What Moves Us

Last Sunday I spent an evening at home doing what we teachers spend many solitary hours doing: grading assignments, updating gradebooks, organizing materials while reviewing and adjusting plans for the coming week. As I did, I saw a note that reminded me that my mid-day appointment was not on Tuesday as I’d planned but Monday. My heart fell. The annoyance of having to call and get everything fixed in the morning with the sub scheduler and readjust my plans for the next two days certainly happened, but I think it was more than that. I enjoy going to work. I enjoy reading and writing with my students. I didn’t really want to take any days off.
How many people are lucky enough to get paid to do the work they love?
So when #engchat was discussing passion-based learning with Angela Maiers, it seemed to fit with my epiphany (?) the day before. If you are interested in…no…passionate about what you do, you are willing to invest more in it. More time. More energy. More thought. It’s what drives our #engchat teachers to devote an hour a week to chatting about various topics related to teaching English. It’s what motivates my friends on ECN to post, read, search for the resources and connections we need to keep on doing right by the students in our care at the moment. It’s what keeps my #titletalk, #bookaday, GoodReads, Centurions friends sharing titles and making recommendations for us and our students and our children.
We were talking about students. We know they have their own passions. How many of us know what keeps them up nights, what occupies their energy, what makes their faces light up even after working on a project for hours without a break? I’ve asked about favorite books, favorite classes, favorite music or movies and for countless other clues over the years to help me recommend books, to make groups, to make conversation and connections. But finding their must dedicated interests seems to happen almost accidentally.
Like on Wednesday. We were trying to determine what students knew about the Kennedy assassination before we read Lady Bird Johnson’s diary entry about the events of that day. All of a sudden, a couple of students who have previously been quiet on most subjects became so animated to share their knowledge with the class. They knew more than they would’ve known from history class so I’m sure they are watching The History Channel and reading up on the internet and picking up books to become more expert.
More expert. We never get done. We never really arrive at any other better place than being relative experts. There’s always more to learn, to do. We work toward new goals and meet those, like leveling up or maybe beating a video game. The learning, the doing is its own reward.
This was the context and my thinking as I settled in to watch the commencement speech Steve Jobs gave at Stanford with my seniors who are working on their college application essays. I’d seen it before and wanted to show how much using anecdotes to make your point can offer insight into the writer. But goosebumps rose when I heard him say, “the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
Truer words have never been spoken.
I am going to put those words on a sign for my classroom as a reminder that our students are capable of doing magical work when given the opportunity to make connections to what moves them the most.


3 thoughts on “What Moves Us

  1. If only everyone could realize their passion. We all need to realize that living and working in a field you are passionate about does not equal ease. To be passionate, I believe, requires more energy as well as commitment of time to allow us to continually expand our knowledge and skills. Michael Jordan at the height of his career still shot 100’s of foul shots each day.

    • I like what you wrote about how we don’t necessarily have an easy time with what we’re passionate about. In fact, I’d take it a step further. I think we expect to be – and want to be – challenged by what we are most interested in. If we wish to learn and to improve in whatever that may be, we need to be willing to take risks, to fail, but, above all, to keep trying. That takes dedication.

  2. About ten years into my teaching, my dad said to me: “you know, you are lucky. not many people enjoy their work as much as you do.” I didn’t fully understand it then, but I do now. What joy.

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