If Supporting Student Passion Is So Important, What Do We Do If They Don’t Have Any?

Guest Post by: Dr. Doug Green, EdD

Every day I surf the Internet searching for resources for my audience of parents and educators. (DrDougGreen.Com) I have found a number of themes that show up often. These themes form the basis of my recent book Teaching Isn’t Rocket Science, It’s Way More Complex: What’s Wrong With Education and How to Fix Some of It. In it I deal with themes like the importance of relationships, personalizing instruction, and the harm caused by standardized testing.

One reoccurring theme is that teachers should allow students time to pursue their interests and passions rather than being forced to only study the school’s standard curriculum. I like this idea. In some schools, students are allowed to study what they want on a regular basis. This resembles Google’s 20% time where employees can do what they want one day each week and let everyone know what they accomplish. Other schools weave student interests and passions into project-based learning.

While this sounds good, my informal research has found that many if not most students lack serious interests let alone a passion for anything worthy of academic effort. When I ask students what they are interested in or what they want to major in someday, I often get little more than a shrug. I don’t count passions for things like social media or computer games as topics that we should turn students lose to study in school, although I’m sure creative teachers can work them in somehow.

So What Do We Do?

We need to convince teachers that it’s important for students to find interests and passions about topics that could lead towards a career. The next step is to suggest ways they can help students find their passion as part of their current teaching practice. I don’t think this should be too difficult. Regardless of what one teaches, one can make an effort to simply expose students to as many potentially interesting aspects of their discipline as possible.

Tell students directly that it is their job to find things they are interested in as they encounter new things anywhere and to make notes of what they find attractive. They should turn in a list of things that they would like to explore further. The teacher then carves out time for individual exploration that can be online and hands on. Students need to be responsible for reporting on what they find.

A classroom blog can help. With help from the school IT staff it should be easy for students to post their work. Once posted, the teacher, their classmates, and parents can see evidence of growing passions. Students should be allowed to continue with a subject of interest or to explore something else. This seems possible and I believe that it would serve the students well and accomplish the vision of many people with strong expertise in the field of education.

Dr. Doug Green is a retired educator with thirty years of administrative experience at secondary, central office, and elementary levels. He blogs at DrDougGreen.Com for busy educators and parents and is the author of Teaching Isn’t Rocket Science, It’s Way More Complex: What’s Wrong With Education and How to Fix Some of It. (Amazon –  Executive summary) He has also taught leadership courses for teachers seeking administrative certification. His doctorate is from Binghamton University and he resides in Endicott, NY. Follow him on Twitter @DrDougGreen or email him at dgreen@stny.rr.com.