I went out to eat with my son the other night and I asked him this question, "What are you most passionate about?" Little did I know what a deep and rich conversation that question would launch us into. My son is creative, passionate, a deep-thinker, hilarious, a great communicator and collaborator. He has brilliant ideas, dreams, and passions. But, here's the thing. School is very difficult for him. He has difficulty finding the relevance and the connections. He doesn't focus well when information is being given to him audibly. When he talks about school he sounds deflated. He doesn't feel successful. He doesn't fit into the mold. School makes him feel "less then". My heart broke as he was talking because I realized, this was me. I was never a high achieving student. I didn't get stellar grades, I wasn't in AP classes, I didn't make it on the honor roll. I wasn't able to see at the time my strengths, my gifts, my passions because, they didn't look like everyone else's. They didn't fit into the "high achieving" student mold. I graduated from high school not knowing where I fit and it took me quite a while to figure it out.
My son loves fashion and design. He loves following trends and designers. When he begins to talk about it his eyes light up, he gets animated and excited, their is passion in his voice. Out pours all he has researched, the trends he follows, the designers that are paving the way in the design world right now. He talks about youtube videos, Instagram posts, and blogs. This kid knows his stuff. He researches. He's building a global network. Did he learn this from school? No. Did he learn this from me? No. He dives into what he is passionate about and immerses himself in it.
This is not an attack on his teachers, or his school. He has passionate teachers and he goes to a great school. However, I do believe often times as educators our perception is skewed. We are frustrated by students lack of compliance, their lack of focus, their lack of interest, when we have presented education as a pill to swallow rather than an exciting adventure to embark on. Our kids know that our world is changing rapidly. They recognize the need for creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication and yet too often they aren't being challenged to develop those skills in the classroom. Are we connecting our content to our student's passions? Are we giving them a chance to discover what those passions even are? Are we giving them the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in new ways and connect with a global audience? Are we giving them access to the technology that is integral in this ever-changing world? Are we making learning relevant? Are we empowering them to make learning their own? My son is not the minority. Our kids are taking learning into their own hands. They are pursuing interests outside of school. How can we help them know what to do with this knowledge and help them foster the skills that are going to help them take this knowledge and change the world?
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.