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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Guest Blog: How Passion in Education Can Drive Change

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

Most people won't argue with the statement that our current education system's primary goals are not to ignite/support educators' passions. With standardized testing, budget cuts, Race to the Top and on and on, how do educators hold onto the passion of teaching?

Teacher Derrall Garrison (known as @derrallg on Twitter) gives an honest perspective of a passionate teacher in a not-so passionate world. Here's his summary and opinion of this week's edchat.

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

I always preface a conversation with someone when they enter my classroom with "it's my passion" when trying to explain why I have so many computers and want to talk incessantly about project based learning, using blogs and wikis to build community in the classroom, and other essential 21st-century skills that can seem arcane to the average visitor.

It sometimes can feel like a path that I alone walk. How else to explain the feeling when I've been at four school sites within ten years and have only once been able to convince, cajole, or find someone that wants their students to even blog. Someone once told me that if I were to go too far back in working in a classroom with my staff's perspective in mind I would lose motivation and they were probably right.

Even now that I lead professional development sessions in my district and school site and raise the pitch of my voice or try and project all the energy I can muster, it's disheartening to see the look of disinterest and loss of attention. I'd give anything for a group of teachers coming up all excited as learners passionate and starry eyed with the possibilities. But this is why I enjoy teaching children, they still have that spark of curiosity, the ability to become passionate and the willingness for change that I find lacking in many teachers.

The topic from Tuesdays #edchat discussion, which was a little different in that it tied in with and preceded an online discussion between Steve Hargadon and Sir Ken Robinson about his new book Elements, was a core topic in regards to being a teacher from my perspective:

@rliberni: The topic today is passion in education and how that can drive change.

Many of us are the change agents at our school site or district level and it's ironic that when they call us experts and so knowledgeable I immediately smile inside and think "if only you had your own PLN or participated in some virtual community or discussion such as #edchat, because there are some brilliant minds out there sharing, challenging, and altering my learning on a daily basis."

Two important questions that were asked early in the chat were:

@rliberni: Does passion always come from the teacher? and How can we define passion?

and the responses were just as interesting:

@MatthiasHeil: To me, passion is what makes us tick, and explore - even at great cost. Has to do with teaching, I guess...-)

@joe_bower: Passion is a love for something for its own sake and someone couldn't stop you from doing it if they tried.

@MatthiasHeil: Passion can neither be created nor taught, it can only be encouraged...

@teachingwthsoul: Passion is the unrelenting pursuit of what you strongly believe in

And perhaps an idea that touches upon a person becoming a teacher as a calling, a spiritual pursuit @stevejmoore: Passion = suffering = delay of pleasure. So passionate pple do delay their own pleasure for sthing else.

The conversation also began to look to ways teachers can create passion:

@MissCheska: I believe passion comes from both the teacher and students - learning is shared & valued together

To which @rliberni responded: I agree both 'feed' off each other this is crucial to learning I think

@cybraryman1: Attending/Presenting at conferences & workshops. Meeting like-minded fellow educators increases your passion.

Again @rliberni's response: true passion can be nurtured by stds, colleagues and PLNs

and with all this discussion the question and responses to why passion is important:

@PGRoom209:I think the amount of passion is the difference between teachers who continually improve and those who don't.

@MissCheska: Passion = persistence

and perhaps more importantly

@kevcreutz: Even when you fail. RT @MissCheska: #edchat Passion = persistence

This idea of allowing failure and treating it as something to let our students grow by needs to be looked at more closely.

Many seemed to agree that passion helps educators overcome systemic focuses that are not related to learning.

The chat also began to move to more of a cautious examination of passion with perhaps so much unbridled enthusiasm when: @tomwhitby: Can Passion distract us from Reason? Just because we are passionate about something does it make it right?

@web20classroom: I think we have to be careful. Too often in history we see passion that is misguided...

but followed up with

@web20classroom: All the educators must teach with passion

It felt like the discussion of some primal force that propels us and drives us to be teachers and needs to also be reflected upon even as our actions seem the right thing to do.

And for me the question in regards to educators around me that don't share in my drive and enthusiasm:

@michellek107: Good question: is it automatic or learned? RT @tomwhitby: How do we promote Passion?

One fear I have is that as my learning is altered and accelerates and pushes me to reflect and informs my passion how will I communicate with my colleagues who choose not to change?

Will many of us always be part of a group of educators who will have to look outside our schools and districts for change and passion?

Derrall Garrison is a 5th grade elementary teacher in the Cupertino Union School District. He presents for professional development sessions within his district from the elementary level up through the middle school on such topics as creating personal learning networks and incorporating Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. He is a Google certified educator, DEN Star educator, and participates in online communities involved with live streaming such as EdtechTalk, the Webcast Academy, and EarthBridges.

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia
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