BRING BACK THE JOY: Passion causes learners to imagine and create, persevere and achieve.
BRING BACK THE JOY: Passion causes learners to imagine and create, persevere and achieve. Thinkstock

Make passion a priority for our children

IN HER book Passionate Learners: How to engage and empower your students, Pernille Ripp asks teachers to consider this question: Would you like being a student in your own classroom?

This question caused her to change her own approach as a teacher and to give student voice a prominent role in her classroom.

Next semester, my daughter's school is introducing an elective where students can work on a "passion project”.

They choose something that they would like to learn more about.

They design how they will learn about it, then schedule their learning, and how they will share their learning with their classmates, teachers and family at the end of the unit.

Bella is so excited about this opportunity.

Even though next semester is a long way away she is already amassing a vast array of possible project ideas.

She is engaged and mesmerised by the possibilities and the "official” project learning hasn't even started.

Passion causes learners to imagine and create, persevere and achieve.

Passion helps learners to excel.

While it would be wonderful for this kind of thinking to permeate the entire school curriculum, it is fabulous that the students at Bella's school will have a chance to flaunt their capabilities.

Through this personalised and personally relevant project they will have a chance to find and express their own authentic voice.

This is going to cultivate and inspire even more passion.

For some students this might be their first taste of real success at school, the first time someone actually recognises their worth, their interests and their ideas. And that someone might not just be their teacher - it might be themselves.

Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold in their book, The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching and Learning, write: "Watch young children at work and play. The learning attributes you see confirm the obvious truth. Nearly every four-year-old has the talents, qualities, and genius-level characteristics of curiosity, adaptability and passion...These fearless young learners roam the earth freely for years with no limits or boundaries to learning. They are joyful, excited, and in awesome wonder every day for all that the world has to offer. Then something happens - they go to school.”

So much of schooling today is about standardisation and comparison. One size fits all. Death by PowerPoint. Death by testing. All great ways to lose learners forever.

But passion as a focus is a way of hooking learners into their education.

In inquiry-based, project-based, design-based and self-directed learning, students engage with learning that they love.

They experience joy. And they flourish with the autonomy of being in control of their own learning.

Finding out what each child is innately passionate about is a wonderful strategy for motivating and engaging them.

The days of students sitting in rows, silent while the teacher talks at them, should be over. Legendary educational philosopher John Dewey was advocating for "progressive” education back in the 1800s. It is time we listened.

It is time we questioned why the characteristics of the traditional classroom can still be seen in schools 200 years on.

The days of scolding children and telling them to "be quiet, conform and sit up and listen” need to fade.

Now is the time to give the classroom back to children and honour their voice and choice as autonomous learners with ideas to offer and develop.

Now is the time to change education from within.

To connect children to their passions. Not just for an elective, but across their education.

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