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Passion’s Problem: Project 180, Day 61

Passion is an oft loosely used word. And recently, though my intentions were sound, I used it to invoke inspiration only to discover that I created confusion. Part of the problem, as my regular readers are aware, is that I have a flair for alliteration, so when I first presented the opportunity to my kids, I quickly fell in love with the title “Passion Paper.” It was alliterative and it contained the word passion; where could that possibly go wrong? Turns out, it didn’t take long to go wrong. In fact, a number of my kids never got out of the starting blocks. They were stalled. Paralyzed. And “passion” was the problem.

“Sy, I don’t know what to write about.”

“Well, it’s easy just pick a passion. Go back to your desk. Set your timer for two minutes and list the things that you are passionate about.”

Several similar conversations and prescriptions later, I discovered that I had misdiagnosed the problem. “Passion” was the problem. The kids thought it had to be something that burned brightly within, and so they were having a hard time finding their fires. And I mistook this for laziness and lack of imagination, but really I created the problem by presenting what actually turned out to be a rather prohibitive term. So, yesterday, I took another stab at it, and attempted to explain it better by offering that, here, “passion” simply meant something that they wanted to do, something in which they would find value, something from which they would find joy. Further, I offered a list of is’s and is not’s.

I did (poorly). I reflected (with help from the kids). And I did better (at least for now, for there is always a “better” better). I am not going to change the name. I do love alliteration. And the idea of passion does resonate with me. I am just going to do a better job of explaining it in the future, for this paper, this project, exemplifies the freedom to learn that I desire for my kids. I want them to have an opportunity to explore and grow as writers under their own power. I want them to discover value. I want them to experience joy.

I want them to come to me as Abby did yesterday.

“So last year, I started writing a short story called, “Breathe, and…”

“Yes, I interrupted.”

“I just really don’t like my first topic, and…”

“Yes, I interrupted again. Change it.”

“It’s just that I really liked…”

“That’s passion. That’s what I want for you, Ab. Go for it. I want you to chase what you want, not what you think I want. It’s your passion; it’s your paper.”

“So, I can change it?”


Of course, the problem here goes beyond the word “passion.” Part of the problem is the kids’ still adjusting to the freedoms I have provided. They are not accustomed to holding the keys. But as we continue our journey, I hope they come to trust and embrace their ownership. In the meantime, I will be patient. In the meantime, I will continue to provide opportunities that create commitment, not opportunities that force compliance. Truly, I want kids to do because they choose, not because they have to.

Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

…begin with Smiles and Frowns.

…continue pursuing passion with our passion papers.

…reflect in our Journey Journals.

…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Do. Reflect. Do Better.


4 Replies to “Passion’s Problem: Project 180, Day 61”

  • I recently ran into the same problem with and open-ended inquiry project. I used “passion” as a word to introduce the project, but it sty,ied many students because they thought it had to be something overly profound. My real goal, as I reflect to do better next time, is to re-ignite the curiosity they had as much younger children. The terrible twos when everything was, “why?” I want students to question our world and to follow their interests.

  • Sometimes I think that kids get stifled because in our society there is an expectation that everything is awesome, so passion becomes a block. I find that when I reframe ideas of passion into terms like, “wonder” and “meaning”, the kids seem to get it. We are doing a self chosen project on economic development and my whole approach was to get kids to research something they had a genuine curiosity about. Good stuff as usual Sy!

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