Monday, June 24, 2013

An Important Message About Passion-Based Learning

When the best leader's work is done the people say, 'We did it ourselves.'

                -Lao Tzu 

Passion-Based Learning.  20-Time.  Genius Hour.  Innovation Time.  Fed-Ex days.  In my opinion, this is the most effective way of teaching students if you want them to learn how to learn, become enthusiastic about learning, and remember stuff at a deeper level for a longer time.  This philosophy is gaining in popularity,but I feel it is important to WARN ANYONE WHO IS CONSIDERING TRYING THIS!!!

I have implemented passion-based learning methodology in my classroom for several years and the results are powerful and jaw-dropping.  When you allow students the autonomy to choose topics and methods which they are passionate about, and then find any teachable moment to teach them assist them in their learning, the results are staggering.  Instead of trying to force feed information down their throats, they will be running to you with question after question after question.

I have had the opportunity to speak to many educators about some of the passion-based learning styles and activities that I have been implementing including 20-time, menu units, etc....  Every time that I have ever spoke about this, whether to elementary teachers, middle school teachers, education students in college, there is always a high percentage of them that REALLY like it.  I have had many of these teachers try this out and then report back to me.  I would love to say that 100% of them had glowing reviews about what a wonderful experience they had, but this isn't true.  In fact, about 25%+ report just the opposite.  It BOMBED!



I have really been looking hard into why this bombs sometimes.  It isn't for the typical reason that the "haters" think it is; "it was just an unmotivated class".  After investigating this further and asking questions the answer became quite obvious.  This next paragraph is of utmost importance if you are considering implementing this style of teaching!!!

You are the tour guide on their voyage to learn!  I have been on many tours and seen many tour guides.  Some of them talked monotone and seemed bothered by my questions.  Some seemed passive and sick of working.  Some seemed so freakin' excited that I wanted to take the tour again right after it was done.  Which type of tour guide are you willing to be.  Your class is like a sports team.  You are the coach.  If you are bringing a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the table, you will most likely have a team with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.  If you want students to be passionate and enthusiastic about learning......then you need to tie your shoes, and dive in.  Be enthusiastic.  Show them passion.  Answer every question with a big smile and a follow-up question.  Inspire every student to go a little bit further with their project and with their learning than they normally would have.  Congratulate and complement them often.  Choose one of your passions and investigate it with them.  Tell other teachers, principals, custodians how proud you are of the students and there hard work and tell them to stop in and see it.  Take pictures of them working and tell them you cannot wait to show the other teachers how involved they are.  

In summary:  You are the spark plug.  Passion and Enthusiasm are contagious.  If you walk in and try to sit back and check your email, stand and talk to another teacher, tell kids to be quiet and get to work, threaten taking "points" away.......it will FLOP and you will hate it.





Unfortunately, there are many teachers out there looking for the "lesson in a can" that magically works without putting forth any effort.  IT DOESN'T EXIST and you SHOULDN'T BE TEACHING ANY MORE.  Teaching is hard work.  Teaching takes enthusiasm, commitment, the ability to take chances, fail, and get back up swinging for the fences.  If you are looking for a way that you can have the kids "work" so they will not bother you or so you can get something else done......please.....for the students sake.......don't try this.





In the meantime.....read and watch everything you can by Daniel Pink, Angela Maiers, Sir Kenneth Robinson, Michael Michalko, Seth Godin, etc.....  Inspire yourself before you try to inspire others.
If you have any questions, concerns, comments, suggestions, great stories, please comment.

You can reach me at:
oliver.schinkten@oshkosh.k12.wi.us

Twitter:  @schink10

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