This school year, my students and I need more motivation than ever. A global pandemic means added stress and anxiety. A hybrid schedule, then virtual schedule, then hybrid again, means no consistent routine. Teenagers find more hours at their part-time jobs, which means less time for schoolwork. All of these changes and inconsistency can lead to a lack of motivation for all involved, so I knew I had to do something.
After coming up with a lot of different ideas, I settled on a “performance” unit. So often, when I am feeling down, I turn to performance poetry, or speeches like a TedTalk, to lift me back up again. I hope this would do the same for my students. After studying some inspiring mentor texts and videos, I asked my students to get their thoughts down in their notebooks, and then choose a writing genre. Their goal was to create a piece their classmates needed to hear. It could be meant to inspire, inform, or just get the audience thinking about a topic they normally wouldn’t. I will admit that this was difficult for some students, for they were struggling to encourage themselves, so how could they write something that encouraged others?
I soon saw that the mentor texts helped, but my students needed more. They needed to see the process displayed right in front of them, step by step. That’s where I came in. Like all of my writing units, I wrote right along with them. This time, to challenge myself, I chose to write a poem. I love reading poetry, but writing it often intimidates me. Not this year. I felt it was time to try something I normally wouldn’t.
Over the next few weeks, I shared my whole process: my brainstorming, drafting, countless revisions, and the adding of purposeful writing techniques. I shared my frustrations and proud moments. They saw it all. I hoped that putting myself out there like that made them more comfortable conferring with me.
This week, our performances begin. With all that’s going on around them, I think my seniors have a lot to be proud of.
“Untapped” (inspired by Ashlee Haze’s spoken word poem “Untapped Motivation,” and my students)
Welcome to the pool of possibility.
Fix your cap, open your notebook, and dive right in. Once submerged, let your words float around; some will settle on the page.
Once they start flowing, don’t let them stop. Take your first lap through, then flip, turn, and push off for another. Trust the process. Spread your words out and let them move you.
Your voice is emerging. Bubbles just at first, but then you take a deep breath. Energized, you head back under, where everywhere you look are blues and golds. Ideas galore.
Despite the temptation, ignore those invisible spaces. That competition you can only see when you turn your head for air. Keep your head straight and focused. Push past worry and let your imagination guide you.
Just a little harder now. Stretch your arms out and keep gliding through those murky waters. You are the one who decides where you will take yourself. You can reach the end, if you want to.
Almost there. With arms ready to give out, take that one last breath, look up, and let your words be heard.
As you touch the wall, the audience claps and whistles, your new special talent visible to all.