Saturday, September 27, 2008

Connecting with Passion

I've been reading an interesting book the last few days. ReImagining Education by Jerry Goebel. It's been a very interesting read - I'm only about a third of the way through it, but it's already sparked off some interesting thought patterns for me. There is something in this book which resonates a sense of truth and really leaves me as an educator looking for the ways this book can affect me and help me to grow.

On the of the quotes which grabbed me on first reading:

If we adults, regardless of our roles, cannot make education relevant to the next generation then we cannot blame them for being disinterested. If I – as parent or teacher – cannot tell a child why it is important that they learn a subject I have no one to blame for their indifference but myself. (p6)

It's so true. If I have to stand out the front of a class and answer the question, "But why do we have to study this?", with something as inane as, "Because the curriculum dictates that this is essential to your development" (often summarised by teachers in its most condensed form - "Because") - how can I honestly expect my students to CARE about the work we're doing?

Mrrobbo recently spoke about the importance of engaging our students over on his blog after he stumbled on the video clip "Pay Attention".

Again, there's something about this clip which resonates. It speaks of the way our students have learnt to "play school" and really highlights the risks we're taking with allowing our students to disengage from a school system not relevant to their 21st century world.

These two stimuli got me thinking - what's stopping us from engaging our students? Why are we teaching them content they have no reason to CARE about? And more importantly, how can I inspire my students to CARE?

In thinking about those questions I've found myself going back to consider these questions:

  • What do I CARE about?
  • What inspires me to CARE?

Over the years I've been truly touched and inspired by a few things, simple and awesome things.
Some of the simplest things which inspire me - the way the light shifts and changes over the course of the day over our valley, the unconditional love my cat gives me when I'm working late on the computer, the way a ball of yarn can be twisted and knotted over two sticks to create a knit for someone I love, the forgiveness and support of my husband no matter what.

On the other hand some of my inspirations come from rather complex and challenging places.

  • Cirque du Soleil (especially the first show I ever saw, Varekai), the way these artists defy the limits of our imaginations leaves me speechless. My favourite section, the flight of the twins:

  • The generosity of people also inspires me - stories like "Pay it Forward" and the Free Hugs Campaign. These show us just what people are capable of when they connect and find inspiration within each other. They grow and become something so much larger and more significant than anyone ever expected them to be - they impact and influence so many more people than anyone ever imagined.

So - what inspires me?

People who are passionate and who share that passion with others - freely and without hesitation. People who affect the world simply by being themselves.

Imagine the power of education if we were able to harness the power of inspirational passion - even just a little? But how can we bring passion into classrooms restricted by rules, regulations and "content"? There's only one way - to be passionate about what we do and to share that passion with our students. To give something of ourselves so that they can grow from that experience and share something of themselves. A passionate classroom will fuel itself.

There's a great line in the recent blockbuster, "Wanted". At the very end the main character stares down the camera directly at the audience and asks, "What the F%^$ have you done lately?"

So, my question (to myself and you) is simple:

What passion have you shown lately?

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