Why should you be doing this right now? The question shouldn’t be why but why not. I know there are standards to teach and goals to meet, but students are the future—a future we can’t even conceive of yet. So how do we prepare them for that? We can’t just keep throwing standards and curriculum at them without their input. They need a voice in their education so that they feel valued. Passion-based learning motivates and engages students because it’s about them, not us. The students become the decision makers instead of the teachers. With just a few steps and modifications, it’s an easy, and in some ways, perfect transition because the teacher starts doing less teaching and more guiding.
How can you start this in your classroom?
- Start by telling students about your own passions. Students will feel more comfortable sharing after hearing their teacher open up.
- Let them know that it’s OK and safe to share their passions. They need to feel like their passion, no matter how bizarre to others, is just as important as everyone else’s.
- Connect students with others with share similar interests. These could be other students, teachers, staff, or people from the community.
- Assure the students that they are in control. I know this can be hard for teachers to pass control on to students, but it’s important that they feel like they have some direction over way they learn.
- Allow them time to develop their passions and know that their passions will change over time.
- Connect passions to real-world experiences. If the students can’t see how their passion is important in the real world, they won’t make the connection to what they can be after school ends.
- Collaborate with parents and the community. Students will feel valued if their passions are recognized at school as well as at home.
Give students a strengths-based assessment. Thrively is a great resource for this type of assessment. Thrively is a free tool that anyone can use to assess their students’ strengths and then help them discover their passions. After the strength assessment, students are provided with resources to show how their passions are used in the real world and they are connected with videos, professionals, summer camps, and more to help them explore their passions to an even greater extent.
Who can help you start this? Strength and Passion-Based learning has been gaining recognition recently. I first learned about it from Angela Maiers in her book, “The Passion-Driven Classroom.” She is one of the real leaders in this field. Angela is also a leader in Genius Hour and Choose 2 Matter. She believes that every student is a genius. She created a free eBook called “Liberating Genius”. This is a fantastic book that helps teachers learn how to unleash the geniuses in their classrooms. Don Wettrick is another educator doing amazing work in this field. His book, “Pure Genius” will inspire and motivate you to become a genius yourself and to help your students gain the competitive edge. Another great place to learn about passion-based learning is on Twitter. There are so many educators who are passionate about this topic. (You can search using the hashtags #geniushour and #passiondriven.)
So what are you waiting for? Passion-based learning is easy and makes sense. It turns your classroom from boring to engaging. It takes your content from teacher-created to student-created. It opens up doors and takes down walls. If you really want to make an impact on your students and change the way they think, act, explore, and learn then you need to find out what they are passionate about and teach to those skills.
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