A Take on Passion Based Learning

Picture this: six columns of five chairs each all facing towards a projector screen. This is a normal sight in a classroom. Even if you google the word classroom and go to images it is a recurring set up. Why is it like this? “This is the way we have done it forever.” But why? Most of the time my classroom is a chaotic mess. I always have  students talking, moving around the room, writing down things, drawing, asking each other questions, anything that you can think of that is not having them in rows of desks. Even though that is the case, it is still a little bit scary. Administration, parents, and even students are always hesitant of change.

My World History students, who are freshman, have bought into my weirdness and my project based class. Having the students not just sit there everyday listening to me and taking notes allows me to see their true potential as active learners.  I have done multiple things this year where I have tried to step out of my comfort zone and use my passions for research and nerdiness to my advantage.

Designing a class where your passion about something completely unrelated is really difficult. It took me quite a while to summon up the courage to start doing comic book related things in the classroom. You never know how the students will react or if the administration would approve of something like this.I called upon my colleagues as well as my local comic book shop owner to try to find inspiration for different activities to incorporate in my World History class. After talking with everyone I came up with an idea. I had the students use their creativity to describe events in pictures with dialogue (comic style)  instead of just a flat out essay.

Changing the way students are showing me that they know the information is definitely a scary thing. I had no idea how they would respond to them writing a comic. They all knew what comics were, but few had actually read one. So I pulled out a bunch of different comics and allowed them to go through and check out the layout of different pages and how they influenced the tone of the story. This activity went surprisingly well. The students were actively working through and trying to figure out how stories should be laid out as well as how to lay them out. Once the students had a grasp of that concept I let them loose.

The students ran with the project. Some of them are amazing artists, so being able to have their strengths being used in a different class allowed them to excel. Some students who never did any work, because they hated writing, turned in amazing comics with super detailed pictures. It was amazing to see the different takes on the same information.  

Using something that I was passionate about allowed my students to excel in a project that none of them could have imagined would have been successful with in the first place. In my opinion, I believe that the students saw that it was something that I focused on so they wanted to focus on making a good product. Creating relationships and being passionate about how you teach your content can make a big difference in how your students retain the information. Knowing that there are resources out there everywhere for all different types of learning styles and how to approach teaching a certain subject keeps me constantly trying to improve my curriculum.

My main message for this post is be passionate about your work. Don’t just assign something because it is easy or because that is how you always have done it that way. Allow yourself to bring in your passions and try new things to help your students learn not only about the content you want them to know but about you as well. There are so many different ways you can teach about whatever concept you want to teach. There are thousands of teachers out there doing things thousands of different ways. It is our job to be unique and to be passionate. You spend a good chunk of your life going to school and teaching in schools, why would you not be passionate about the work you are putting in?