.
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