What’s love got to do with it?

I’m a non-K-12 student and over 18, so there’s always more work that needs to get done. And there’s never really a break if you think about it – everything can be worked into productive and unproductive hours. But, for me at least, a snow day is life’s way of throwing me a bone without fear of death (luckily I don’t have to worry about any blizzards, volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, or whatever other acts of God there are that stops everything). Well, given that everything was in a sheet of ice yesterday, I decided to lie in bed and enjoy the snow day. My plan was to use the day to both rest and catch up on neglected work (one thing of which was this blog. First post in two weeks – eek!).

Have you ever procrastinated with doing something until the very last minute, rushed to get it done, swore to yourself that you’d never do it again, only to betray your oath and found yourself scrambling at your next deadline? Procrastination is a fun thing: have fun now, and regret it later. (I promise I’m going somewhere with all of this. Just bear with me for now and let me work the best low-quality magic I’ve got). In my opinion, procrastination is just learned behavior – you’re testing your limits, seeing how much fun and enjoyment you can have before you absolutely have to make a move. If you’re good enough at it, it becomes second nature and a pretty hard habit to shake. If you’re bad at it, you’re exposed, learn your lesson eventually, and start doing work on time. I think learning to read and faking reading works the same way.

I hated reading when I was a kid. I always thought it was a little twisted that, when I was in kindergarten, my mother made me read bedtime stories to her before I – the child – went to bed. But it didn’t matter what I did. I couldn’t pretend to go to sleep or like I didn’t know the words, my mother and that book of fairytales weren’t going anywhere. I would’ve put it off if I could have. All I ever wanted (and this is still somewhat true) was to sleep and play. Sitting at a table or in bed and reading wasn’t as enjoyable. Learning to talk and comprehend language is easy – that comes natural. Reading is hard.

So what about the kids whose parents didn’t force them to read? Or didn’t have teachers that caught that they weren’t picking up on things – weren’t mastering the new frontier? They get better at faking it and doing enough to get by. Like I said, reading is hard. The same principles that apply when I procrastinate with doing that project, even though I’m really interested in the class and the subject, are the same principles that work for kids and adults who never learned to read at an early age. There’s a lot of self-handicapping with procrastination, and there’s a lot of shame and embarrassment that comes with not being able to read. It makes you an outsider to the world or makes you feel dumb, unless you learn how to mask it.

I’m just thinking, but how do you convince someone to wholeheartedly do something that’s difficult? How do you help someone do what’s best, even if it’s not what comes natural? In my experience, with putting hard tasks off, I’m aware that I’m procrastinating and I understand the best choice from the easy one, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to pick up my pencil and start writing/reading/project-ing/whatever. There’s some other personal “it” factor that comes in when you develop your own sense of autonomy. If it’s not there, it’s pretty darn hard to do work you don’t want to do.

So world, how do we get struggling readers to want to read – and not just to pass a test or some one-size-fits-all standards – in a way that is self-motivated and lifelong?

[Casper Rhay]

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One Response to What’s love got to do with it?

  1. jhelms94 says:

    I totally feel you on the snow day laziness/procrastination/don’t-make-me-move feeling. I wasted a whole day yesterday, to find myself scrambling to get homework done and get to work on time today and have time to get ready for the big game.

    On another note, the reading part of your post. When I was a kid, I was a nerd. (I don’t know whether I should be ashamed of this or not) I was the annoying kid that was reading out loud to the class, because I loved it that much. However, right now I am a tutor and work with elementary kids on reading. I know reading is hard. The english language really doesn’t make sense 85% of the time. And, several of the kids I work with are native spanish speakers… so that makes it even more difficult. It’s hard to get someone to enjoy something they feel like they aren’t good at, or don’t enjoy doing. For example… I am not really good at sports. I can run okay and I used to play tennis and cheerlead… but I can’t play volleyball or basketball or flag football. In high school PE I would get so embarrassed because I was really really bad at these sports, yet I was forced to play. I think this is how some kids feel about reading. I think the most important thing to do is keep encouraging and working with the kids. It is helpful when the parent’s push and encourage them, but when that is not the case it is the teacher or tutor’s job. Compliment every little detail and action. Make the kid feel good about what they are doing… and hopefully one day they will feel good about their abilities as well.



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