Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Passion for Learning- What Are We Waiting For?

On February 23, 2010, I was able to participate in the evening #edchat discussion through Twitter. I have participated a few times, but this was one of the few occasions I stayed on for most of the hour. It was a great conversation about learning within your passion. There was much debate and discussion about the role of passion within the current school system. #edchat made me think and I like that.

I usually arrive at "work" around 6:00 a.m. CST, and on a day with no evening activities I leave around 5:30 p.m. CST. So if talking about school stuff until 7:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night is "work", I worked for about 13 hours on Tuesday. I tell you this only because I feel that if I really felt what I do everyday was really "work", I would probably get here around 8:00 a.m. and leave around 4:00 p.m. However, I am one of the lucky ones, I am one of the people that truly works within my passion. And if you don't have a job that is within your passion, then I feel sorry for you because your days have to drag on.

Passion can be described as an intense desire or enthusiasm for something. Why can't we design student learning around this intense desire or enthusiasm? Too many educators think it is not possible, the system won't allow it, or all kids need to learn the same thing, hence our factory system. I do think all students need to have similar basic skills, what I don't agree with is that all students have to learn these skills the same way or within the same topics. I believe all learning can take place within your passion. We don't have to have a curriculum for that, we have to have a system that allows for the flexibility needed for teachers to design learning opportunities for all learners within the system. Our current model is too rigid, outdated, etc., so why don't we change it?

Think about the experiences you have had in school in which you truly learned something you still use today. I would guess you could think of a way in which you could have learned this skill within your passion. For example, one of my passions today is golf. I love everything about golf. I love the individual accountability you have for counting your own strokes. I love practicing my skills to improve the angles and club speed needed for various shots. I love that you play outside. I love that you can compete against your self, other individuals, or with teams against other teams. Golf is a great game. Now if you were to ask me some questions about geometry, math, science, or many other topics, I can think of many ways in which you could intrigue or spark my learning by applying it to golf. But if you asked me to do the odd problems 1-51 on page 172 or something of that nature, I would get it done, but would I "learn" it? I can answer it for you. No. I would understand it well enough for my test, but I wouldn't have anything to tie it to because it wouldn't be meaningful to me.

Passion is the key component to true learning. We need to design learning experiences around students' passions. It is our duty as educators to develop life long learners. As adults, who wants to learn about things you could care less about or that are not applicable to your life? Nobody that I know of, so why do we make students learn about things outside of their passion or irrelevant to their world. Schools need to change.

If you have a passion for learning (I assume all teachers do) you will commit yourself to designing learning experiences around student passions, and if all educators do this, our system will change. It will become relevant to all students, and we will be able to develop global, digital citizens, who understand their passion and who can THINK, LEAD, & SERVE. What are we waiting for?


  1. I agree, I feel fortunate that I don't have a set "work" schedule. I see a number of 8 to 4 employees, but we're blessed with a small handful. I've wondered about their "Passion" and have tried to inspire it's ignition and fallen short - knowing I had the same chance of starting a forest fire in a deluge. But we work with those who have passion.

  2. Outstanding piece! The key is figure out how to keep the passion that many teachers start out with before they burn out.

    I smiled when I read this because it was what I did when I taught for 32 years. I was in my school at least eleven months of the year. I was the first teacher in the building at 6 a.m. I had to answer the phones and plan on how to cover an average of filling 10 teacher programs (without substitutes) a day due to teacher absence. When the principal showed up around 7:30 am I was sure to greet him with "It's about time you got here!" Many of my colleagues said that I would burn out but I worked even on my last day. I had a passion that I wished most of my compatriots would pick up on.

    I taught my students the skills that they would need to survive in the real world. For example: each year I took classes on a tour of the local supermarket and taught them to read the weekly circulars, use coupons, what unit pricing was all about, etc. I had supermarket staff tell them about their jobs. What particularly fascinated them was the art of setting up food displays. I always involved career education in whatever I taught.

  3. Nice post Deron! Great to see such a positive approach to what we do. I agree that the passion is essential. It actually makes or breaks a school climate as well. Even if teachers aren't at the stage you describe above, often their passion radiates to the students with the ability to ignite new ideas in those students who are ready for it. Often students have not yet figured out what all of their passions are, but by seeing teachers engaged in theirs they may discover their own.

  4. Deron,

    Thanks for the great post. I cannot agree more with your thoughts. We are fortunate to be at a job that we enjoy coming to every day! I also start on the assumption that every educator is in this for the same reason - to make a difference for every student and allow them to find their passion as well.

    I am thankful to have models of schools that are thinking outside the box like Van Meter. I am not sure of much except that just maintaining the status quo will not help the majority of our students find their passion.

    I keep thinking of two things Diana Laufenberg said about her classroom at SLA. She tells her students two things when they present: Don't be boring and don't kill the joy in the room. What if we all were able to do that.

    Why was this past edchat my favorite? Becase it was PASSION-driven! Imagine if our students talked this way about their schooling. Are we ready for a #studentchat?