"The Want to Wants"
There’s a buzzword most teachers strive to incorporate in their planning, and that’s collaboration. It’s preached, it’s taught, it’s encouraged, it’s demanded. However, when the time comes, whether it’s PLC time, a PD session, or a conference, how many of us take full advantage of collaborating with colleagues? How many of us collaborate with other content area, or non-content area, teachers in our own schools? How many of us see our students as collaborators? To be honest, a decent amount of teachers I have met since my pre-teaching courses do look forward to collaborating. For others, it may be like going to the gym: you don’t really want to go, but you know that once you’re there you might as well get on the treadmill. Sometimes the hardest, least-desirable part is getting there.
There’s a syndrome I suffer from at times: The Want to Wants. Often times, it arises when I am faced with something (a commitment, a deadline, a meeting) I truly want to want to do. I want to want to participate and contribute. I want to want to clear my mind of the sixteen other items in my planner and thirty other thoughts in my head so I can be fully present for collaboration time. But it’s difficult. I want to want to take every outside interest my students have and incorporate it, fluidly and flawlessly, into my lessons. I want to want to collaborate with educators every week so not one lesson goes by without it being the absolute best. But, sometimes, I just don’t want to. I want to want to, but I don’t. And that’s coming from a textbook extrovert who truly loves the school he’s teaching at.
Now, I am a theatre teacher but I am also human. I get up and open my classroom door with a turn of the key just like the rest of you. Even when I don’t want to, I do. And you do too. So let’s look at the two cases:
1) “I just don’t want to.” Well, sure! Sometimes a sub is just a text away. The office manager may be a rock star at getting coverage for you at the last minute. You may be a great compartmentalizer and know that once your class is covered you can head back to sleep. There are times I absolutely don’t want to leave the comfort of my covers. It’s not a teaching thing, it’s an I’m-here-and-don’t-wanna-leave-this-comfort thing. So how do I get up? How do I turn on the car and open my classroom door with the turn of a key on the “I just don’t wanna” days? I make sure I have something that I am looking forward to teaching that day. Maybe it’s a Do-Now question at the start of class that will result in a good discussion. Maybe it’s a Warm-up game I’m stoked to introduce to the students. Maybe it’s a direct instruction topic. Maybe it’s a school event that we’re looking forward to participating in. Maybe it’s a club meeting that serves as a nice escape from the academic rigor. Maybe its my collaborators I'm most looking forward to seeing. If you’re bored with your plans, maybe it’s time to spice it up. Make the state standards work for you and your collaborators (students, in this example). If you’re excited to teach it, most of your student collaborators will be excited to learn it or, at the very least, entertained by watching you teach it.
2) “I want to want to, but just don’t want to.” This is me. Front and center. There are days where I want to stay in the comfort of my covers, call the sub, beg the office manager for coverage help, and they activate rock star capabilities while I promise to buy them coffee next time. I turn off the alarm and snooze away. I have felt this. You have felt this. You want to want to, but it’s not physically or mentally going to happen.
Anecdote time: A few weeks ago I was leaving school after a tiring-but-good day. Some days, you’re just a bit wiped out from teaching your classes. As I ventured to Starbucks for my Undertow, (2-3 shots of caffeine pulled over cold milk and a pump of flavor, aka my “pre-workout”) I headed to the gym, per my routine. As I was driving the few blocks between my Starbucks and my gym, pumped with caffeinated energy, I desired less and less to actually workout. Each stoplight was a checkpoint of not wanting to workout. I wasn’t tired anymore and I wasn’t sore from the previous day’s workout (cardio, bro, it’s a good thing). I just didn’t feel like it. I wanted to want to. I did a self-scan and asked myself, “Well, if you don’t wanna work out what do you wanna do?” Without hesitation, I realized I wanted nothing more than to just go home, sit in my chair, put on my slippers, and continue reading a book I'd been enjoying. Reading is a passion of mine, but so is working out. I reasoned that if I don’t want to do one thing I really enjoy (workout) because I want to do another something that I really enjoy (reading), then that’s a fair trade. I am not being lazy, nor am I doing anything out of my norm. I would read anyway, at night, per my routine. But I wanted to do it earlier. So I did. U-turn, home, park, slippers on, book open. I loved it. I did what I wanted. I didn’t do what I wanted to want to do.
When it comes to teaching, sometimes yes, it is just a job. But it’s also going to be there the next day, just like my gym was. If a day comes where you just don’t want to, you can, probably, muster up the motivation by planning ahead. Have your collaborators at the ready. But other days, you want to want to but it ain’t gonna happen. So do what is needed. You want to teach, it hasn’t left you. You just don’t want to that day. So collaborate with your people, which sometimes may be you. You are your strongest collaborator. Your student collaborators will be there when you return. And when you do return, when you’re excited for teaching the lesson that day, make sure you have your office manager’s favorite coffee; rock stars don’t run on empty.