Please Share My Passion For Education!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

You Are Free! Run!

To whom it may concern:

When explaining to students that you are going to give them 20% time, which we call Compassion Based Learning, you would think that they would be filled with joy.  Essentially, you are telling them that they are going to have about 20% of their week to learn about a topic that they are passionate about.  Do not worry about an assignment, concrete directions, seats in rows, sage on the stage, etc...  Students constantly express their frustration with these confines of traditional schooling.  For this reason, shouldn't they be excited to bolt out of the gate once they are allowed to begin?  Surprisingly, the answer is NO for many of them.  One reason is that many do not understand how to come up with questions on their own and be self-directed enough to investigate the topic.

I have also been absolutely shocked over the past 4 years at the number of students unable to determine something which they are passionate about!  This blew my mind.  I have about 100 things I am passionate about and my only difficulty is trying to narrow them down.  I think of friends that I have and feel as if they all have things they are passionate about.  Why are there so many students who do not have a passion?  In my opinion, the answer is ....... School.  I have had the opportunity to sit down and talk at length with many of these students.  I have found the following to be a common thread:

  • They wake up, go to school, go to practice or club, get home in time to eat, do homework for a couple hours, and then go to bed.
  • They have been told in every class they have had since they were five years old, exactly what they should be doing, how they should be doing it, and eventually whether or not they obtained the correct answer.
  • Nobody has ever asked them what they are passionate about.

This seems like a GIANT RED FLAG 
We have a problem!!!!!!!!

At what point do we consider the fact that maybe the extreme lack of engagement students have in their classes, the high drop out rates in high school and college, the high suicide rates, etc, may be caused by the education system in the first place.

At what point doesn't it become more important to realize that these are young human beings that we are teaching and that we owe it to them to help "find themselves" and their passions and give them time to enjoy them.  If I approached most of my friends and told them that they had to put in more hours after working hard at their 8-hour job, they would laugh, yet we have students going to school for 8 hours, practice for 2+ hours, working, and then doing an excessive amount of homework.

At what point doesn't it become more important to nurture students and give them a chance to grow, while just being a "Kid" instead of cramming more equations, facts, and pointless books down their throats?  At constantly evaluating them on how "intelligent" they are using useless testing methods that test one type of intelligence (and not even well).

We have a group of kids in our room.  These kids all have feelings and futures.  They all possessed a curious and creative mind at one point.  Please, do not drain this out of them and create a culture of obedient robots who do not understand their purpose or passions in life. 

Oliver Schinkten
ComPassion Based Learning
Communities at Oshkosh North High School


  1. Thanks Oliver! I'm going to share this idea with my team at school. We have a 30 minute block of time that we're supposed to be using for character ed, but it's becoming a useless 30 min. I plan to have a conversation today with my students about investing that 30 mins into something they are passionate about.

  2. I've also found that students have a lack of passion. I wonder if some of the problem is lack of exposure.

    I used to begin inquiry units of study with the KWL (What I know, what I want to know...) and was surprised that the kiddos didn't want to know much. For me, the trick was to have students spend a few minutes silently observing. They might observe a flame or an animal at the zoo. They might sit on their backs and watch clouds move or see water running down a stream. Inevitably, students would find something cool to wonder about.

    In my experience, some people seem born with passion (for skateboarding, airplanes, service learning, reading...) and some of us need to be exposed to new things before a passion develops. It's like I don't know what I don't know - and I can't be passionate about something I don't know.

    We're beginning to develop service learning at my school. I hope students develop a passion for it :).

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