Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mythical Inspiration

I have a student who's missed a number of classes and assignments, and even though it's fairly early in the semester, I wrote hir a short note of warning, and so zie came to chat.

Zie tells me zie is lacking motivation, likes to sleep in, and watches a lot of TV.  But zie also tells me zie is above average at the class material, and just needs to be inspired to actually do work.

I hate the myth that someone needs inspiration to do work.  Yeah, maybe it would be nice to be filled with the spirit, but if you're not already standing in front of the congregation when it happens, then you're going to be preaching to your pillow, you know?

I'd love to feel totally inspired every time I teach.  And every so often, I feel pretty inspired.  But mostly, I prep for class, gird my intellectual loins, and do my job.  And mostly, I do it reasonably well (I hope).  But if I depended on inspiration to be able to do my job, then I'd never have been inspired well or long enough to finish a bachelor's degree, much less a phud.

I hope this student comes to realize that most jobs are just that, jobs.  They're work.  And you can hope that you're doing something more beneficial than not, and try to do it well, but it's still work, and you get up and do it because you like to eat, have shelter, wear clothing, and maybe do some other stuff.

I mean, we're all special snowflakes, but in a blizzard of snowflakes, we're still falling to the ground to eventually melt and run off, either into a sewer or, if we're maybe luckier, into a stream.

And now, I need to prep so that even if I don't feel marvelously inspired, I can do a good job at my job.


  1. Zie sounds very special indeed, and obviously hails from Lake Wobegon. Is there a nice way to tell hir this? "If you are "above average" at the class material but never demonstrate it by showing up and doing the work, then few are going to share your own high opinion of your specialness."

  2. Undine! Zing! I love it.

  3. Oh, yes, these special snowflakes are heading for some painful reality checks when putting food on the table means you have to work whether or not you're inspired.

    Still, it sounds as if your special snowflake might be suffering some sort of clinical depression with those symptoms. If they persist, it's more than a question of inspiration, isn't it? But in the meantime? Grrrrr!

  4. The problem with "I need inspiration" is that it puts the onus on you, the professor, to provide inspiration, so that if you somehow fall short in the inspirational department, then the student's failure is All Your Fault. Do they realize how silly they sound?

  5. Bev is right--this kid needs a kick in the pants. Also, Undine FTW.

    I hope you tell this student exactly what you wrote here, or in other words that you can't just *be* brilliant if you don't put in the time, follow directions, and show evidence of working with the class material. It's not up to you to "inspire," it's up to every student of yours to work with the material you've assigned, grapple with the concepts you've laid out in the course, and do their freaking homework if they want to be a part of the conversation. (Or if they just want to pass your class!)