“If we want to understand better the complex world of the classroom, and if we want our scholarship to have an impact on the work of teachers, it’s important we find a more central place for story.”
I’ve been moved by Steve Shann’s work for quite some time, as an educator, a writer, and a story lover. Steve knows the importance of this form. He understands its ability to change minds and lives.
This week, it was my great pleasure to celebrate the release of his new book, The Worlds of Harriet Henderson, in my Facebook group. This book is more than a great story. It reminded me, as Steve’s work often does, of the power that teachers have to truly see their students in ways that others do not and how this particular type of seeing transforms their own lives as much as it serves their students. I know that different readers will connect to this book in different ways, but this was my take away: This book inspired me to think about how apathy presents itself inside of our personal and professional lives, why it exists, and what it might take to overcome it.
And apathy is one of the greater issues that writing teachers share with me. It’s one of the greatest struggles I continue to face in my own work as a writing teacher and as a learning facilitator for other writing teachers.
Apathy is a concern that likely confounded Confucius himself, even though every time I recognize it in a student or a teacher that I support, it feels like a personal affront. As I mentioned somewhere earlier this week, I’m twenty five years into this teaching gig, and I still don’t have answers here. I struggle, as everyone else does.
BUT: I’ve learned not to take it personally.
AND: I’ve learned a few others things along the way, too:
- For instance, this four-cornered approach for idea generation helps writers define topics that matter to them.
- I’ve learned that medium and modality switching engages writers as well.
- And while compliments can often create apathy, my willingness to make myself vulnerable is a potent cure.
And that’s the rub, for me: My willingness to recognize, name, and reflect on my own apathy matters a great deal, if I’m hoping to engage anyone else. Apathy isn’t an enemy. It’s a teacher who schools me on my own learning and work. If I’m paying attention, it forces me to define why I’m doing what I’m doing. It makes me notice the disconnection between that why and my how. That disconnection is a powerful driver of apathy, in my own experience. This is because apathy is often protection for me. Protection from overwhelm. Protection from tough decision making. Protection from fear and potential loss.
How does apathy work for you? What does it teach you? How do you dance with it? That’s what I was playing with last week. Each of the links above will take you to last week’s #FiveMinuteFix videos–quick tips that I’m sharing each weekday morning in the Building Better Writers Facebook group. You’ll find the entire series on apathy right here.
I’d like to hear from you: What are your experiences with apathy? What have you learned about helping the learners that you support overcome it? And how has your own relationship with it evolved over the years?
Help me keep this real, friends.
I know this is a tough one.