Are Educators Passionate About Their Profession?

bored teacher at desk

Educators, do you have to go to work? Or do you get to come to school? There’s a BIG difference between the two…

I enrolled my 5 year old son into a hip hop dance class. The sessions are held in a sound proof studio with a window that allows parents to observe. It’s taught by an 18 year old kid (let’s call him Junior), with a high top fade (YES! They’re back!), wearing sagging skinny track pants (I still marvel at the fact that skinny anything can sag..) with half his boxers showing. I couldn’t hear the instruction, the kids’ questions, or Junior’s responses to their questions. As an educator myself, I wished I could because I felt myself slipping into observation mode. As I slipped deeper into observation mode, I realized that just like in the classroom, I don’t need to focus much on the teacher; I can gather a lot of information from observing the kids.

I’m not sure any of the kids blinked during the entire hour long session, as their eyes were fixated on Junior, and everywhere he moved around the room. Every kid immediately and enthusiastically vaulted into action following direction. Kids’ faces were beaming with smiles and the room filled with laughter following apparent jokes from Junior. Each kid’s body language screamed pride: straight posture, chest out, chin up. When Junior asked questions, all hands shot up in the air, and no mouths moved until Junior called on someone, and only that one mouth moved. Because it was sound proof, I couldn’t hear what was taking place. But through my observations, it was very clear what was taking place: Junior’s passion for his craft was overflowing, contagious, and positively infecting kids!

A “classroom” filled with kids from 4-10 years old, at 7 o’clock in the evening. My 5 year old son gets up at 7:00am, and is at school until 5:00pm. On this evening, he came home, ate dinner, played for just a bit, then was right back in the car on the way to dance class. I can’t speak for the other kids in the class, but this makes for a long and exhausting day for my son, constantly on the go. I make this point because during the hour long session at 7:00pm in a room filled with kids 4-10 years old, not once did a kid: ask to go to the bathroom, want to see the nurse, request to get a drink, or lay his/her head down during instruction. Not once did Junior have to send a kid to the hallway for a “timeout”, or call the front desk for help managing behavior. Why? Because he is passionate about what he does. Kids don’t want to miss out on instruction. Kids don’t want to miss the next dance move. Kids don’t have the urge to find something better to do, like poke a friend or make faces at someone across the room. Kids want to hear Junior’s next joke, answer his next question, receive his next high five.

“Yeah, but Sam, the kids choose to be in this class so Junior has an automatic advantage.” Not true. I can’t speak for the other kids, but my son actually did not want to be in this class–and specifically, he didn’t want to be in JUNIOR’s class. He had a great past experience with another teacher, Tracy, and if he couldn’t be in her class, he had no interest. We enrolled him anyway. Now, he LOVES Junior.

There’s no reason the classrooms in our schools should be much different. To be clear, I am not saying kids should never go to the bathroom, need the nurse, get thirsty, or be tired. I am not saying teachers shouldn’t redirect our kids, or seek appropriate support when necessary. What I am saying is that our educators’ passion should be evident, overflowing, contagious, and positively infect our kids. This is a great way to combat disengagement and win over reluctance (student & parent!).

I challenge you to ask yourself, “Am I passionate about kids, teaching, learning, and education?” If you are not sure, just ask your kids, parents, and colleagues. Because they know.

An educator passionate about kids, learning, and education, with a bachelors and no experience who gets to come to school? Or an indifferent educator with 20 years experience, 2 masters, and has to go to work? Give me the passionate educator every time. They will find a way to make everything else happen.

I would love to hear the top characteristic on your list when thinking about who should be in front of our kids. teacher-with-students

11 comments for “Are Educators Passionate About Their Profession?

  1. Andrea
    February 1, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    Great post Sam. I totally agree with you. My daughter had a relatively new teacher once and some parents questioned her years of experience. I observed her enthusiasm at parent information night which I highly value as a teacher myself. People do describe me I’m enthusiastic and that’s one of the biggest compliments I can receive because they recognize my passion.

    • February 2, 2014 at 12:39 am

      Passion is evident to all those we engage with–as is a lack thereof. Thanks for reading and sharing, Andrea!

  2. Dave
    February 2, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Is there a similar comparison in watching the innate desire to learn , explore and be curious in young learners/students that gets stifled and discouraged as they work their way up through the system? Shouldn’t the passion to learn and grow be nurtured and increase as we mature? The opposite seems to happen to both kids and adults in many cases. So.. if so .. where does leadership mesh with this issue?

    • February 3, 2014 at 12:16 am

      What you’ve described does occur for some, Dave, and is a real shame. As educators, it is our job to reach kids in a way that takes advantage of the human innate desire to learn, explore, and be curious–both kids’ and ours. I went to Philadelphia for #EduCon last week. If there’s one thing that has always turned me off, it’s been history. In doing some sight seeing, I took a tour of Independence Hall. I didn’t really have much interest, just doing it to do it, since it was my first visit to Philadelphia. Terry, our tour guide, was very passionate about her job. She had my attention throughout the tour, I learned a lot, and, as great educators inspire, I left with some reflections and questions I would like to follow up on. As a result, I’ve spent the last week surfing the History Channel. Who knows what’s in my future…movies, novels, research, travel? Wherever I end up, I owe it to Terry’s passion to connect her desire to learn, explore, and be curious with mine, centered around historical events. Thanks, Terry!

      Administrators can support staff by managing mandates, policies, and expectations, to create a school building environment that fosters, focuses on, and is tirelessly committed to allowing and protecting efforts of staff to do what they entered the profession to do…teach kids :)

  3. February 2, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Sam,

    I really like this one. The observation without sound was a great way to gauge true passion being passed on to the students. My question is this. If we notice that a teacher doesn’t have the passion or doesn’t know how to infect students with the passion, how can we as administrators support them. Passion is contagious and I believe leaders play a big part in creating the conditions for passion to thrive.

    Great work.
    John

    • February 3, 2014 at 12:43 am

      Great question, John! One thing administrators can do is support staff by managing mandates, policies, and expectations, to create a school building environment that fosters, focuses on, and is tirelessly committed to allowing and protecting efforts of staff to do what they entered the profession to do…teach kids :)

      We agree that passion is contagious, and if it is evident in the administrator in an environment that empowers teachers as described above, that provides something to work with. I also believe that current educators (administrators, professors, cooperating teachers, supervisors) must hold ourselves accountable at high levels of distinction when it comes to teaching, training, and evaluating prospective educators into our profession.

  4. Lim Kok Hwa
    February 8, 2014 at 7:21 am

    I like this post. It is very true that passion for the kids, learning and education is a must for any teacher who sees teaching as a vocation. An inspiring teacher must also able to connect what the students learn to the real world to make the lessons come alive.

    Recently, my 12-year old daughter came back from her home economics lesson and was so enthusiastic about preparing our breakfast the next morning for my wife and me. She wanted to make pancakes for us as she just learned how to make pancakes – from mixing the flour, baking powder and eggs to make the batter, making the pancakes over a frying pan and topping them up with banana slices and maple syrup. She was so excited that she was begging her to bring her shopping for the raw ingredients the night itself. She had just had a lesson where she saw the immediate application of it and could apply what she learned almost straightaway in a real life situation.

    While it is true that not all lessons in school could be as easily planned and taught to make the lessons come alive in a real life situation like a Home Economics lesson, teachers should try to the best ability to link to any real life situation to make their lessons authentic to their students. That, coupled with the passion which you talked about, would definitely light a fire in any student.

    • February 16, 2014 at 9:14 am

      Thanks for reading nd sharing, Lim!

  5. March 1, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    Loved your piece, it really emphasises the divide. It actually got me thinking about other divides such as ‘Primary’ vs. ‘Secondary’ education. I have subsequently written a blog exploring both http://readingwritingresponding.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/primary-vs-secondary-great-educational.html Thank you for the inspiration.

    • March 8, 2014 at 11:41 pm

      Thanks for reading, Aaron! I enjoyed your breakdown. Not sure which is more challenging, but definitely comfortable saying 2 different worlds :)

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