Monday, August 04, 2008

Shining Eyes of Passion

School’s out for summer - yet for many --more learning is happening in shorter periods of time than happened during the 180 day school year. Having just spent a week with 22 girls during TechSavvy Girls summer camp and another week with 32 middle school kids during TechSavvy Kids summer camp, I started to think about what makes summer camp so much more engaging than school. Surely it takes more than replacing the word “school” with the word “camp”… to transforms the experience. Why is it that we would rather spend time at “summer camp” than “summer school”.

  • Is it because there are no bells that tell us it’s time to move to the next station and we have larger blocks of time to immerse ourselves into our learning?
  • Is it because there are no mandates that create solid boundaries about what will and will not be learned and how we should learn it?
  • Is it because there are no test and quizzes that try to quantify how much we remembered about what we learned?

No… I don’t think it’s the absence of something; but rather the ‘presence’ of an important element – PASSION!

A week long experience where talented passionate instructors focused on creating fun filled experiences that pass on that passion to others --– whether it be humanities camp, chess camp, outdoor camp—will yield lots of learning, lots of eager smiles, and lots of shining eyes.

And for those of you who think that this formula only works when learners themselves are passionate about the subject – think again as you watch the masterful Benjamin Zander create an understanding and appreciation for classical music amongst the unsuspecting audience of the T.E.D. 2008 conference.

Consider your role as a teacher as you listen to Zander describe his role as a conductor.

“The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound..
He depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful.

My job was to awaken possibilities in other people..
How do you know if you are doing it
Look at their eyes.. if their eyes are shiny you know you're doing it

If not.. you should ask..
Who am I being that my players eyes are not shiny?”
What do you need to do this summer to come back to school in September ready to bring out the shine in your student's eyes?

Do you need to immerse yourself into a new experience that lights your fire? Do you need to do something new you’ve always wanted to try – and reflect on the parts of it that make your eyes smile as you do it ?

Do you need to immerse yourself into the powerful words of writer who allows you to escape into the passions of their experience? Perhaps escape to Italy, India, and Indonesia with Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray Love or to a village in Afghanistan’s with Greg Mortenson in Three Cups of Tea.

Do you need to immerse yourself into an experience that takes you out of your comfort zone? Every couple of years I try to learn something that I’m not naturally good at or perhaps even fear. In the past few years I’ve tried tennis lessons, swing dance lessons, and motorcycle riders classes. Each of these has helped make me a better teacher by helping me tune in on what it takes to bring a reluctant learner’s fear of failure to a state of confidence and success. Success doesn’t mean I’ll ever play in a tennis tournament, participate in a dance competition or drive a motorcycle in real traffic, but it means I gained an appreciation for those who have passion for each of these activities in real life.

Do you need to immerse yourself into a self study of some new technique or tool that might engage your students when they return to your classroom this Fall? Pay attention to the young people around you this summer and notice what they are passionate about.