This is the first in a five part series on what I view as critical qualities for 21st Century educational leaders. These posts are not intended to be all-inclusive, nor are the topics addressed in any particular order. Please note that when I use the term “leader” my intent is to include all school members who willingly assume responsibility for the academic and personal growth of students (teachers, support staff, administration, etc.).
Passion is an under-emphasized aspect of meaningful education. Until recently, it wasn’t widely discussed as a key element of teaching, but that is changing. If you follow #edchat, or read educational blogs, you will notice an increased emphasis on passion based educating.
We are well versed in the role that passion plays in the classroom. Obviously, educators who are passionate about their subject area bring an enthusiasm, and engaging quality, to their teaching that is contagious. Students want to be in their classroom. These teachers have the ability to bring subject matter to life and build connections with their students that fosters natural inquisitiveness and intrinsic motivation.
Just as important as having a passion for a particular subject, or education in general, is that leaders exhibit a visible passion for helping kids and doing the right things when it comes to making a difference in the lives of students. Kids have a tremendous ability for sensing sincerity. They know if you really care about them as individuals. They know if you are truly concerned about their future, or if you are just going through the motions. Educators with passion are constantly looking for ways to get better. Not because of a need to amass content knowledge, or leadership strategies, or instructional tools, but because they know that developing as a professional is in the best interest of their students.
Passion drives us to take appropriate risks. It leads to innovation. It helps us keep our focus on “the possible”–seeing beyond temporary failures. Consider this video, and the passion that drives these guys to seek additional expertise and push the limits.
I am not suggesting that this is appropriate risk taking, but I do admire their passion for the sport of base jumping — travelling great distances to learn from others. I love the quote by Loic,
“At the beginning of wingsuit jumping we were trying to get as far from the wall as possible, so basically clearing out the whole thing. But now it’s getting boring, so we play around.”
Metaphorically, this is where passionless educators leave their students — perhaps safe, but bored and unengaged.
Passion in education is not just an engagement ploy, it is about modeling for students. It is about knowing our students’ interests–or helping them discover a passion–and then using that to engage them in the learning process. It is about taking appropriate risks as educators to ensure that we are improving our practices and, in turn, helping kids see that in order to grow they must be passionate enough about something to push the envelope. Whether that interest is music, reading, drawing, science, basketball or…wingsuit jumping.
Effective educators are passionate about their curriculum, passionate about helping kids and, perhaps most importantly, knowledgeable about their students’ passions. The combination of these three qualities leads to a purposeful, and engaging, learning experience for kids.