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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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Comments (21)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Laura C's picture

I came across this blog while doing an assignment for my Master's degree. It is difficult in our society today to incorporate new and exciting things that the 21st century has to offer because there are strict curriculums. Derrall, I think it is great that you use blogs and wikis. I have used them and the students absolutely love them! There are so many different activities to do with them and the curriculum can be covered still! The passion chat was informative and I would have to say that passion is an extreme emotion and I agree that it comes from both teachers and students. I have seen passionate teachers and the students are so engaged during the lessons. The teachers who are not passionate, have more difficulty with trying to get the students to learn. I always try to teach with passion not only for the students but for myself. It makes learning and teaching so much more exciting! Good luck in your district and keep doing these great, positive things!

SherryG's picture

Derrall I agree its is so different to inspire students rather than teachers. I find myself inspired by so many things I would like to try, but then I run out of time and energy to implement them. I would love to know more about technology, but also feel inferior to knowing how to even get started. I am glad you are doing something to help others over come their fears.

Sarah Jennejohn's picture

I agree with your comments as well. Passion is the driving force among the best educators. In the example of your passion being project based learning, there must be a passion for student based learning and technology in your classroom because this type of learning takes a lit of time and paitence. Ideas like these that can be shared via blogs will hopefully inspire other teachers to be as passionate about a type of learning as you are.

Amanda Heidger's picture

I agree that passion is necessary in education. Teachers who are not passionate about what they do allow students to follow in their footsteps which in turn results in their becoming dispassionate learners. I also agree that "current education system's primary goals are not to ignite/support educators' passions." Throughout my short experience as a teacher I have come to see the importance of passion, mainly through witnessing classroom behavior and attitudes of teachers who are not passionate. I think it is important for schools to provide teachers with as much support as possible. I also think many of the older teachers are intimidated by technology and some would just never think to use it as a source of motivation. I think schools need to be advocates for online communities such as this. It is definitely inspiring to hear from others and to see that I am not alone in dealing with different issues.

Derrall Garrison's picture

@SherryG For teachers who want to get started with technology and aren't sure how to go about it or don't have the resources in their own district I usually recommend they get started at the Classroom 2.0 Ning:

http://www.classroom20.com/

or even better because you can connect in real time to other educators is Classroom 2.0 Live shows:

http://live.classroom20.com/index.html

You will find that you can get many of your questions answered and if you attend one of the live events you will get to know others that are in a similar place in their learning.

Holly's picture

Derrall,

Being a new teacher, I am "passionate and starry-eyed with possibilities." It is so nice to know that there are teachers out there who have been teaching so long and still feel the same way I do! At my school district, many teachers have been disheartened with the changes we have gone through lately, and they have lost their "zest" for teaching. I am determined to not let their attitudes get me down, and instead I will focus on inspirational teachers such as yourself!

Trish S.'s picture

Hello Derrell,
I am in my first year teaching and get very excited about professional development in all areas of education. I returned to college as an adult with an active family to finish my dream of becoming a teacher. I have always felt that teaching is a calling. I am very passionate about my profession and what it means to educate students. I will admit that I have come across quite a few teachers that seemed to have lost their passion for teaching. It is uplifting to be with the teachers who still want to strive to do better and to continue to learn. As a new teacher facing many challenges, it is a conscious effort to surround myself with positive educators. I believe passion can be contagious. It is a matter of being willing to always remember what it is that brought us to this profession in the first place. Thank you for sharing your passion with us. I also want to say that it is critical for us to keep up with technology and how it can be used to motivate our students. Keep up the great work!!!

Christi's picture

your last statement is what really spoke to me. . .I do believe we will have to look outside our cadre of fellow teachers because some are still do the "same old same old" and that just doesn't do it for me or my students! When I see people doing it the same way they did when they left university, I am dumbfounded. . .is it wrong to judge? That's a question I struggle with--but truthfully--a lot of the folks with whom I work are the picture in the dictionary of "You can lead a horse to water. . ." Thanks for taking the time to communicate with those outside your local realm. Have a great rest-of-the-year. (Oh and blogging to each other about books they are reading has rocked my 4th graders world. . .)

Erica's picture

Though not necessarily related to technology, I want to address the idea of passion. There is an ongoing theme about budget cuts and the loss our school systems are facing. This is demoralizing and out of our control. When I feel I have no control over my situation it is easier for me to forfeit and give up. This year I have taken a stand. I have joined with other people in my community to fight budget cuts. We as a group have lobbied at our state's capital as well as our local jurisdiction. I may not be able to control what our legislator do however, I am able to make my voice heard. I feel empowered being part of the process. Our children deserve more. This has reignited my passion to teach.

Kaitlyn's picture

The passion for learning and teaching are together the most important factor when it comes to education. It is unfortunate that so many of your coworkers don't share your passion. Where do you think their disinterest stemmed from? Is it something that could be prevented for people just entering the education field?

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