Jo’s post A Passionate Teacher? got me thinking this morning about passion, again! I have written about it before, a long time ago, and not everyone liked my use of the term, but I still think that we, as educators, have to be passionate bout what we do. We have to be passionate about our students. We have to be passionate about learning. If we aren’t, our students can tell in an instant. Is it any wonder, then, that they are less than passionate about school?
Jo has been reading The Passionate Teacher: A Practical Guide by Robert L. Fried. He talks about the “Game of School”. Jo quotes him as saying:
‘The particular offence of playing the Game of School lies in the disengagement of our intellect and our feelings from tasks that deserve to be taken seriously: tasks like writing, reading, thinking, planning, listening, researching, analyzing, performing, applying, evaluating. We do harm when we reduce these acts of intellect, creativity and judgment to rote exercises, perfunctory deeds or meaningless gestures.’
I see students in the university who have “succeeded” in playing the game of school, but they cannot succeed in university work. The expectations are different, and the students aren’t prepared. More importantly, though, I think they just want to find out the rules for the new level of the same old game so they can get through it.
I was talking with a colleague yesterday about her developmental writing students. She brought them into the language lab a few weeks ago so they could try our grammar software. She then offered them extra credit if they would come into the lab and work for 10 minutes on their own time. Not a single one has taken her up on it. They haven’t taken responsibility for their own learning yet. They just want to get through it so they can do whatever comes next. This instructor wants to make learning more meaningful for them, wants to give them the opportunity to get something real out of her class, but she doesn’t seem to be having much success.
I am trying to find a way to make my classes more meaningful for my students. They are really pretty motivated, so there isn’t a real problem with them doing work. But I want them to be more engaged than they are. Part of the problem, I think, is that they would rather be studying in their majors than ESL. The obvious answer, then, is to make my classes even more content based than they are. The challenge is in finding the best way to do that when my students are studying a variety of majors. I did a decent job this current semester, I think, but I want to do better.
So back to passion… Yes, I have passion for teaching, for my students, and for education in general. And I am proud of it!