“It’s a lot of work.”

We were standing outside my classroom, having what I hoped was a casual discussion about why this student had not turned in so much work. As if you can have a casual discussion about something like that. Still, the young man was casual enough in his response. Perhaps I should have made the conversation itself seem like more work. Having conversations that are both serious and friendly,

“It’s a lot of work.”

I didn’t like work at fourteen. I would have rather listened to Genesis. My best friend had introduced me to their early stuff — Trespass, Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway — and I was immediately captivated with how different it was from the pop nonsense they were producing at the time. Long, epic songs that developed into symphony-like layers, with motifs established and repeated later, variations of variations. Years later, my friend and I watched a documentary together about the band’s early years and I was struck by how much effort went into those songs. It was obvious from the listening, but to hear the band discuss it.

“It’s a lot of work.”

Beethoven_sym_6_scriptIt would be tempting to say that early love of Genesis paved the way for my later love of classical music. After all, I had the patience to listen to long compositions. I was used to letting a piece of music develop over many minutes, not necessarily expecting a readily-determined formula. The truth is, though, it was probably the reverse. Whatever the case, both are virtually inaccessible to many of today’s fourteen-year-olds. I play classical often in class when students are working, and occasionally one will share a thought like this: “This music is boring. It just goes on and on and on.” I’ve wondered if it’s not a question of attention span. To someone who’s used to flashing videos that change every half-second, to hip-hop beats that are simplistic and unfold in a matter of seconds then repeat endlessly, it might be difficult to hold all the long themes and motifs in one’s head and wait to see what happens with them. Indeed, the motifs themselves might be so long that some kids can’t make the connection that it is one long theme. That kind of listening for that kind of listener is hard.

“It’s a lot of work.”

Some days, it’s tempting to say that today’s youth — I think I promised myself I would never use that term — are somehow more averse to work that I was as a kid, than my friends were, than anyone ways. It seems somehow connected to the technology of the times: kids are now used to instant everything, constant everything, boundless everything. “They don’t work!” seems to be a mantra in the middle school hallway. “Well, not most of them,” comes the quick amendment.

But they all can work, and they are all willing to work, and I have proof. I still don’t have the magic bullet, the answer to every teacher’s woes about apathetic, “lazy” students, but I have proof it can be overcome in all students.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s