As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that responsibilities have become the number one time-taker-upper in my life. I’m not sure I choose to go to work everyday, but it’s my responsibility to myself, my family, and my bank account. I might not have to stay after school to tutor or coach basketball, but it’s become a responsibility to my students, principal and athletic director. I surely don’t want to go to the grocery store, help make dinner, clean up, return every email, iron, pack a lunch, get some sleep, and so on, but I have to, because I have responsibilities to my wife, my wallet, and my health. I even have to floss every night or my dentist thinks I’m irresponsible.
But I’m starting to get the hang of this responsibility stuff. I get it, and I’m smart enough spend my time doing things that make me feel both responsible and give me satisfaction and enjoyment. This blog, for example, feels professionally responsible and fulfills my responsibility as a colleague and friend to the other folks at Coast 2 Coast (and to anyone in the MTBoS who cares). And my job, well that’s one of my favorite responsibilities. When I sit down to write new problems for my students it’s a double-doozy because I’m doing something I find fun and interesting and being super professionally responsible at the same time.
When I was a kid I would have never thought that responsibility would take over my life. I never thought I’d find myself in the position I’m in right now: I have the choice of going outside to clean dust and spiders off of our filthy bikes or playing Super Mario Galaxy 2 (don’t knock it til you try it) for the next hour and I’m actually contemplating the bikes! Not even because I really want to ride them, but just because I could cross it off my “To Do” list once it’s done! And here in lies the problem with motivating my students: when it comes time for homework, they are totally playing Mario! Or… Well… They are totally playing “Kill Everything and Talk Shit Online”… or whatever that game is called.
And so I want “Responsibility” to be a theme this year. I want to put that word out there. I want to make it clear to them that eventually, and in fact quite soon, responsibility will take over their lives too. The less responsible they are > the longer their “To Do” lists become > the more things start falling off the back end of it > the worse things get for them. And they can’t stop it, they can only hope to contain it the way I have by putting myself in a position where my responsibilities and my interests are fairly well aligned. The only way to do that, I’d like to convince them, is to start now – to start feeling a certain sense of responsibility toward the important things in their lives. In some cases the things that are important to them and in other cases the things that are important to other people who care about them.
And I care about them so I will suggest this simple responsibility: Since you are already going to be sitting in my classroom for 2 hours today, and since you really can’t get away with doing anything you want to do during this time, how about doing the responsible thing and attempting to get something out of your time here. Maybe get a little better at Math. Maybe get a little better at thinking. Maybe get a little better at talking to people. Maybe make a friend who can help you with homework. Maybe try to get a good grade to push up that GPA. Maybe just try to get a passing grade so this isn’t a total waste of you life. Because spending time that you have and getting absolutely nothing out of it is irresponsible for anyone at any age.