I read much of the necessity of coming back to the present; of becoming conscious of now, “of chopping wood when we chop wood and eating when we eat”. Yet we construct more and more ways to seduce ourselves from this present. Our attention is solicited on all sides; we flit around our lives like hyperactive midges and the brain drowns out the soul.
These students seem incapable of concentrating for more than ten minutes on anything; websites.., games, instant messages, music, videos, all compete with me, and with each other, for their attention – is this attention span, as many colleagues claim, really getting shorter, or is it just that the means of distraction are more prevalent?
Each week I give them a series of tasks to complete.
One student that comes to class puts his head between his hands and looks at the floor, doing nothing: around him groups are absorbed in the project I have given. One group is doing the project on a program I don’t even know; most work hard, some waste their time; surf and chat. Two are playing games. It is not always easy to tell where the energy is going in the right direction.
You can lead a horse to water…
What is exhausting is the constant attempt to put myself in the place of the student; how far do you impose to give the student the discipline he lacks and how far do you try to understand?
The student with his head in his hands is failing; he has given me little work and he is not advancing – I open a door: “Show me you are motivated; that you want to be here- write your own project and do it”. He perks up and goes off to look for ideas. I tried this with another difficult student last year and he did some great work for me – yet this year he went down hill again and is out of the school. Did I make a difference?
I have no doubt the work will be done the deadline is there and they will all present their work, they always do.
I believe that my job is to try and bring them back to the present: make them aware of why they are doing the projects I have set and how they can evaluate their own efforts. To render them independent, sometimes to let them fail.
I have to put myself in their shoes – but I also have to stay in my own – understanding is not the same as indulgence.