Driving Interests and Passions

CZFiHSiUkAEsM0uHow do we drive our own learning? What’s the reason for finding out new knowledge? Is it because of someone telling us we have to learn it or is it because we want to learn? When someone tells us that we have to learn something, the chances of that knowledge staying in our brains is much smaller than if we desire to learn. When we have a problem we have to find the solution to that problem, we now have knowledge that stays with us. Passion begins from the desire to learn. We need to build this desire to learn in all our students.

Passion begins from the desire to learn

The opportunities that are offered to our students in schools aren’t unique to the individuals. We need to make those opportunities unique, we need to find out what our students are interested in. How can we develop a culture that respects students’ passions? Why would we want to create a culture that respects those passions? If we want students to be lifelong learners, developing those passions creates that desire to learn. This should start when students come into our building and continue after they leave. A kindergarten student is interested in something, then we need to develop that interest, helping them to expand their knowledge. Learning is like a tree where we have a trunk that grows branches and each new year new branches come off the old branches. Passions are developed through different branches of learning.

We need to make those opportunities unique, we need to find out what our students are interested in.

Think about how you learn and what you become interested in. Your engagement goes up, the questions you ask go deeper, and you want to learn something new.  You don’t just look for answers, you start by asking questions. This is what drives passions, the chance to ask questions and find connections all over the place.
When I look at the faces of our students every day, I don’t see that passion and I don’t see them having the opportunities to develop those passions. With that image seared in my mind of students not knowing what questions to ask or how to develop interests I decided to try something new. Why not create a video series of the passions of our students, what do they like to build, create, or imagine? These short little videos will showcase what students are interested in from card making, sculpture, storytelling, sewing, coloring, all the way to video games. When we start to showcase student passions then they feel welcomed. How many of you would like to step foot in your school if you knew you were going to listen to a speaker talk all day long without accepting your passions? I know that I learn when I find something interesting and someone guides me to make new connections. This is what learning is all about.
With the creation of the video series for our students I am also proposing starting something called a passion wall at school. To develop student passions we also need to show what adults are passionate about. Teachers and staff are seen as heroes by many students, but students don’t know what our staffs’ interests might be. Let’s showcase both students and staff, the more the merrier since it opens doors, creates conversations, and promotes curiosity. The wall will be a dynamic center piece of our school, providing the community with a window into what we like to do. Students will have the chance to see different areas that adults enjoy exploring. This culture is what we want, a culture that cares about each other and their interests. These relationships build and build to the point where teachers are asking students in the hall how their event or product is going. We need these conversations and this passion wall will open doors that many knew weren’t there.
When problems arise in learning, connections begin to be made. How many want to fill out a worksheet? That doesn’t develop interest or passions, it develops a culture where the teacher is the “teller” and the students are the “receivers”. I saw a tweet today that spoke to me about our educational system. This comes from Abby Farris:
“Become a teacher of inquiry rather than a teacher as teller. -Fred Burton.”
Think about what this communicates to our students, community, staff, and the world. Do we want to be viewed as a teller or a teacher of inquiry, of curiosity and question building? If we develop passions and interests then we can begin to see inquiry occurring. A challenge for all of us is to think about each lesson we use with students, are we making the lesson for students or are we making the lesson for us? Do you develop questions that students care about, are interested in, or do you develop questions that get students to a certain point in a curriculum?
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Think about how we can develop the future generation. What kinds of things can they be introduced to to grow their own passions, their own interests? If a child is not read to they have a huge word deficit by the time they reach kindergarten. Students also lack curiosity if they are not read to as a child, or introduced to different interests. We can’t have kids that come to school apathetic to learning, we need to include them in the conversation, include their passions/interests. Inquiry is all about developing questions. If students aren’t interested then how can questions be developed? This lands in the lap of the teacher as a guide, a facilitator to encourage and ask those probing questions that help students to go deeper. Include your students in developing their own learning, take risks, and be amazed by the outcomes.
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