It’s About Passion

If you don’t have passion for what you do, then what you are doing will do you in.

Just my opinion of course, but I think passion is the key to turning a “job” into a vocation. After all, when you love what you are doing, it ceases to be just a job.

And, I also believe that for students, having a teacher who is passionate about their subject, who is passionate about teaching, makes all the difference in the world with respect to students’ interest and enjoyment of the class, and, I believe, their performance.

Case in point: my son who is a junior in high school has the most amazing US history teacher. His passion and enthusiasm for the subject is palpable. The students eagerly go to his class and engage with the material and the teacher in a completely different way. They are not memorizing facts and figures, they are discussing motivation, reasoning, impact on society and impact on their lives. Now, one could say that passion alone will not make a student like a class or even do well in a class. But I will say that it is a large part of what makes a class or subject come alive for them.

Case in point number 2: I happen to have introduced coding to my eighth grade students during the Hour of Code this past December. Many of the students enjoyed it so much that I decided to suspend my regularly scheduled class programming so the students (and I) could explore a bit more of the coding. We are using and Khan Academy and we spend about 48 minutes once a cycle solving puzzles and creating code. It’s been very exciting. One of my girls who started off as a reluctant participant (she preferred the discussions we were having over the coding we were/are doing) told me today that she is going to be participating in the LEAD program this summer and she will be continuing to learn computer programming! Now this is quite a turn around for this student who begrudgingly started coding with me just a short time ago. But, because of the excitement and enthusiasm in our classroom environment, she has become excited and enthusiastic about learning how to code! Quite wonderful if I do say so myself.

SO what can we as teachers do to keep the passion alive?

  1. I think we need to begin every year as if it is our first. We should not just open our plan books to see what we did last year at this time. New students, new interests, new personalities, teach them differently; one size does not fit all.
  2. Try something new. Coding is not something I knew a lot about. I had taken a Coursera course from Stanford, which I loved, and tinkered around in Tynker, but it was not until this year that I really began embracing the excitement and challenge of solving these puzzles.
  3. Keep learning. As John Cotton Dana says, “Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
  4. Find other teachers to learn with and from- create your PLN
  5. Lastly, take risks. There is nothing difficult about doing everything the same. It’s easy certainly, and comfortable, but you can’t grown when you don’t change.


Who is to Blame?

This past weekend one of my colleagues forwarded an article from the New York TImes titled, Technology is Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say. After I read this article I thought to myself, “this would be a great article for teachers who might want to reinforce the idea that technology is really not that great and here is just one more reason.” I was trying to think of how teaching, learning and schools have changed from when I was a student in elementary school back in the 1970s and 80s. I have to say that I don’t remember anyone having food allergies other than my best friend Suzy who had and still has a severe tree nut allergy. I don’t remember people being on behavior medication either, but I do remember some disruptive kids. I also remember falling asleep in my US History class and passing notes to friends. My teachers were not using technology because we did not have it, so students falling asleep, day dreaming, or passing notes did not happen because we needed to be constantly stimulated by technology.

The first experience I had with a student on ADHD medication was when I started my teaching career in 1993. We had 1 desktop in the classroom and we did projects in a computer lab. That being said, I think there are an awful lot of students being medicated for attention and behavior and I know that number has increased manyfold over the years. The question I have, is, is it because of children not having down time because they are over scheduled, or is it because every teacher has a different threshhold for behavior, is it that people are less patient/tolerant,  or is it the food additives? I don’t think we can place the blame on technology for how children’s attention has changed over the years. I do think we can say that times have changed dramatically over the years and education, and educational structures, for the most part, has remained pretty much the same. Which is why, with technology, we cannot continue to do the same things; we should challenge ourselves to try something different, to make technology work for us. We should try to use technology to engage the students who otherwise might be the ones zoning out, not paying attention, or who, for lack of a better word, might just be bored.
photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

The Tool is Not the Distraction

The other evening I was in a meeting and I took out my iphone to take notes on the conversation. Most of the time I do not carry around a pen and paper, but I always have my phone with me so that is what I use. As the meeting went on the person stopped in the middle of the conversation and said, “I’m sorry, but can you put that away, it’s distracting for you to be doing that while we are talking.” I responded that I was taking notes and showed my screen and got an immediate and repeated apology. Now, I had said at the beginning of the chat that I was going to take notes, but this person must not have heard me.

This to me, is the epitome of an issue, and that issue is that technology is often seen as a distraction, rather than a learning tool and some people fear this tool for all the wrong reasons.

I am certain that had I been using pen and paper, our conversation would have proceeded without the interruption and reprimand. I am certain that I would not have been asked to put away my pen and paper so I could concentrate on our conversation. Yet teachers often ask students to put away these technological learning tools rather than embrace them and use them for what they are worth.

These are the teachers who fear the tool; who do not want to compete with the tool; who want to be the focus of attention. These are the teachers we need to seek out and mentor and show the benefits of using technology to enhance their teaching and the students’ learning. These are the teachers who need to use the tools.

Students have long found ways to be distracted in class– especially if they are bored, tired or hungry. They have passed notes to each other, doodled, daydreamed by looking out the window, and have even dozed off. The tool is not the distraction; it is the lack of engagement and ownership of the learning (in my opinion).

photo credit: Carol VanHook via photopin cc


This past Saturday my friend and colleague @Wendye40 hopped in my car and drove up the turnpike to the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, NY for the TEDxNYED conference with the theme Connected. Instructed. Created. After some technical glitches and a short rewind we were ready to go with the first presenter. I was a little upset (actually more than a little upset, a lot distressed) because the wifi that was supposed to connect us to the world and allow us to be able to tweet and share was not strong at all in the  theater and was not even showing up as an option. I sat in my seat growing increasingly agitated as I watched my 3g spin and spin because I like to tweet during these events and I like to see what everyone else is saying. Unfortunately I was going to have to take my notes using pen and the lovely composition style program they provided and share my thoughts later. So, here I am two days later getting my thoughts together, ready to share what I learned this past weekend.

Presenter 1: Jenny Buccos (@globalcitiz)

  • Global citizenship is a critical 21st Century skill
  • Global education has mainly been foods, fashion, entertainment
  • What does it mean to be a good global citizen?
  • Everyone is a global citizen but some people feel they are only a citizen of the country they reside
  • You can’t opt out of humanity
  • Technology is erasing geographical borders

Presenter 2: Jose Luis Vilson (@TheJLV)

  • How can we as teachers and educators use our own voice to elevate our profession
  • Teacher voice should be nuanced, distinguished, powerful
  • We need to speak up and speak out
  • What do I need to do to advance my voice
  • We need to be advocates for our own profession (see related article)

Presenter 3: Juliette LaMontagne (@Jlamontagne)

  • Students need to be part of designing solutions to problems rather than just learn about a problem
  • The desire to learn by doing
  • Designing solutions to big global challenges
  • Project Breaker- unique projects organized around a challenge

Presenter 4: Jim Groom (@jimgroom)

  • We need to get away from crisis mode of education and invest in what it means to create and produce and be a citizen of the world

Presenter 5: Sree Sreenivasan (@sree)

  • “Almost everyone will miss almost everything you do on social media”
  • With regard to social media, we should always be listening, not just broadcasting
  • We need to marry the digital and the physical to have anything done; if you want it to be successful, bring together the physical and the virtual
  • Hashtags amplify what you are doing
  • Social Media success formula

Presenter 6: Jamie Cloud (@cloudinstitute)

  • “Educating for the future we want with the brain in mind”
  • “Most people make sense to themselves” – Dr. Steven Jones
  • We get stuck in our own thinking
  • Why is it so easy to get stuck in our own thinking: fear, change is difficult, how much our status, identity and finances are attached to the old model
  • Results of being stuck in our thinking: “believing is seeing”, we ignore or can’t read the feedback

Presenter 7: Chris Emdin (@cchrisemdin)

  • Hip-hop based education
  • Using your Heart Inspiration and Power to Heal Oppressive Pedagogy

Presenter 8: Adam Bellow (@adambellow)

  • Passion and dedication can be infectious
  • You are the one you can control
  • Question the rules of the system and change it
  • “Fixing” education implies it is broken implying it once worked
  • The problem is the way we see school
  • “McDonaldization” of Education”- now we stuff kids full of information rather than having them make stuff (at least during the industrial revolution, people made stuff)
  • We give kids boundaries of DONT’S rather than tell them what they CAN and SHOULD do
  • Problems have not changed, the medium has (instead of passing notes, kids are texting)
  • Come up with questions then figure out how to learn it
  • Every learner should have an IEP (individualized education plan)

The day was running late and since we had a 2 hour drive back, we needed to hit the road prior to the last few presenters but overall I came away with an understanding that education is no longer “one size fits all” and as teachers we need to harness the power of social media tools and other web 2.0 platforms that will allow our students to connect, share and collaborate with other  people around the world so that students can be the architects of their own learning.