I’ve been thinking a long time about how to write this post after a teacher told me that one of the gifted students in her class was lazy and she therefore struggled with the idea of needing to modify programming for a lazy student. Having worked with many gifted students over the years, I have met my share of “lazy” students and while it’s frustrating, it’s never as simple as lazy.
I hate the word lazy. As the youngest child of six, it was a title often deferred on me…not so much at school, but definitely at home. On the farm where I grew up, we had a lot of chores and for a kid who lived in her head, shoveling manure, feeding animals and working in the garden felt like drudgery. I would often disappear to write songs and poetry, read books or just contemplate the nature of the universe. I did try the “sing while you work” and it made the work much more palatable although I ended up taking much longer than my siblings in completing my duties. I remember my Dad coming to check on me while I was cleaning the barn and telling me to get back to work instead of using the shovel like a microphone. I would tearfully set about shoveling manure but within five minutes would be singing once again to lift my spirits. It nearly drove him to distraction. I remember him sitting me down one day and telling him how fearful he was for someone as lazy as me to make their way in the world.
For many years I carried the shame of being lazy and everything left undone became painful evidence of that truth. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties when a friend challenged the label. She had come to visit me while I was living in Calgary where I was not only a full time university student, but I was working several night shifts a week as a crisis counselor at a women’s shelter as well as playing in a band and learning to speak Japanese in preparation for a trip to Japan. When I referred to myself as lazy, she responded that I was the least lazy person that she knew. In that moment I was forced to reconsider the label…which was not easy. Then I remembered my mother telling me that if you love what you’re doing, you never have to work a day in your life. There was nothing she loved more than gardening and farm work and even though I tried to love it for her sake, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I found the work that I love.
And so when I meet a “lazy” student, I think of them instead as students out of context. Individuals who have not yet found the work that they love or have found it, but not in school. And so I am drawn to find out more about them, to see if there isn’t some way to make school and my classroom, a place where they can love learning. The key…genuine interest in who they are and what they do. Easy for me when it’s philosophy, the creative arts or ecology…difficult when it’s computer programming or the history of warfare…but I know there’s hope because after twenty years, I have learned to love gardening!