Excitement is contagious.
Passion is contagious, too.
Let me ask you this:
Is the point of passion to pass the same candle from person to person as it begins to drip and dwindle until the flame dies out and the beholder is left with darkness?
I believe the point of passion is not necessarily to share only what you're passionate about, but to share the art and the power of being passionate.
I hear it all the time, "If you're passionate about it, they will be, too! It's contagious!"
And, I get it. Attitude, mindset, and enthusiasm--they matter. They're huge. I just can't help but think we spend too much time being passionate about our own interests, and not enough time helping students and young people figure out their own passions and run headfirst into that ocean of interest, instead of dipping their toe in the next door neighbor's pool.
In fact, I'm not sure that specific passions are transferable. Picket my apartment complex, if you will, but passions are something to be ignited.
Occasionally, when someone shares their excitement for something--occasionally--it clues the audience into a flame they were not aware was alight deep inside.
More often than not, however, an attempt to transfer simply the object of passion results in borrowed, temporary excitement that may wear the mask of passion until the novelty dies off. Then, if one only knows how to borrow an object of passion, they have to wait until the next exciting person comes along rather than pursuing their own dreams and ambitions.
The problem is that this borrowed excitement is often mistaken for the ever-subjective engagement in students. Engagement is the modern metric of a master teacher, but nobody seems to know exactly what it is. Often, many mistake engagement for a jolly good time. Before we know it, in an effort to become a master teacher, we've forgone rigor for fun.
Rather than willing students with all we have to borrow our passions, trying them on for size, what if we spent our time cultivating the soil and showing them the best place to plant their own and help them grow.
Teachers of writing and reading have a unique opportunity to cultivate the art of passion. Teaching literacy is teaching students how to better light their own flames and let their light shine by communicating that experience with others.
This thought process is very much still that--in process. In the meantime, here are a few things I know:
I want to find more ways to show students that reading and writing are not necessarily the what of passion, but simply the how. This started with using It's Complicated: The American Teenager as a mentor texts for my writers. They blew me away with how well they knew who they were, to the core.
Sometimes this concepts means taking an approach to teaching that's less cut and dry. It doesn't always look tidy on a lesson plan, and it doesn't always allow me to leave the thinking inside my classroom as I go home. Such is the reality of a lifelong learner.
Sometimes this also means letting go of what I think is cool and valuable to instead create an environment for finding, learning, and refining students' own tastes.
How do you think we can best help to cultivate the art of being passionate?
P.S. Just to clarify, I am not suggesting that teachers should not have their own passions. This blog, and the guitar I got for Christmas should speak to that fact. However, I think the classroom should be an environment where their passions take center stage more than ours do.