Have Too Many Lost The Passion?

in this day of testing, programmed/scripted teaching what we are missing is the passion. How do you consistently get students revved-up if you are not excited about what you are teaching? When you think back at your own school experience and recall your favorite teachers, do you think about the ones that used the scripted, or practically scripted, math and reading programs especially well? Or do you recall teachers that were passionate about teaching and learning and did their best to make you passionate about it too?

I miss more and more going into teachers classrooms and sharing about what we were doing in our classes and leaving with new ideas to try and tweak and mull over – it fed my fervor both in what I heard that teacher share and in their excitement in what I was doing. When everyone is “doing” the math program that you must teach in-order and not skip any lessons because you’ll break the spiraling aspect – which is the programs strength – there’s not a lot to get passionate about. Not like when you are sharing students struggle with finding all the consecutive sums up to 25 and then noting the patterns that appear.

In my school district we now have a math program and a reading program that basically follow this scenario and they take-up the bulk of the day. I go into classrooms and teachers are prepping the lessons for the next day that aren’t their lessons, they are the programs lessons. It is very difficult to incorporate technology, projects/problems into a school day that is taken up by so much pre-planned time.

Mark Ahlness ranted awhile back about edbloggers that aren’t teachers and how frustrated he was with trying to get to all the newest apps and tools they were promoting in their blogs and presentations. I think (and Mark feel free to correct me on this) that his real frustration was with the fact that just getting his students to blog consistently – just that – was frustratingly difficult under the constraints of time a classroom teacher is subjected to. Then it is easy (although no one really says this) to imply that I’m supposed to be Skypeing, Flickring, podcasting, and whatever great new free app some blogger just found that you just have to use with your students and by the way see you at the _________ convention next week!

This lack of passion means teachers are having fewer discussions about teaching and learning – and the programs so many of us have to follow leave zero time and resources to promote the kind of teaching we would like to be doing so sharing the new teaching tools becomes irrelevant to all but the few.

Let’s hope this programmed teaching begins to wane (I see some cracks – do you?) so that the passion can return and that might lead to an embracing of 21st century tools and a renewed dialog about what teaching is and could be.

Learning is messy!

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5 thoughts on “Have Too Many Lost The Passion?

  1. Brian, nice post. I do agree with you about what is sucking the passion out of the profession. I’m glad you see some cracks in the wall, because I don’t. The demon I’ve been struggling with this year was a schoolwide writing curriculum (built on the “writer’s workshop” idea) that had no technology component – pencil and paper, Mead notebooks, right out of the 19th and 20th centuries. I did it, but I also got my kids blogging – and that experience was just incredible.

    Give teachers maybe just a little chance to change on their own, do their own thing, research and try out new things – and then let’s see if the passion is gone.

    Yesterday, I brought my colleagues up to our computer lab – I promised them 20 minutes. Last day of work. End of a long day of meetings. I just wanted to show them what the lab would look like next year, since we just upgraded it. Imagine the energy. Imagine the enthusiasm… the drooped shoulders, the exhausted faces.

    I talked for about 15 minutes about the lab, upgrades happening this summer, and so on. Then I thought I’d throw in just a bit about blogging. Why not? Nothing to lose, I had talked about it before, shown them my class blog during the year, etc.

    I suggested they all get a personal blog going this summer. Just to try it out, I said. I worked myself up to some pretty passionate stuff in about 60 seconds – ending with something like, “if we as teachers don’t embrace and use these incredible new tools, and teach our kids how to use them safely, then I think we will be failing our kids, and I think ultimately, we will be negligent. Nobody else is going to do it. It’s up to us….” etc.

    Somebody asked how they could start a blog. I showed them edublogs.org – within 10 minutes, over six teachers had a blog set up. I don’t know how many were successful, everybody was trying at once, getting a username, blog title, etc – I felt like I was back in the classroom again – yikes! It was great.

    Now I don’t expect that they will all continue this – but I bet a couple will. I send this story along as an example of what teachers can do when the other stuff is out of the way – the tests, the rigid curricula, the endless meetings, the expectations that they be mindless implementers of the “perfect program”, etc.

    I put a little passion out there for my colleagues, and many grabbed at it, even in their exhausted state. They were taking a chance to learn something new, to grow on their own, to experiment, to play. The spark is still there, it just needs to be lit – and given a little room to breathe.

    I’ll get back to you on my “rant” later. – Mark

  2. Thanks Mark! I’ve had similar experiences this year and when I have my kids blogging next year I’m hoping others will be interested – I’ll be blogging this summer about some things I’m going to get to try next year as soon as I get a chance to think it through some more. I’ll probably pick your brain about your experience with blogging with students. Happy summer!

  3. I posted a comment on Mark’s post from April today– thanks for bringing that to my attention, Brian. One thing I hear you both saying is that CLASSROOM TEACHERS NEED AUTONOMY. With autonomy comes freedom of choice with what to do instructionally, and more freedom to take TIME to do things that matter. I agree the voices from the classroom are the most authentic, and the ones people should be listening to most closely. That is a major reason I like following blogs written by people like Mark. Part of my role now, however, is to serve as a loudspeaker for these messages– to a broader audience. To talk to administrators and legislators about this stuff. I like focusing on the classroom level, but I am very aware that the curricular mandates that tie the hands of teachers make a lot of this edublogosphere stuff just fantasy– a pipe dream.

    I don’t know that I see many “cracks” in the system yet. But you better believe I am working to make them– and not just on my own, in concert with others with a shared vision, I think. Mark, your story about helping 6 teachers setup personal blogs is GREAT! That is an incremental victory, and definitely one worth celebrating!

    We need to keep inviting more people into these conversations. Change may not come fast, but it is coming. Because we are going to lead the way together and help define the shape of that change that’s coming.

  4. Hello. My name is Laura. I am a first year college student on my way to teaching high school. In my research to answer my first assignment for my Education professor I stumbled across this website. “Identify on common practice in schools that you would like to change.” I knew as soon as I read the topic that I would write about the loss of passion in schools today. As a fairly young woman I found myself looking at the topic from a students point of view. I remember learning more from one particular teacher in high school than in every other class because the teacher was so passionate. This passion wasn’t just for the subject itself but for life in general. I think I grew up a great deal in his class because his passion was contagious and he was willing to step off the “curriculum road”. I want to thank you all for discussing this problem online. It has given me a new perspective and some insight from a seasoned teacher’s point of view.