Not Only About Passion-Based Learning


In part, he World English Dictionary defines passion as

“A strong affection or enthusiasm for an object,

 concept, etc: a passion for poetry.”

We’ve been hearing a great deal about “Passion-Based Learning”.  People are realizing the importance of giving our students the opportunity to learn about things that are of interest to them – things they are passionate about.  We talk about the importance of involving students in real-world solutions to real-world problems.  Our students and children thrive on doing things to help others. They thrive on knowing they can (and are) truly making a difference. They are motivated by knowing that they are making a difference and that they can inspire others to do the same.

Here are a few examples of passion-based learning:

Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) visited our school district in January to talk to 200 very enthusiastic educators in our school district about how his students were clearly making a difference with their involvement with KIVA. They were making micro-loans to people in Third World Countries who were trying to raise money to start a business to support themselves and their family. These students were passionate about supporting others around the world. They were so passionate, in fact, that they took their own time to support other classes, make videos to promote their project, and present to businesses to raise money for their passion. 

The Grade 3 students in Diana Williams (@teacherdiana1) and Trisha Uppal‘s (@teachertrish_U) class are also raising money to lend money to individuals through KIVA. You can read a little more about their story here.  To say the students are motivated, inspired, and are demonstrating a zest for school and learning would be an understatement.

Diana Williams also did another Challenge-Based Project with her class.  Just before Christmas her students made cookies (hundreds of cookies) and cards for the homeless living on the streets in East Vancouver.  These students were so sweet, engaged, and motivated to do this meaningful work from their heart. They were passionate about making a difference with these people they didn’t even know, at a time of year when most may have found to be the most difficult. You can read more about their project here.

Genius Hour has been growing in popularity around our district (and the world). It is when students are given time to learn about and create whatever they want. These projects are not graded. Students work on their projects because they love them – not because they have to do it. When my students did Genius Hour (I called it 100 Minutes of Genius because I only had my 4 classes for 100 minutes each week).  You can read more about what some of my students did for their projects here.  I have never, in my almost 20 years of teaching, seen students as engaged, as motivated, as hard-working, as enthusiastic, and working as collaboratively with their peers, as I saw when they worked on their Genius Hour projects. It was amazing! They were so passionate about their learning! This was personalized learning at its finest. (If you want to learn more about Genius Hour, take a look at the Genius Hour Wikispace created by some very inspiring educators: Gallit Zvi, Denise Krebs, and Joy Kirr).

I must say though, to truly transform education, to truly make a difference, it cannot stop at Passion-Based Learning for students. Instead, we must focus on the adults as well.  We need to work toward Passion-Based Teaching and Passion-Based Leading. All of the teachers who are encouraging their students to participate in activities as listed above, are passionate educators. Their students know that they are passionate – they feel it each and every day they are together. Their passion does not stop at these activities. These teachers have passion in most everything they do (even if they think the do not).

Just imagine what our education system would be like if all teachers are truly engaged in the learning process and are teaching things they are passionate about – things that truly interest them.  At a student forum in the district I work, our Superintendent of Schools, Mike McKay, tweeted this gem:

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 9.26.18 PM

Teachers’ joy and passion for what they are teaching is the real difference-maker!  It is not the “what” they are teaching, it is the “how” that makes them stand out. Those are the teachers you remember forever!

I would say that those are the leaders we remember forever as well! Just imagine what our education system would be like if our leaders were passionate about learning and leading. Imagine administrators learning about topics of interest  (or what they know others are interested in) and then passing this knowledge on to staff members, students, and parents.

We have all seen people who are passionate about what they do – whether they are children or adults.  I don’t think we can deny that this passion is contagious!  The excitement that can be generated by passion-based teaching and leading would be incredible.

So, let’s not stop at our students.  Let’s go further. To make a true difference, a long-term difference, let’s also focus on the adults in our education system.

As a teacher, what are you passionate about and how do you demonstrate this passion to your colleagues, your students, and the leader(s) in your building?

As a leader in education, what are you passionate about and how do you demonstrate your passions to those around you? How do others know you are passionate about what you do?

Published by Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.

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