Lighting the Fire-Cultivating Passionate Students


Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.- W.B. Yeats

Passion. Just the word itself gives me goose bumps. Passion is uniquely individual, and that is what makes it such a great tool. Everyone has a passion within himself or herself. For some, a passion might be skateboarding or rock climbing (this is definitely not me; the thought of doing either of these things gives me anxiety). Others may prefer gardening or indulging in a spectacular novel (or series… all at once). Regardless of what you are passionate about, the same thing remains true: you love doing it, learning about it, and growing from your experiences with it. So, if that is true, why don’t we see more passion in our schools?

As a future educator, I see the issue. Many schools lie on a traditional sense of learning, meaning that deviating from the path most normally walked by those before you is a big no-no. I found George Couros blog post, School vs. Learning, to be incredibly insightful in this area. The entire post is dedicated to the differences found between school and learning. Most people will think that these two things go together perfectly: students go to school to learn. Piece of cake… Right?

Not so fast, says Couros, and I see his point. Although students can (and do) learn a lot in school, it’s not exactly the learning that we’re talking about. School gives the questions for students to look up and answer whereas learning asks students to start with questions. Students are asked to consume knowledge presented by teachers in school; learning is more centered on creating from within. School is a place where you are given information to learn in a certain order. Learning allows students to follow their own line of thinking and make their own connections. My favorite point made by Couros is this: “School is standardized. Learning is personal.” Information is presented in schools most often to get students past standardized testing. I can’t even count the number of times I heard the phrase “Remember this. It’s going to be on the test” while I was in school. Learning, on the other hand, is personal and can happen any time. We learn from mistakes. We learn from failures and successes. The list can go on and on. The point is that true learning goes beneath the surface and past the superficial layers of facts; true learning is developed by passions.

So, this left me questioning. How do I, a girl from a traditional, rural SW Nebraska background that plans to return to that area, change a classroom and the hearts within it? How can I incite passion into my students, because if they are passionate, they are more likely to really learn? I received some tips from the article titled Nine Tenets of Passion-Based Learning by Tina Barseghian. One of the biggest points made was that passion is infectious. Isn’t this true? I tend to find myself feeling exuberant during and directly after I spend time with people who are truly passionate about something. One of my favorite pastimes is listening to others talk about their passions and aspirations; it honestly leaves me feeling uplifted and wanting to pursue my own passions. Barseghian says that “a passion-driven teacher is a model for her students.” I aspire to be that model. I want to build those connections with my students. I want them to know that I believe in their passions; in my eyes, they matter.

Being transparent with students and building relationships with them beyond the classroom can help drive learning- students work harder with people who matter to them. -Tina Barseghian

Saga Briggs also shared insight in her article 25 Ways to Institute Passion-Based Learning in the Classroom. Briggs lists many ways to incite passion within our students. Of course, one of those ways is to share my own passions, but another way is to let them share theirs “in the absence of feedback or judgment.” Let’s let students really go after their passions with vigor and excitement. Introduce them to resources that will help them along the way and give value to every passion that they have. It’s important, as Briggs mentions, to let them take control of their learning. This allows them to “value it twice as much as they would otherwise.”

Passion-based learning. What a remarkable, brilliant idea. Just thinking of the possibilities makes me excited. Passions are driving forces within us; why not let our students light their own fire?


(Photo CC:




4 thoughts on “Lighting the Fire-Cultivating Passionate Students

  1. Quit giving me goosebumps. It makes me jealous when I read your posts because you are an exceptional writer. I know you personally and I really do feel like I am having a one-sided conversation with you when I read these posts. Keep up the excellent writing!


  2. Regan, I always look forward to reading your posts! Your voice really comes thorugh when you are writing! I also read 25 Ways to Institute Passion-Based Learning in the Classroom and found it very helpful! Like you, I plan to return to a small community to teach and often wonder how I can help my students become passionate about learning! Great post!


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