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The Power of Passion

October 15, 2013

Last week on Twitter, the topic of passion made the rounds.   The first mention was from a blog post by Paul Wagner, an instructional technology specialist from Texas, who wrote, “Passion is what will drive a teacher to create those lessons that they could sell tickets for.  Passion is what will lead a student to go above and beyond what the assignment is and end up with a product they can truly take ownership of and pride in.”  Next, there was a link to another blog by Crissy Venosdale, another educator from Texas, who wrote: “Learning is possible without passion. But, really, that’s like having a theme park without rides. The intense excitement, the fun exploration, the natural curiosity? Passion brings those things to the table. The teacher’s passion becomes the catalyst for igniting fires in the learning. The student’s passion fans the flames.”

I’m a passionate person by nature.  It’s just who I am. Growing up, I was fanatical about Stephen King books, Boy Scouts, and Cleveland sports teams (oh the pain that that passion has caused me over the years).  But my love for those things fueled my desire to read every book, earn my Eagle Scout badge, and never give up despite “The Drive” and “Fumble” and “The Shot”.

While my passions have changed over the years, they still fuel my almost compulsive drive to:

  • Empowering kids – all of them especially those with learning differences like myself (I’m dyslexic with a fun dose of ADHD thrown in for good measure)
  • Designing curriculum – creating lesson plans that will help students learn content, develop skills, and improve their self esteem
  • History – specifically US History because I believe the past helps students learn about their present
  • Personal development – learning something today to help me have a positive impact on a student tomorrow

There is no question that teachers who pursue their passions come into class more motivated to teach. More importantly, when teachers integrate students’ passions in classroom activities – a type of osmosis occurs. The student’s own passion ignites the passion for the subject matter and learning happens.

Most teachers are professionals who work hard to make a difference in the lives of their students.  Take a moment to think about the best teachers at your school and most have one thing in common; they are all passionate either about teaching or about their subject matter.  As Ricardo Higuera, a middle school teacher, put it on twitter recently, “There are goodteachers and there are bad teachers. The difference between them is often intent.”  Passion fuels good teaching.  It’s often what motivates a teacher to come in early and to leave late.  It’s what keeps them thinking about their kids or their content long after they have gone home.  It’s what fuels their desire to be their students’ champion and to do anything to help them be successful.  It what creates the satisfaction you get when you know you have made an impact on a child’s life.

Last year, was a perfect example of the power of passion.  From eight until noon, I worked in my school’s admission’s office, and then, during the afternoon, I had the privilege and pleasure of teaching two sections of sixth grade history.  I enjoyed my mornings as I helped parents decide whether or not Carroll was the right fit for their dyslexic child.  But it was my afternoons that I really looked forward to.  It was those kids that I thought about on my way into work, and it was those students who brought me the greatest joy.  Ultimately, It was my passion for helping those kids that fueled me to make a move back to teaching full-time.

I’ve been a teacher now for almost twenty years, but I haven’t always allowed my passions to drive my career decisions.  Six years ago, when I chose to pursue a career in administration, I did so because I thought heading a middle school would be a fantastic next step in my career.  I reasoned that I would be able to impact the lives of more kids while making a little more money.  While that plan aligned with some my passions, I didn’t realize how much I would miss being in the classroom full time, nor could I predict  how much I would miss teaching US history, for which I have a fervid interest.  (On the first day of our honeymoon, I took my beautiful bride to Gettysburg to tour the battlefields – now that’s passion (and a patient wife)).

So as I explore opportunities for employment next year, I will be sure to pick the job that best suits my passions.  I want to be able to use my superpowers (that’s what my sister calls my skills as a teacher) to make history exciting for my students while teaching them skills that will benefit them in high school, college, and throughout their lives.   And most importantly, I want to be a teacher they remember for having made a difference in their lives just as I remember those who made a difference in mine.  As Robert Fried put it in his book The Passionate Teacher (2001), “The passion that accompanies our attention to subjects, issues, and children is not just something we offer our students. It is also a gift we grant ourselves: a way of honoring our life’s work, our profession” (p. 19).

So, what passions drive you?


From → Pedagogy

  1. stephanie permalink

    As a former colleague and parent of one of your former students, I can testify that your passion shows through in your teaching. I’m enjoying your blog and look forward to seeing what choice you make for next year. Thanks for sharing your passion for teaching in one more way, through this blog!

  2. Thanks Stephanie. It’s easy to be passionate when you have students like Jamie and colleagues like you!

    This blog has been a blast to write, which just proves the power of passion. Thanks for reading my posts and commenting on them. You’ve made the most comments so far and I have thoroughly enjoyed the back and forth.

    Finally – you never answered the question – what are YOU passionate about?

  3. Concernforeducation – the feeling is mutual. Have a great weekend!

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  1. Passion at the PT | A History Teacher's Tool Belt

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