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A Teacher Creates His Toughest Test

Are students energized by my lessons or thinking of something else?

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Irving Ponders the Nature of Consciousness by Matte Stevens

Chasing dreams and pursuing gratifying yet challenging activities produce a euphoric state called flow: Troubles disappear, ruminating thoughts are forgotten, and the passage of time goes unnoticed. Why? The process of setting and reaching personally meaningful goals requires concentration and absorption in the present moment. Athletes may experience flow during competition, journalists during interviews, and scientists when they experiment. Since psychologists have found flow to be a signpost of meaningful work—indicative of both happiness and self-actualization—creating flow for students seems a worthy goal for classroom teachers. So, with the help of the company Metric Wire, I decided to examine my effectiveness as a teacher in promoting flow in my ninth-grade English class. My experiment was inspired by the “father of flow,” psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who paid participants to carry pagers that randomly administered questions to assess their emotions, concentration, and engagement in daily tasks, leisure activities, work, and school. His work with students led him to an alarmi …

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