Passion for the Passionless


I’ve written before about Angela Maiers and her “You Matter” movement and the ways I committed to bringing it to my students this year. However, following Saturday’s #elemchat about passion, during which Angela was a featured guest, I found myself reflecting on something else that threaded through the discussion: the passion, or lack thereof, of teachers.

At one point, a side conversation I participated in centered on passionless teachers. I made the point that all teachers entered the profession for the same good, lofty, passionate reasons – but somewhere along the line, some have lost that passion. We all see this in our schools, for sure.

So, then, talk turned to how we can support our colleagues who have fallen off the passion wagon. I suggested three ideas.

First, we need to encourage them to ask themselves why they are in this field in the first place. My answer is that I truly believe I am making a positive difference. That is something that sustains me when the going gets tough (and it often does). But how many teachers don’t answer that, and instead say, “Because I need the money,” or “I don’t even know anymore”? Are these motivational mentalities?

Second, we need to stress the importance of reinventing ourselves. I switch things up year to year to keep myself fresh and out of a rut. For some, this may mean requesting a different position each year, switching up the room theme or routines, or even making a profound shift in philosophy. Maybe it is simple: I suggested to a veteran colleague one year that she do something to change the environment around her, and she was thrilled to do just that by changing her bulletin board paper. That’s something very minor, but you have to start somewhere.

Third, we have to help our colleagues believe Angela’s message: “You matter.” We all get fed up with the media and politicians who vilify us, but we need to remember the truth. We do matter. We are the sole determinants of how we treat our students. They are victims in a struggle that they don’t even know exists, so let’s do our best to put on a brave face and work for their benefit. We need to smile for them, care for them, believe in them, and support them. (Why? See the first reason: we make a difference).

How do you support colleagues who are trying to rediscover their passion? Did you ever have a time when you felt passionless for teaching (or whatever job you are in?) How did you bring yourself out of it? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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9 responses to “Passion for the Passionless

  1. Great article and love the part where you state “My answer is that I truly believe I am making a positive difference.” If you believe in this alone you will be able to survive the ups and downs of any profession. Teaching is so crucial in the shape of young peoples lives and educators can not forget the long lasting impact they will have on a single individuals life simply by having the attitude you stated in your post. Thank you for great content and encouragement.

    • Thank you, Brett, for reading and writing such a kind comment. It’s so easy to lose sight of why we are here when there is so much negativity dropped upon us but it’s so important not to!

  2. Terrific post. It made me think back to a passion-less year. Decision making had been virtually robbed from me and I found myself in a very difficult professional position. I was so discouraged. One leader believed in me and took the time to help me see my strengths and what I had to offer. He revitalized me professionally. Thanks for prompting me to think back on that important turn in the road professionally. I’m looking forward to reading past and future comments.

    • I think back to Principal EL’s keynote at the Reform Symposium this summer, when he stressed that every child needs someone who believes in them. It’s true of all of us, though, isn’t it? Glad this person was in your life and got you back in the game.

  3. Yes it is so important to stay strong in the negativity. Thank you for such an inspiring post. Keep the encouragement and great posts coming!!!!

  4. Matt, Yes, yes, and yes. However, would you have the guts to go up to a colleague who seems to have lost their passion and ask them about it? And then ask them whether this is the right field for them to be in? While I agree with your sentiment, I think doing it may be a lot different. So we continue to role model and be the positivity that we want others to feel, and you my friend, are doing a fine job.
    Best,
    Pernille

    • Well, maybe it’s like you say. Leading by example is most effective. However I don’t think I suggested we go around asking people if this field is right for them. I’m suggesting the question be, “Why are you in the field?” as if to say “Remember what brought you here in the first place” as if to say “Your love for kids/learning/teaching/etc.”

  5. Matt,
    I loved your post and I am going to strive to be the teacher that continues to change and involve. It is hard to imagine complacency in the teaching profession when there is always new technologies and techniques that can be mastered and implemented! The one sad note I bring up is the idea that every teacher enters the field for the right reasons. Some of my collegiate colleagues are already negative about the field. I have even heard “I didn’t know what else I wanted to do” as a reason for entering education on more than one occasion. But, on the bright side their are many others that are really driven to be great!

    • As a college student you have the benefit of not yet being fully involved in some of the most trying aspects of our profession. At this point it is being vilified by politicians and media (ha, your governor is a fine example). I have always told myself my main focus must always be my students, not the things that go on above me. I think keeping that perspective has helped me when I have felt demoralized (and it happens plenty). Good luck with everything!

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