Passion Driven Education: One School’s Journey

Passion driven schools do exist. My friend and writing partner, or as Doug Johnson calls us (A & A),and I recently Skyped  in to connect with the teachers and leadership team at Aurora High School  to kick off their book study of  The Passion Driven Classroom.

We were so excited to hear their reactions, thoughts, and ideas of how the conversations about teaching and learning could change when passion is driving them. After we ended the call, we wondered how and if the visit impacted them. A short time later, we received this comment from their amazing leader (and new blogger), Alicia Lopez.

To say we were humbled, is an understatement:

Hi Amy and Angela,

Here in Aurora, Ohio we were so delighted to meet the two of you in person on Thursday, Feb. 24 – two passionate, visionary advocates for children! Your message and examples remind educators around the world of why we said “Yes” to teaching and learning. The conversations that       are emerging throughout our district are inspiring signs of new directions!

We cannot allow federal, state, local mandates, 17th century school structures and practices – 45 minute class periods, 180+day school year, political-driven narrow perspectives on teacher accountability, data-driven practices that fail to focus on the “whole child,” standardized assessments void of 21st century learning expectations, financial cutbacks – paralyze educators from taking a close look at their passion for learning. We must choose empowerment over in-action. We, as educators, can make the choice to find creative ways to ignite students’ passion for learning within and outside our district/classroom walls. There is a sense of urgency for our children. Sir Ken Robinson shares – Passion isn’t something that is created but rather the results of the conditions under which learning is allowed to occur.” So…we do have choice. Our challenge is to let go of practices and attitudes that prevent us from getting to know students’ passions, gifts and talents.

Our Feb. 18 PD conversations around Passion-Driven Classrooms and our SKYPE meeting with you on Thursday, Feb. 24 mark the beginning of our collaborative journey here in Aurora. Educators are finding the time to continue the conversation. Several high school teachers meet after school to discuss topics like – culture in the classroom to promote learning, student engagement, social networking tools in the classroom, peer observations, professional learning communities – Are they really working, or are they looked upon as superficial structures imposed by administrators? What is the next level of PLCs? What should they look like if they are for kids? What forums are there for students’ voice and ideas about learning and student engagement?

Several middle school teachers will continue their discussions. They agreed to get together the first Friday of each month – after school to share ideas – technology integration, sharing mini lessons. This team is calling their get together – An informal meeting of the minds! Love it.

Elementary teachers connecting with high school Chemistry teacher to learn more about reverse instruction – developing partnership that invites high school and elementary students to collaborate on student passion driven topics.

Many expressed an interest in reading and discussing the book – Habitudes.
Look forward to discussions and possibilities for every day practice.

Our district’s technology integration team are so passion-driven! The work they do 24/7 cannot be captured here. We continue to learn so much through their examples and vision for out-of-the box student engagement practices.

Aurora will be a place “where passion meets practice and students learn” because of teachers’ deep commitment to students and their passion for life-long learning! We will continue to share our story, challenges and celebrations!

“Change comes from the questions we ask” (Banach). From the heart…Amy & Angela thanks so much for your gift of time and words of encouragement. Alicia

As you reflect on  Aurora’s journey, how can a conversation about passion in education impact your staff and colleagues?   How would your goals and objectives change if PASSION drove the conversation?

We would love to hear more!

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  • Matt Messinger

    Thanks for sharing the inspiring story from Aurora. It is indeed amazing how passion can drive great results for students. Another great commentator on this topic is the management author, Jim Collins. In his classic Good to Great he talks about how essential it is to integrate passion into your work as that drives one to do the extra work necessary to be excellent. Exactly what our students deserve our teachers to be — excellent. It’s great your book is bringing passion into the conversation.

  • Angela Maiers

    Hi Matt-

    I LOVE Jim Collins, and Good to Great will has classic lessons of success and resiliency. Passion is a difference maker and will become a more powerful differentiator for individuals and organizations seeking success in the years to come!

    Thanks for making that connection!

  • Tracy Rosen

    As you know, Angela, passion does drive my teaching. I love reading stories like this one – it gives me hope for the future. Thanks for sharing it!

  • Angela Maiers

    Hi Tracy!
    I immediately connected with you because of your passion! Teachers like you absolutely give me hope!

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