Written by Eva Yeung, BSD Education
What do you remember most about the teachers you encountered in your school days? There might have been the one joke your philosophy teacher made about Immanuel Kant in Grade 11 that still makes you laugh decades after. Or it might be your English teacher who encouraged your Grade 12 class to get through some tough literature pieces by allowing you to take a chance to connect with it through culturally relevant comparisons. It might have been your Grade 7 science teacher who starts their lesson by engaging the class with a fresh review of the most recent sci-fi movie they saw over the weekend.
A common trait between these three teachers is that they really care about students’ success in their subject area and saw that it had relevance in enhancing their lives – they want students to genuinely care as well! These teachers are usually the ones you want to listen closely to, because their passion is infectious.
There are many qualities to an effective and memorable teacher: they are keen to spread positivity, and they genuinely enjoy teaching and engaging with students. They are reflective, open to change and always welcome new ideas. But with all these great qualities there is one common driving force behind – the passion in what they do.
Robert Fried defines a passionate teacher in his book The Passionate Teacher: A Practical Guide (2001) as “someone in love with a field of knowledge, deeply stirred by issues and ideas that challenge our world, drawn to the dilemmas and potentials of the young people who come into class each day — or captivated by all of these”.
In Alfred Thompson’s post “Why Passion is Important for Teachers” (2007) he observed how a teacher’s passion is such a powerful driver of student outcome and performance in the class. Thompson observed the progression of a mathematics teacher who had been assigned to teach a computer science class to the same group of students, the teacher was experienced but the lack of enthusiasm in computer science really dampened the learning of the class. Thompson also mentions that passion is not something we can fake.
Then for all of us who have been assigned to teach something outside of our passion areas or even comfort zone – what can we do? Luckily, passion is something that can be cultivated. Here is a suggestion of 3 tips to get passionate to better engage your students in the upcoming school year:
Just get started – be inspired!
This might be the hardest thing to do, but start with simple things such as doing a simple search on Google about a topic area, you might be surprised and find something you connect with. Another great place to start is to watch some Ted Talk videos or podcasts about the subject area to get inspired.
Find a community
Talk to teachers who are enthusiastic about the subject you are trying to get passionate about. It is helpful to see the subject through another teacher’s eyes. This technique is powerful, as you will not only find out new approaches to teaching that you can try in your own classroom, but you can try to see how the teacher sees their subject is relevant to the students’ future. You may also find great communities online in Facebook Groups and especially Twitter under #edchat!
Try new approaches in your own professional development
It is not necessary to try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to teaching a new subject that you are unfamiliar with – there are many educators in your local community that shares tried and tested classroom approaches. Through social media or a simple Google search, you can find relevant workshops, events or social gatherings organized for teachers to exchange ideas in new areas of teaching such as Tech and Computer Science.
These are just a few ideas to get you started and hopefully gets you excited about the new challenges that may be ahead this coming academic year! Another great place to start is to subscribe to Read Something Different, where our team at BSD will share upcoming teacher events, ideas and tips to enhance your classroom.
If you have any ideas, recommendations, thoughts or questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to speak more about Passionate Teaching.