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[Educator Network] The Purpose of Passion for Inspired Teaching

[Educator Network] The Purpose of Passion for Inspired Teaching

Discovering and claiming something you love to do has an amazing effect on your entire life.

There are many articles on finding your passion. Life coaches have made a career on helping people do just this. This is not one of those articles.

This spring, Edmentum education consultant and host of The Edmentum Podcast, David Cicero did a podcast episode titled From Overwhelmed to Inspired: How to Be a Happy Teacher by Embracing Resiliency, featuring a live segment from SXSW with some Educator Network members.

The importance of being happy has rippling effects on so many aspects of your life, and for teachers this impacts a classroom of students. It is like a raindrop on a still lake; the ripples go on, and on, and on. Educators make a difference, and happy educators do so with such impact. It is important that you continue to find what makes you happy, what you have learned and let those ripples wash over student.

This is not another article on finding what makes you happy. What it is, however, is an article about figuring out how to take that passion, that talent, that excitement, and bring it into the classroom. How others have taken this continuing learning, and made it part of the classroom.

So many educators find professional satisfaction through instruction, yet we have outside interests as well. Things that we google, videos that we watch, hobbies that we explore. Your enthusiasm over a hobby can be integrated into your instruction. First steps include:

Take stock of your talents

What are you good at? Don’t include anything that you have a natural talent for, but really don’t like doing.

Ignore the nay-sayers

This is for you. This is your opportunity to explore your learning and apply it to the classroom. What better way to model learning than to continue it in your classroom?

Go back, way back, what did you love to learn about? Embrace your inner child.

If you are struggling with figuring out what you get excited about, think about what you loved to do as a child. Was it coloring? Do you find yourself wishing you could get your hands in the garden? Is there something you do that you hate to stop doing? What do you spend countless hours researching and reading about. What are you YouTubing?

If nothing comes to mind, brainstorm. Write it down, keep a running list close by and keep adding to it.

Passion is the work you love to do, and for many of you, that is teaching. How would you feel if you could embrace that passion and include other projects you find engaging? Educator Network members have done just that:

An educator friend in Houston, Texas, is writing a social studies curriculum that is told through students work in photography. Their work tells the story of their views on social issues though a camera lens.

Kim Hogan of Sussex, Virginia, has created a partnership with a home improvement company, the military who have donated man hours, the local garden club, and state naturalists, to build school gardens that are designed for pollinators. The gardens are purposefully planted and monitored; they are also leveraged for a huge variety of standards instructions. She also partnered with VA Blue Bird Society and was gifted a blue bird box, and nest cam. The data is explored by both the state society and the students.

“Why shouldn’t your enthusiasm for what you like to do outside the classroom be a passion in the classroom?” Kim once posed. “Kids are so thirsty for new and exciting ways to learn, your excitement for something translates to them.”

Lesley De Paz in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has built Story Orchard leveraging her excitement for reading. To hear more about her passion, check out her inspirational story.

There is something enormously powerful sharing your passion. This works for students as well. It is potent when you share with someone who reciprocates that passion. Not only does it confirm that your interests are respected; it confirms that you, as a person, are valued. This is an especially handy with middle school students where fitting in can be an even higher priority than learning. Students can get distracted by their passions, it is ok to redirect them, but when students are motivated and engaged, they will learn. Modeling your passion for learning helps to create a safe space for their learning.

For students to succeed, we must meet their developmental needs and consider all the different factors that impact their experiences both inside and outside of the classroom.

Every student is different. Every single student who walks into your classroom has their own story. Every smiley, goof offing, enthusiastic, grumpy kid brings a whole host of experiences with them. Their story is one of promise, or heartbreak, complexity. While some students may have no trouble understanding what their passion is, others may feel uncomfortable with the concept. Recognize that some students may have been raised by passionate parents and others may have been discouraged to do much self-reflecting. This holds true for educators as well. Spend some time identifying what makes you excited. Use some of the techniques mentioned to find the right fit.

Great thinkers have associated happiness with such qualities as a rich intellectual life, rewarding human relationships, love of home and place, sound character, good parenting, spirituality, and a job that one loves. How do you model happiness to your students?

winnie.oleary's picture
Winnie O'Leary

Winnie O’Leary has spent over 25 years in education, as a classroom teacher, school board member, a family advocate, special education teacher, curriculum writer and currently a Curriculum Manager for Edmentum. Her experiences have allowed her to work with districts all over the country where she finds something new and exciting every day.