One of the very first PRESS: Letterpress as a Public Art Project monthly mantra cards that we made was one that said: Never underestimate the power of Enthusiasm. To this day, it is one of my favorite of the 50+ cards we made over the past six years. The power of enthusiasm can carry one through challenging tasks and opportunities in ways that external motivation never does. It is also one of the hardest things to teach.
Inevitably, I have a couple of students each semester who are not tapped into the relationship between what they are learning/doing, their potential and why any of this matters. Everything they do is for the grade or the assignment. The bare minimum gets completed. And more recently, free moments mean time to check devices.
I am fascinated by the ones who get turned on, and why they get turned on. Typically the two things that drive “turn on” are
I try to find out what interests my students (especially the ones that are described above) so I can direct opportunities towards them, and adjust assignments to fit their future aspirations with the hopes of helping them get to those moments of a-ha and transformation. I read books on creativity, motivation and drive looking for that magic element that might accelerate this process.
Ultimately each of us has to find that enthusiasm ourselves, and we have to be tuned in enough to ourselves to know when we don’t have it. AND we have to want to find it. For me as a teacher, I remind myself that not every student has that drive or wants to have that drive, and that that is fine. Some students are okay with passing. For other students passing IS the most important thing.
More ardent than anything, I hope my students and all the young people I know find that thing that they are enthusiastic about, that they fight the good fight and are willing to swim upstream to realize their visions. And when they get older, that they keep jadeness at bay by continuing to make, and do and dream and believe. Because you can never underestimate the power of enthusiasm no matter what your age.