Inspire Learning: Passion Beyond 20 Percent

Fantasia "Short B", HS graduate and college student

Fantasia “Short B”, HS graduate and college student!

When my friend, Carrie Ross, spoke at the ISTE opening ignite session about passion, it really did strike a nerve with me. I’ve always “moved” from a place of passion. I also believe that we have to ask kids what they are passionate about and use that to help inspire learning.

I’ve seen elementary and middle school teachers post about their 20% time and genius hours often. Heck I even attended a session. I always left wondering how and when this could be duplicated in high school math. It could not…not in its current form.

Then, I had to take a step back and look at the opportunities that we face and the ones that we miss. I thought of my former student, Fantasia. Fantasia was a child, who was different. She came to school because she had to, like many of her peers. She did not open up to people because unfortunately, her educational environment thrived on “standardization”. By that, I mean that she was supposed to look, act and speak a certain way. She did not.

Fantasia was tough as nails and did not care when people dared to question her about who she was. She stood by it proudly. We could only wish for half the guts that Fantasia had. If you were lucky enough to be in her circle, you learned another side of Fantasia. She was a rapper! She could freestyle like no one that I had ever heard before. She’s amazing.

In my classroom, there were days when Fantasia had the floor. Sometimes she wanted to just “try” a new rap and others she was just being who she was and we loved for more for it. Looking back, I wish that we offered a music production program because that type of program speaks to creative geniuses like Fantasia, but we did not and to her it did not matter. She worked on her passion, her music, anyway!

What mattered was that someone was taking an interest in her, her passion…her music and it meant the world. We did not have a scheduled time to develop her passion. She did it on her own at any moment when she had time. What I gave her was an audience.

I asked about her music. I listened to it and she felt empowered by the idea of an audience. I even connected her with a producer who would go on to help her as she recorded her own mixtape.

I understand the intent of an “in school day” genius time, but let’s not forget about the students who have developed their passions and just want someone to be interested enough to take notice. If you have students like Fantasia, here are a few things that you can do to support their passions.

  1. If you have students who are into music, listen to it and go watch them perform.
  2. If you have athletes, go to games and cheer them on!
  3. If you have artist, ask to see their portfolios and hang their work in your room!
  4. If you have magicians, take the time and let them show you a trick. (I had one!)
  5. Attend your school’s specialty group performances.
  6. Read poetry and other student writings.
  7. Play games with them! (magic, yu-gi-oh!)

We have students coming to us with all sorts of tools. We’ve got to learn the power of taking a moment to notice and enjoy them because their passions are well exceeding 20% of their time.

If you are looking to make connections, interest in them as in who they are outside of your classroom, will help to bridge a gap and inspire learning beyond.

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