Tag Archives: teaching

The Danger and Importance of Expectations

When stuck in my own vicious cycle of procrastination for a long time, sometimes I get so habituated into the comfort of delay and using rationalizations automatically that they do not seem unreasonable or give off any warning signals. I find that in these cases, watching others, and their various manifestations of procrastination can then help give reflection on what I do myself in other contexts.

When seeing another person put off doing something for the wrong reasons, and diluting life in the process, we obviously are aware how counterproductive these behaviours can be. Maybe this can stir within us the action to change these very same behaviours that we display ourselves but have chosen to ignore for so long.

I was talking with a diligent student about her portfolio assignment. Her first set of entries are due later this week and we were discussing ideas about how to present it creatively, emotionally, symbolically, and in a way that shows evidence of work and experience, as well as progression of improvement and reflection on what the student learned from her experiences.

Throughout our discussions, the student was very animated and showed emotion and depth when telling stories from her childhood that she thought worthwhile to include in the beginning part of her portfolio to show how they influenced her thinking of today. We then thought together about possibilities on how to present it on the pages. Various images, drawings, and photograph suggestions came up, and the student was enthused about the creative potential and how meaningful this project is.

However, her tone changed when talk started focusing on the specific deadline and answering some of the required questions given by the teacher. She decided to give up on themes of presentation and style, and creative story telling, and instead decided to give short answers to answer directly, or maybe just do a traditional essay format. I encouraged her to try combine some of her previous ideas of pictures and symbols along with the traditional writing method, but she was reluctant.

Her reasons knocked me back a bit, but also woke me up to some of the fears that people have. She admitted that the teacher encouraged creative thinking and use of other material to supplement answers for the portfolio project. The student, from our previous discussions, obviously enjoyed creative work and finding, and interpreting meaning from stories and using pictures as symbols and metaphors. Despite all this, she reasoned that “I can’t put in extra pictures and other materials for this first entry. If I do, then the teacher will expect that I will always put in extra, and what if I can’t in the future? I better just do it safe and directly, and just get it done.”

Suddenly I realized, if this student is saying something like this, then in classrooms all over the world, many students are thinking similar thoughts and a lot of potential is being stifled. The grip of fear and worry can be so strong that a student may avoid producing something that is meaningful by focusing on the future expectations of others. Attention is taken away from current content to hypothetical implications. Furthermore, maybe even more tragic, is that many of us see high expectations as negative and something to fear. If a teacher expects to see creative thought and critical thinking in unique forms, then that can push the student to keep pushing her thinking in future projects.

Unfortunately, for those who struggle with anxiety that may lead to procrastination and putting off tasks, we seek out safety to avoid expectations.  While there is a feeling of danger in others’ expecations, and our own, they are also places and new heights that we can reach within that are not possible without expectations.

-Pat

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When Choosing Not to Read is More Difficult than Reading Passively

Do you ever feel guilty not reading enough books or watching enough movies, or just simply not having enough knowledge?

Do you ever get in a slump or hit a phase where you cannot get through and complete a thick text or sit through a whole series?

Sounds like we need a short cut! As with other short cut posts in this category, I am not suggesting these methods be used for a life time solution. The short cut is more to temporarily relieve your mind of heaviness and burden, and just to lighten yourself up for a laugh. You can call it justification, call it rationalization, call it distortion, or bending the rules, but it’s just a way to put the focus somewhere else rather than coming to the conclusion we won’t make it to heaven every time.

Didn’t finish reading or watching something? Take a short cut. A big time short cut. Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes try just not reading it. Next time someone chastises or admonishes you for not keeping up with what everyone is keeping up with, you can say you didn’t want to lose your own creativity and individuality. In other words, you purposely didn’t expose yourself to the material because you were afraid to be influenced by the interpretation of others; you were afraid of your ideas simply becoming a paraphrase of what you read or watched.

I know this short cut won’t hold water over the long term, and it goes against the quote of “standing upon the shoulder of giants,” where your own creativity and accomplishments depend on understanding and studying those greats that come before you, but sometimes, sometimes, can we please be allowed to get a little pleasure locking ourselves up in a small space surrounded by four walls with nothing accessible. No books, no manuals, no prescriptions, no top 10 lists, and just see what we come up with.

Teacher? This is why I didn’t do this particular homework assignment? Well, this particular teacher didn’t give me a zero, but actually made me do a mini-experiment and follow through on purposely locking myself in an area for a prolonged period of time without access to any reading materials or other media. She predicted that in those circumstances, the games and ideas I come up with to prevent insanity will still come from materials I read previously. Though I may create, spin, and interpret differently, I am still dependent on others, even when all alone.

Gosh, so the short cut didn’t turn out all that short after all. It may actually be more difficult to right up front put on a stance of not reading something rather than just reading and accepting something passively. Hmmm…not reading actually means reading critically? You still have to read it, to argue why we shouldn’t read it or shouldn’t be influenced by it?

By the way, she’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, and one who influenced me into making use of the short cuts into something more.

-Patrick Law

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Questioning the Procrastination Approach (Interview with Devin)

We are excited to present our first interview at this blog dealing with issues related to procrastination. Devin is our first participant, as he came across this blog while looking for methods to counteract and overcome the habit of putting off his priorities, tasks and, ultimately, his dreams. Devin wanted to volunteer and express his disagreement with a lot of what we are doing here. We appreciate his honesty and different perspectives. The transcript of the interview is below.

Patrick:
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

Devin:
It’s no problem at all. In fact, I warn you, I have to be blunt, because I feel like it’s important for me to express my views before too many procrastinators get carried away with what you’re doing here at this blog. I guess I’ve come as a warning, and to give my side because I don’t see much of the work here addressing any of my concerns.

Patrick:
Can you clarify what you mean? And don’t worry about holding back, or offending me, because it’s good feedback to know and learn about why certain materials are actually not help procrastinators.

Devin:
First off, I think too many of your posts have too much of an idealistic, playful tone. In essence, you are not taking the topic of ‘procrastination’ seriously enough. I stumbled upon your blog looking for ideas, methods, solutions, to deal with my own procrastination. Instead, I mostly found writing that perpetuated procrastination.

Patrick:
What do you mean by that? Can writing not be a means to be productive?

Devin:
Yes, it can, but too much of the writing here is just used to delay….at least that’s the sense I get. I mean, it’s great that you guys are having so much fun here, but all this time spent writing can be better spent directly dealing with the problem of procrastination. After exhausting yourselves with writing, what energy will you have left to do anything else?

Patrick:
I can understand your point Devin, but I guess part of the experiment with this blog is to explore the process a bit, and use writing as a means to do that. I mean writing is very helpful to hear about the experiences, the frustrations, and also the joys in dealing with this issue.

Devin:
I don’t have a problem with that, but I do worry about the imbalance. So much time is spent describing the experiences and how you procrastinate, but not enough time is used to deal with solving the problem. There just seems to be no urgency in this blog, in the writing, in the approach. You know what I mean?

Patrick:
But perhaps having too much urgency and a serious demeanor can cause more anxiety than it should. I’m maybe trying to introduce a perspective that considers a bit of lighter approach, noticing the humor, and that will put us in a better frame of mind to pick out what is really important.

Devin:
Sorry, not good enough. You lack discipline, structure, fortitude. What? Just share experiences all your life? Again, I maybe sounding harsh, but perhaps I’m just going to the extreme so you see what is obvious and most direct. By being indirect, talking around the issue, trying to write stories with hidden underlying meanings, it may be interesting for creativity, but not if you’re trying to solve procrastination. If my quick observations are correct, I think I’m the only one so far to give somewhat negative and critical feedback on your blog. There’s too much soothing, accepting, and keep going on what you’re doing kind of response here.

Some visitors may even mistake that you are promoting procrastination. Actually, come to think of it, I’m not even sure? Are you promoting it?

Patrick:
I don’t know if I would say it in those terms, but I am exploring other angles to it.

Devin:
Hey, I enjoy some of the writing here as well. Just want some more balance, and just want to tell you that a lot of people who came here with a purpose and expecting something, are getting nothing close to that. I’m sure there are some who are pleasantly surprised, but would there also be some who say you are avoiding what is most central?

Patrick:
Thank you Devin for these points. I have to admit, many of them I did not consider, and certainly some of your perspectives may need to be looked at for future posts.

Devin:
Thanks for having me, and thanks for letting me come on even though you knew beforehand that I’m quite critical and question the effectiveness in how the blog is helping procrastinators. Indeed, some people who worry about procrastinating may feel that you are not treating the subject seriously enough. Having said that, perhaps your target audience is a bit different?

Patrick:
Interesting points. A good way to end off this interview, providing food for thought that we can discuss further as we meet new participants interested in this subject. Thanks again, Devin, and hope you will return again to share your ideas.

 

 

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