Passion

Here’s another from http://www.teachsecondary.com. It’s a great mag that’s full of that good teaching juju. You can get yourself some of the aforementioned juju by subscribing if you follow the link. Ta muchly.

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Education is dripping with passion. The word is used so much you’d think that every teacher in the land was mainlining Mills and Boon and walking around falling into each other’s arms during first break (they’re not by the way, just in case you’re thinking that you’re missing out. Well, at least they’re not with me.)

We’re passionate about education, passionate about the kids, passionate about our subject, passionate for the future, passionate about being the best we can be, passionate about lunch, passionate about whiteboards, passionate about passion. Passion absolutely all over the shop.

CVs, Linkedin profiles, mottos and (let me get out an involuntary shudder here) mission statements veritably heave with the stuff. It’s a wonder anyone can do anything as mundane as mark a set of books or read through a text given the depth of feeling we have for our job.

But ‘passion’ is just a word (a word, strangely enough, with a meaning which is handily difficult to quantify – try checking THAT CV checkers!) and talk is ludicrously cheap in comparison to the actual grind of the day-to-day that teachers go through. Now, I enjoy my job, but do I think having a ‘passion’ for it is a prerequisite for doing it well? No. No I don’t. Because I’m an adult.

The Passion Narrative (as I’ve just now named it, gives it a bit more weight, don’t you think?) is a troubling one for me. Firstly, if everyone is passionate (as seems to be the case) then that’s really the same as saying no one is. What we have here is nullification through overuse. We need to change it up a bit; a synonym perhaps:

“I am fanatical about education.”

Errr…maybe not in the current climate. Let’s try another one:

“I have a mania for learning.”

Not particularly flattering.

You know what would be refreshing? That instead of espousing ‘passion’ (which, let’s be honest, means the sum total of bugger-all) people expressed something that is a bit more relevant and useful:

“I’m more or less competent in my role.”

Give that man a job!

“I hate getting up in the morning but I will because I get paid for it and it’s alright once I’m in.”

When can you start?

But this isn’t just a kamikaze cry for honesty when going for a job or anything as daft; I am trying to make a slightly serious point. There’s a darker side to all this passion malarkey. If passion is supposedly a prerequisite of doing a good job, then the nebulous nature of the concept can be moulded into an accusatory stance if it is deemed that you are not displaying enough of it. Unreasonable self-sacrifice of time, resources and such could all come under the label of ‘passion’. The word becomes insipid code for doing more than you should because if you don’t, well, you don’t care enough, obviously. It’s a get out clause for not dealing with systemic problems.

Finally, the assumption that passion is an essential can be a real burden if…well…if you have times when you don’t feel passionate about the job. I don’t know about you, but there has been the odd occasion in my career where my boundless enthusiasm has ebbed to the point where just about anything is preferable to dragging my carcass across school lines. I was indeed lacking in passion. This led to some serious soul-searching; If I’m not passionate about the job, I can’t be doing it right. Right?

By some miracle, on those occasions, I managed to get into work, and then, believe it not, I actually managed to teach (regardless as to how much passion I was feeling or displaying). But I tell you something, I could have done without the extra layer of self-imposed guilt. So nowadays I don’t have it.

Nowadays, I passionately believe in the right not to have to constantly feel passionate about teaching. It works for me.

Thanks for reading.

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15 comments

  1. bryngoodman

    If all you had was passion, you probably wouldn’t be much of a teacher. I’d rather have well-developed subject knowledge, good teaching strategies, sound behaviour management skills and the ability to get on well with and support my colleagues.

    • tstarkey1212

      That stuff’s just not sexy or dynamic though. Also, you can prove those things where as ‘passion’? Not so much. Thanks loads for commenting Bryn.

  2. kitandrew

    Reblogged this on KitAndrew and commented:
    Some days I’m really not passionate about what we do…frustration, tiredness, pushed beyond caring by other agencies and their incompetences, it well, makes me wonder…as does Tom’s blog. As it was meant to! Right?

    • tstarkey1212

      Thanks for commenting.
      Hopefully. There are a lot of pressures that fall on teachers’ shoulders and I don’t think having to feel passionate should end up being just another one of them.

  3. Stuart

    One person’s passion is another person’s moderate interest. If I’m moderately interested in something I’ll invest a lot of time and energy in it, whereas asome people who claim to be wildly passionate doon’t seem that bothered.

    • tstarkey1212

      Cheers for commenting Stuart.
      Yep – being ‘passionate’ doesn’t equate to being any good at what you do.

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  7. Anthony Radice

    Great post. The exaltation of feelings is really unhelpful. The point is to keep on doing the right thing whether we feel like it or not. To be faithful when we feel like giving up.

    It’s even more hilarious when this word is used in business. ‘Passionate about selling more paperclips’ etc.

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