Tag Archive | Passion

Passion and Teaching – A Reply

This blog is a short reply to the brilliant English teacher Tim Boulter and his excellent blog post on passion in teaching to be found here: http://thinkingonlearning.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-problem-of-passion.html. Unfortunately, Blogspot websites appear to disagree vehemently with my iPad! So is my reply to Tom’s thought-provoking post:

Hello Tom,

I agree that the word ‘passion’ is typically overused and easily abused. It has become commercialised and corporatised to a degree that we become cynical by the mere mention of the word. For this reason we should reclaim it – we are English teachers so it is our mystical right to do so! As you mention Hattie, I would argue he gives the best definition, particularly for educators – one that equates to your ‘evidence-based’ passion (it is so good I typed it up and included it in one of my old posts!):

“As I noted in Visible Learning, we rarely talk about passion in education, as if doing so makes the work of teachers seem less serious, more emotional than cognitive, somewhat biased or of lesser import. When we do consider passion, we typically constrain such expressions of joy and involvement to secluded settings not in the public space of being a teacher (Neuman, 2006). The key components of passion for the teacher and for the learner appear to be the sheer thrill of being a learner or a teacher, the absorption that accompanies the process of teaching and learning, the sensations of being involved in the activity of teaching and learning, and the willingness to be involved in deliberate practice to attain understanding. Passion reflects the thrill, as well as the frustrations, of learning; it can be infectious, it can be taught, it can be modelled, and it can be learnt. It is among the most prized outcomes of schooling and, while rarely covered in any of the studies reviewed in this book, it infuses many of the influences that make the difference to the outcomes. It requires more than content knowledge, acts of skilled teaching, or engaged students to make the difference (although these help). It requires a love of the content, an ethical, caring stance deriving from the desire to instil in others a liking, or even love, of the discipline being taught, and a demonstration that the teacher is not only teaching, but also learning (typically about the students’ processes and outcomes of learning). In the current economic climate of many countries, property values have plummeted, leading to fewer resources available for the education budget. As Doug Reeves pointed out to me, passion may be the only natural renewable resource that we have.”

Some sort of emotional all-encompassing love of teaching isn’t what Hattie advocates here I don’t think. Rather, he advocates almost exactly what you express as your passion for teaching – appropriately ‘evidence based’. For me, the most important bit is ‘deliberate practice’. I think that any teacher, inexperienced or expert, needs to have this type of passion or they will not become a great teacher. You are right that in the early days simply getting a handle on the craft of teacher makes it s challenge that can be far from enjoyable at times. I also agree that your passion can grow as your expertise grows – I am living that experience. Yet, I don’t think passion is the preserve of experienced teachers alone – the early foal-like tripping and falling of our NQT year, our training, our tricky third year…our ropey last Tuesday can still inspire a different shade of passion – a desire and passion to be better, to bounce back up and fail that bit better.

We can all love a snow day (frankly, I can’t wait to chuck snowballs with my kids on the next one!) , we can all feel like we want to chuck all of our marking into the river once in a while, BUT we do need an overriding enjoyment for working with kids; in seeing the learning spark ignited; in being challenged daily in a multitude of ways (often in ways we never expected – which is the fun but frightening bit!).

Call it passion – I do. Expect it of colleagues – I do. Struggle with it at times – I do. Treasure having it – I do!

A Passion for State Education (Inspired by the Olympic Opening Ceremony)

Watching the Olympic ceremony yesterday evening was one of those rare moments when people in Britain could collectively, and shamelessly, flaunt their national pride and passions without fear of social unease and our famed British reserve. What was so inspirational, and emotional, was how the ceremony combined the passions of a nation – national pride, a fierce love of sport and sporting competition, a pride in our great literature, with a timely celebration of perhaps our greatest invention – the National Health Service – all presented with charm, humour and a peculiarly British originality and genius. The tweets and hash tags heralding the NHS were particularly poignant given it is in a precarious position at this time, as the core universal freedom of access is under threat from privatisation and market forces, masked by the ConDem government under the chimera of ‘choice’. My thoughts turned appropriately to our state education system – under similar threats to the NHS – on the very day when the status of teachers, and our very professionalism, was undermined with the announcement that QTS status is no longer required in Academy schools.

The very concept of passion is something we all recognise as a crucial quality that we understand is central to our vocation. Yet, I think that many of us would struggle to articulate exactly what this essential passion is when asked. I know it is the first description I would want my students or colleagues to use to describe me as a teacher. I know it is the first quality I look for in a colleague. I know that in my own previous job interviews I have tried to articulate my best qualities, with passion being first and foremost in my mind – but I am pretty sure my descriptions and definitions have met with mixed reviews! I then read what I consider to be the most important and best book about education, and teaching and learning – ‘Visible Learning: Maximising Impact Upon Learning‘, by John Hattie, and I was enlightened. Hattie brilliantly articulates the concept of passion better than I could. Not only that, he explains how passion has a huge impact upon learning by linking it to a vast wealth of evidence. Passion for Hattie wasn’t some amorphous quality, but a more deliberate act. It was actually a deliberate act that could be subject to mastery through skilled and informed practice. The description was so powerful I have decided to quote it in full:

“As I noted in Visible Learning, we rarely talk about passion in education, as if doing so makes the work of teachers seem less serious, more emotional than cognitive, somewhat biased or of lesser import. When we do consider passion, we typically constrain such expressions of joy and involvement to secluded settings not in the public space of being a teacher (Neuman, 2006). The key components of passion for the teacher and for the learner appear to be the sheer thrill of being a learner or a teacher, the absorption that accompanies the process of teaching and learning, the sensations of being involved in the activity of teaching and learning, and the willingness to be involved in deliberate practice to attain understanding. Passion reflects the thrill, as well as the frustrations, of learning; it can be infectious, it can be taught, it can be modelled, and it can be learnt. It is among the most prized outcomes of schooling and, while rarely covered in any of the studies reviewed in this book, it infuses many of the influences that make the difference to the outcomes. It requires more than content knowledge, acts of skilled teaching, or engaged students to make the difference (although these help). It requires a love of the content, an ethical, caring stance deriving from the desire to instil in others a liking, or even love, of the discipline being taught, and a demonstration that the teacher is not only teaching, but also learning (typically about the students’ processes and outcomes of learning). In the current economic climate of many countries, property values have plummeted, leading to fewer resources available for the education budget. As Doug Reeves pointed out to me, passion may be the only natural renewable resource that we have.”

Another great mind, Ken Robinson, is rightly famed for his brilliant treatise on passion in ‘The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything‘. The title is self-explanatory and very true. If you haven’t read it already, I would recommend you read it. I would also strongly recommend you then read Hattie’s ‘Invisible Learning: Maximising Impact upon Learning‘ to understand how passion can be channelled in education. Then use your passion to continue to master your craft, to hone your skills as a highly trained teacher and ceaseless learner, and with slightly less grandeur than the Olympic Opening Ceremony, to celebrate being a teacher in our marvellous state school system! Ignore that seemingly ceaseless torrent of negativity surrounding our schools as best you can (remember, politicians are ephemeral and most appear only to pursue individual vanities of little intrinsic value, being quickly forgotten and little mourned when they depart their stage). We in state schools have a much more important and valued job than career politicians – we are passing the flame onto the next generation. We will endure and succeed through a collective spirit that outlasts any political career. We will succeed because of our driving and transformative passion for the education of the next generation.

Here’s to passionate public sector workers across our great islands – keep flying the flag high!