How Do We Nurture Passion?

Earlier this week, I shared this video of sixth grader, Greyson Chance, singing a cover of Lady Gaga’s song, Paparazzi during his school’s festival.

Feel the Passion…

This video astonished me for many reasons. One reason is the passion that this sixth grade boy shows. He clearly loves playing the piano and singing this song. He has an emotional connection that demonstrates how much this song impacted him. This passion was so strong it translated to this video having over 19 million hits, even though, this is not the highest quality of video. His passion was so strong it overcame his insecurities about playing in front of an audience of his peers.

How many students do you know would exhibit so much pure emotion and passion in front of their peers?

We also have to imagine how much more powerful the experience was if we had been present. Some of the emotion is lost through the video. We do not get to observe his face, which is why at the end of this post I included another Youtube video clip of his performance on the Ellen Show. In this performance, you can watch his face as he sings the song.

Notice the Transformation in the Audiences’ Reactions…

Watch the video a second time and just pay attention to the rest of Greyson’s peers and their reactions. At the beginning, you’ll see girls giggling and chatting. Perhaps, they are making a guess of who Greyson is singing about. You’ll see another girl obviously bored out of her mind with her hand on her chin. You’ll see others who are a bit uncomfortable. These are real reactions from adolescent girls and probably how we would have reacted at that age. I’m a little disappointed not to be able to observe the reactions of adolescent males. At the end of the performance you can observe how Greyson’s passionate performance impacts all the audience. The girls stop giggling and chatting and the bored girl wears an interested expression.

What Does a Passionate Educator Do?

These observations have raised some questions for me. How was this student so inspired to be great? Who gave him that support that made him believe in himself to take this bold step? Was this his parents, teachers, friends, or a mentor? Greyson accomplished a feat many of us have yet to figure out. How do we get our passion to transform our audiences? How do we get the child who is bored to be interested within 5 minutes? How do we get the students gossiping and laughing to reflect on what we are teaching within 5 minutes? How do we get millions of people worldwide to support our passion?
I believe some of us have tapped into this. There are the Seth Godin’s, Daniel Pink’s, Sir Ken Robinson’s, Alfie Kohn’s, Alan November’s, and Chris Lehmann’s of the world who have found the formula. How about us? We read the books, attend the webinars, and watch the live conferences. Now, it is time to begin translating our passion to our students. We have to try and help them find their passion but we know students have to first see our passion. How can we translate passion when we teach our subjects as if we were bored? I have seen so many teachers stand in front of students, lecture in a monotone voice, and give the most uninteresting materials to accompany their lessons.
Passionate educators take the time to create a lesson that demonstrates their passion. If you’re going to lecture, then make sure every lecture is like you’re giving a TED Talk. If you’re giving homework, then make sure it is something you’d be so interested in doing, you would forgo your time with family and friends. If you’re going to give assignments, make sure they are the ones that would spark passion for your subject. This includes higher thinking skills, such as research, problem solving, and critical thinking. If you’re bored creating the assessment, then the students will be bored taking the assessment. I know when I have developed a great assessment, because I am excited about giving it to my students. However, I have never been excited about having students take a multiple choice test.
We also have to help our students find what they are passionate about and help them connect the learning in our classes to that passion. If a student wants to be a famous musician, then show them the math involved if you’re a math teacher. If your student wants to be a famous singer, then help them discover the figurative language that will help them express their emotion. In some way our subjects connect with students’ passions or we wouldn’t have to teach the subject. In some way, our subject connects to the world the students live in. Let’s find a way to bring passion into our classes everyday and help students tap into their own. Imagine if most of our students were like Greyson Chance at pursuing their dreams!

You may also want to check out these posts on assessment and passion:


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What is preventing you from being passionate about your teaching? How do we help our students discover what they are passionate about?