Make Room for Passion

Maybe we already ask too much of education. Our profession has certainly evolved from a focus on the ‘3 Rs’ to include many other expectations, academic, social, moral, physical and otherwise. Because these expectations are all worthy, we accept them as part of our role. And because making room for passion is also worthy, and increasingly so, it should be included among the expectations we place on ourselves.

Anyone following the dialogue in education is aware of the growing need to prepare students for an unknown future. Students today are likely to have many different careers in their lifetime, holding jobs that don’t even exist yet. The future is full of opportunity for people who can drive their careers, who are adaptable, who can learn what needs to be learned, and who are energized enough to make their role matter in a global competitive market. If it ever was straightforward, the world is decreasingly so, thanks to technology and the interconnectedness that binds our lives to every other person and place in the world.

Sir Ken Robinson is one of the most highly renowned voices, and critics, in education today. A major theme in his work is the importance of nurturing creativity. Another theme, captured in his book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything (2009), is the importance of nurturing one’s passions, and the unfortunate absence of that as a priority in conventional schooling. Of course, all is well for students whose passions align with the school curriculum. The trouble is, the world is much bigger than the scope prescribed by the Ministry of Education. Student-driven learning, during the school day and with the guidance of interested adults, is too rare a part of formal education. Yet this is exactly what we need to instill in them to be successful as adults.

Finding one’s passion can be the difference between a life driven by happiness and one crippled by disinterest. It can be the difference between a life fully lived and one only a fraction so. It can also be the difference between the students who feel school matters, and those who feel it doesn’t. Make room for students to explore their passion at school. And see how it changes everything.

Andrea Fanjoy
Assistant Head, Academics
Twitter: @afanjoy

This article also features in the April edition of SNAP Etobicoke.

More than Spring has Sprung at KCS

Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.
~Quoted by Lewis Grizzard in Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You

The warm sunshine, return of the robins, dancing daffodils and burgeoning tree buds weren’t the only new arrivals to recently grace our community. Though the emphatic entrance of spring was deeply appreciated, something else has awoken that even topped the weather for its sheer delight.

After years in our thoughts, dormant but developing, KCS is now proud to offer electives, electives with some significant twists, twists that had many of the grade 6 students, who get first crack at this opportunity, beside themselves with excitement.

A general introduction to electives was in last week’s parent e-newsletter Stay Connected. They’re designed for students to just learn for the love of it, learn by choice, not for marks, nor because the Ministry of Education says you must. It’s a time to develop the Habits of Mind, Body and Action that indisputably set us up to be successful. And it’s a time to offer an unlimited array of meaningful learning. If teachers and students can dream it, they now have time to do it. Directly connected to our school mission of developing lifelong learners, it’s designed to stoke the flames that fuel lifelong learning.

Judging from my small group of third-language learners, it’s working.

Students in grade 6 were given eight electives to choose from. Based on their choices, the forty-two students are now in one of six electives for 100 minutes each week of third term. One group is learning to cook from Chef Cirillo of Cirillo’s Culinary Academy. The result of their labours this past week was a mouth-watering chicken cacciatore dish that went directly to a youth shelter. Another group is engaged in geocaching. Enriched technology, art and drama are also taking place. And my group has each student learning the foreign language of their choice. Concurrently, (and thanks the significant help of Rosetta Stone language learning software), the students are learning the following languages: Mandarin, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and Filipino. Just because they want to.

Some of you may have read Sir Ken Robinson’s book The Element: How finding your passion changes everything. He’s right, of course. The bulk of his book exposes the far too common disconnect between the regular school day and finding one’s passion, as if passion only has relevance in extra-curricular pursuits. Not here.

One of my students announced he was going to try to learn enough Mandarin to use it exclusively with the flight attendant on an upcoming family trip (hmm, not sure how that will go but keen to know!) To achieve his goal he has asked if he can use the software at home and if there are apps he can download on his iPad.

Lifelong learner, check.