Monday, September 3, 2012

Is it worth it?

As a young student, a frequent question I asked was "why do I have to do this?" The question that usually followed in my mind was "But is it worth it?" Interestingly enough, not only suffering middle school students in math class are asking these questions - but professional adults ponder these very topics every day at work.

Today, in the Harvard Business Review Blog, a small article talks about how some individuals are able to find meaning in their work. What is it that makes these people so unique? I think it is their ability to think deeply about what they are doing, and apply a growth mindset to their situation. This article reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. :
If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.
So what does this have to do with the Relevant Classroom? In schools student often wonder why they must do things, and what the worth of these activities really is. Even if the answer is something as vague as "it will help you think more critically" at least there is an answer. Kids need to know that even if they are doing small activities that feel mundane or useless, these projects and drills have a purpose. Like Dr King said, we can be the best of whatever we are. Think if every child understood a deeper purpose for doing things, and developed a strong desire to be the best speller then could be, the best writer, mathematician, scientist, artist, thinker, debater, or musician.

Perhaps if we can help children find meaning in their educational experience, they will have become like those featured in the HBR article who have learned to find joy in their seemingly mundane occupations.

1 comment:

  1. I've always liked that quote by Martin Luther King Jr. too, but for some reason today my mind connected it to one of the ideas brought up in Church yesterday that if you eliminate competition, you eliminate pride. I suppose there's a fine line between being proud enough of the work you do to find meaning in it and do a good job and being so proud of doing it better than everyone else that you start to think less of others. I don't know. What do you think? Is this too beside the point of the post?