Liz finds pleasure in gelato while in Italy.

In her book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, travels to three countries to find herself once again.  The first place she travels to is Italy – in an attempt to seek and experience pure pleasure.  The Italians she comes across have no problem with this idea, in fact they applaud and encourage it.  However, her American acquaintances have a different view, thinking this journey self indulgent, luxurious and irresponsible.  I can relate to this.  It does seem that we Americans put so much emphasis on purpose instead of pleasure.  And of course, I can’t help but wonder what this means for us as teachers, educators and students.

Gilbert commented on how at first she “wanted to take on pleasure like a homework assignment or a giant science fair project.  I pondered such questions as, ‘How is pleasure most efficiently maximized?’  I wondered if maybe I should spend all my time in Italy in the library, doing research on the history of pleasure.  Or maybe I should interview Italians who’ve experienced a lot of pleasure in their lives…”

When summer approaches, I feel like I’m supposed to justify it with all the work I intend on doing.  Even this month’s blog series is about the purposeful things teachers do during the summer months…  why??

Why can’t teachers take a break without feeling guilt or getting backlash from those in other professions?  Even the most well intended comment I get from someone as I start my summer is seen as a slap in the face.

And what does this say for our students?  As we teach, are we supposed to make sure everything we do is headed toward an end result (a test? an assessment?)  Or can we do things for pure pleasure?  And learn from them too??

This past school year, I took a chance and gave my students a studio day: a day where we spent nearly four hours in the art room creating individual pieces of artwork to be given for Mothers’ Day.  It was an exercise in the creative process and in working in and being in the present.  There was no assessment, just reflection.  And so many students commented on the sheer enjoyment they got out of our time.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s OK to do things for pure pleasure – as teachers, as students, as humans!  We need to have the balance of responsibility and pleasure… or we can just burn out!  Sometimes this might mean we have to work at it, fight for it, make time for it, SEEK it!

Do you (attempt) to seek pleasure in life?

Reflections on The Inspired Classroom
Pleasure, Experience and Art