Motivation Monday used to be a weekly ritual in my classroom. There’s a whole slew of well-made videos on Youtube with positives messages set to dramatic music, showing clips of famous movies with voice overs from motivational speakers. My hope in showing these videos was to solve a particular problem I saw in my students. Simply put, they were not present in their own lives. These students, just months away from graduation, entered my classroom day after day with few interests, no plans for their adult lives, and very little emotion aside from anger. It was almost like they had stopped developing after they turned 8.
My plan was that by watching the videos, they would have a little inspiration and try 1% more than the week prior. Over time, these videos and the work habits that developed as a result of them would have a huge impact. But, contrary to my intentions, something strange happened my students, actually, grew even more apathetic. The reasons for this result became clear as my experiment proceeded.
It turned out my students were regularly watching these videos already on their own. They would even offer suggestions of videos to watch, and at first I thought their interest was a sign I found a good strategy. However; it soon became clear they loved watching videos about taking control of their lives, but hated actually putting what they saw into practice. When they watched someone else overcome an obstacle it was as if they were doing it themselves. Instead of being more grounded in the reality of their existence, the videos took them even further away from themselves. They internalized the messages as if they had actually accomplished them, when in truth nothing had changed.
Apathy use to be the word I used to describe my students, but now I use a different word: spectator. They aren’t uninterested in what’s around them, they simply do not participate in anything directly. They live vicariously through the heroes in the movies, their characters on video games or the images on social media. Their entire life is a set or stage for innumerable productions delivered to them by technology, but they, themselves, are never the actor. As I saw this unfold in front of me, I began to notice the same traits in myself. I spent too much of my life as a spectator, watching sports and following it through the week, binge watching show after show and trusting the expertise of strangers to determine how I should raise my children.
How do we awaken from this habit of living to watch to other people live? It begins with knowing that the God of the Universe, Jesus, desires to have a relationship, personal with every one of us. This is the most important and most basic aspect of our lives. It is here, where our individuality is rooted. He loves each of us, relates to each of us in a completely unique and authentic manner. Each moment that we spend trying to understand this, each moment we spend trying to respond, each moment we spend seeking him is a moment where we are the actors in our own lives.