Are You Cultivating Passion?

My summer goes pretty fast as a school administrator and even faster as a school administrator who moonlights as a summer school principal. I am not complaining. It just goes fast. In the days that I do have, I do my best to spend time with my family, unplug from work & read. I keep a stack of books on the end of my desk that I come across throughout the year, knowing summer will be my best time to dive deep and spend some time reflecting on what I have read. I have yet to find enough balance throughout the school year to really read like I would want to with so many other plates spinning. I rely on blogs, which are much shorter reads to feed me.

Last February, I was able to see and hear Angela Maiers present at TCEA in Austin, TX. I was so inspired by her message, that her Classroom Habitudes book made its way to the corner of my desk upon my return. After a couple of hours by the pool today, with my book and highlighter in hand, I was able to finish reading Classroom Habitudes. I love it!

As students across the country return to school in a month of so, we expect so much out of them and we often forget that everything we expect must be explicitly taught. (So is the case for me as an elementary school principal). If I had a nickel for the number of times I have said or have heard a teacher say, “Our students need to improve in the area of problem solving, I would be rich.” After reading this book, I am questioning how well I have led our teachers to explicitly teach our students the “habitudes” it takes to be a skillful problem solver. Maybe we do…a little…but at the end of the day, I think we just want it to happen through osmosis. Much like we teach students to read and apply number sense in math, we have to believe these “classroom habitudes” are important enough to spend time explicitly teaching to our students and then embed them into our content and curriculum.

Classroom Habitudes – Angela Maiers

Imagination
Curiosity
Self-awareness
Perseverance
Courage
Passion
Adaptability

I think you would agree, as educators we want our students to develop these habits and attitudes. Do we want them bad enough to explicitly teach students how to go about cultivating these habits and attitudes? It is one thing want it and a whole new level to actually do something about it and make it happen. “Classroom Habitudes” is full of lessons and resources that teachers can begin using tomorrow to further develop these habits and attitudes in students.

As I was reading today, there was one particular habitude that struck a cord with me. Passion. Angela
Maiers defines the passion habitude as follows:

Passion is the ability to intentionally pursue actions that are personally and socially meaningful.

Read that again…

Now, in the Texas, STAAR results have recently been shared with districts across the state. If you were to poll the students who took STAAR this past spring, how many of them do you think would find the STAAR personally and socially meaningful? I ask that because, I/we are holding ourselves hostage & our students hostage to a test that at the end of the day, is not meaningful to students.

Do you feel your instruction meets the needs of your students as defined above? Are you creating opportunities for students to “intentionally pursue actions that are personally and socially meaningful“?

Angela Maiers includes some reflective questions to determine whether or not you are preparing students to be good at school or prepare them for life.

  • Are we helping students discover & work on things they are truly good at? 
  • Do students go home at the end of the day emotionally charged or emotionally drained? 
  • Will students remember the projects we’re working on today five years from now? 
  • Are we proud of the work we do? Are our students proud of the work they do? 
  • Does the cause for which we fight go beyond making the grade or increasing a test score? 
  • Does the cause create meaning in our students’ lives?
I am not sure how you honestly answer those questions, but Angela Maiers shares the following:
If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you can be assured that your current curriculum, schedule, and classroom environment cultivate the kind of passion that will enable students to live more fulfilling lives, lead courageously, and engage in work worth bragging about!” 

My question is, “What if you answered no?” What if the curriculum, schedule and environment are not cultivating the kind of passion that our students need to develop? If we agree, these habitudes need to be increasingly present in the lives of our students, it is time we look in the mirror and ensure we are cultivating the same habitudes in ourselves as leaders and teachers. 
I for one, do not want students leaving our building without being able to live more fulfilling lives, lead courageously and engage in work worth bragging about. 
What do you want? 

2 thoughts on “Are You Cultivating Passion?”

  1. Thank you for writing this Matthew! I'm so happy that you found Classroom Habitudes to be a worthwhile read. Regarding the STAAR tests, I've heard so many administrators say that they make time for students passion – AFTER the STAAR tests are done, at the end of the year. It made me so angry that I did research and collected anecdotes and wrote, “Want to Improve Test Scores? Honor Student Passion.” It provides tangible proof for what I already knew to be true: that passionate, engaged students perform a lot better on tests that students who are disengaged and bored to tears.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/angela-maiers/want-to-raise-test-scores_1_b_9835528.html

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