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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Guest Blog: Igniting Student Passion

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

Nicholas Provenzano (@TheNerdyTeacher on Twitter) has been an active participant in the regular Tuesday morning #edchat, where forward-thinking educators from around the world connect and discuss different issues of the day. His passion for teaching (and learning!) positively emanates from his tweets and blog The Nerdy Teacher. Here's his redux of this week's edchat.

--Betty Ray, Community Manager (@EdutopiaBetty) and Elana Leoni, Social Media Marketing Coordinator (@elanaleoni)

Tuesday's #edchat (February 23) was an exciting conversation about students and their passion for learning. Many people thought that by making connections to students, teachers will be able to understand the students' passions and incorporate them into the classroom.

@averyteach: I think it begins with relationship/rapport between teachers and students.

@Philip_Cummings: Educators must take genuine interest in student, & get 2 know him b4 being able 2 encourage toward passions.

@TheServantMedia: I learned the most from the teachers who cared about me.

@PGRoom209: Getting to know your students is a must. Take the time at the start of the year and you're repaid throughout.

I use the first few minutes before class starts as an opportunity to get to know a little bit about my students. It offers me a chance to learn about them beyond the classroom walls. In that small window of time, I make a personal connection with my students to let them know I see them as more than just another paper to grade. Students also love to see their teachers at their after school activities. It shows they care about what they do outside of the classroom. It makes them feel important. A teacher might be the only person that has ever asked them what they are passionate about. Those passions are key when trying to discover ways to motivate students in the classroom. By recognizing and celebrating a student's passion, a teacher could create a life long learner. As teachers, if we do not take an interest in the lives of our students, why would they take an interest in the content we are passionate about?

One #edchat comment about passion and teachers really rang true to many of the participants and brought up very interesting point.

@cybraryman1: You must talk with your students and find out what makes them tick. Build relationships and definitely model.

Modeling in the classroom is extremely important. If teachers want passion from their students, then teachers need to be passionate in the classroom. If teachers show students that they love what they are teaching, then students will love it as well. Many people agreed that passion was essential to creating a positive learning environment.

@Mr_Lister: thinks educator's help students discover their passions by being passionate themselves, and bringing that passion into the classroom.

@greerteach: Passion in students is bred from passionate teachers - those who can exhibit what it means to be passionate about something.

@tomwhitby: If you model a passion for teaching, your students will exhibit a passion for Learning.

@DrPresident: We should be as passionate about teaching and kids as we want our students to be about learning.

Passion can have a lasting impact on students. A few weeks ago, I received an email from a former student letting me know about the death of JD Salinger. She said that she wanted me to know because she remembered how much I loved his work when I taught The Catcher in the Rye. Looking back on that email, I see how my passion for Salinger made an impact on that student. Teachers are supposed to inspire students and show them the value of the content presented. Passion is one way to do that. No matter how the curriculum in a school district or state is set up, a teacher can still be passionate and engaging with their lessons. Students need to feel that connection to the material and a teacher's passion is a great way to do that. All of the technology in the world will not make a difference if the teacher does not have passion burning deep inside them for their job.

Stoking the fires of passion is not an easy thing to do and that's ok. Being a teacher is not an easy job. We are teachers and we can inspire every student that walks into our room. Learn about each and every student in the room and use their passion as a tool to help them learn. Our passion for education needs to be there to provide the spark for those students who do not realize how important learning is for them. If we are not passionate about education, who will be?

Nicholas Provenzano is a high school English teacher who is currently working on his Masters in Educational Technology through Central Michigan University. His blog, The Nerdy Teacher, offers tips, tools and treats regarding technology in the classroom. Nicholas is part of the Edubloggers Alliance and helps administrate the blog with other great teachers. He is addicted to all things Apple and always on the lookout for new technology to bring into the classroom. Nicholas can be reached on Twitter @TheNerdyTeacher.

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia
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