Monday, November 8, 2010


Still thinking about passion as a major part of student learning. I have a lot of rambling thoughts in my brain right now and this is my attempt to organize them a bit so help me out where it does not make sense.
One thing that has me thinking about passion is the path of my life-long learning. I was an excellent student and great at "playing the game" of school. I knew how to listen, read, take notes, and pass tests. I was also convinced at the time that I was "smarter" than most people. This was a major part of my adolescent identity. I now look back and see that I was just better at playing the game than others, and lacked many problem-solving skills.

By Robert Hruzek
After I returned to the US from teaching English in China, I started working for the largest commercial concrete construction company in our area. My skill level was mostly as a laborer in residential concrete. I had a foreman who became my mentor and trained me to be a legitimate concrete finisher. After that I watched others being trained. The difference I saw between myself and some of them was that I did not naturally figure out how to finish concrete. I needed to be taught directly just like in school. I saw other guys who experimented and figured it out on their own. I began to recognize a skill set that they had toward problem-solving that I lacked. It was a standing joke that I asked questions about everything, especially "why." But eventually I became an expert at knowing what to do after I understood the reasoning behind things.

The other thing I have been thinking about are my "strengths" and "weaknesses." In school, I was a math/science kid. I hated English (writing) and thought history was a waste of time. In college I had to take one philosophy class and saved it for my senior year because I knew I would hate something so impractical. When I finally took philosophy I loved the class and wished I had minored in it. I decided to become a teacher when I returned from China. I loved learning about the culture and history of China so I majored in history. This year on the National Day of Writing I wrote for "fun" for the first time in my life by my own choice.

So I would have never chosen philosophy as a passion until I experienced an actual class in it. I don't think I would have ever chosen writing or history in high school either. I needed to mature and have more life experiences for when I was ready to learn these topics.

Maybe the key is I know how to learn and how to access learning. I can now learn anything that I want to because the tools are easily accessible. Maybe the key to schools should be teaching how to learn and exposing kids to as many learning opportunities as possible and let them run with the ones that are most interesting to them at the time and trust the future for them to learn about the "standards" that they might miss while they are pursuing their passions.


  1. Your conclusion does not follow from your observation that you would not have known you would like philosophy if you hadn't been forced to take a class in it.

    Also, a lot of students don't develop any passions for learning. What do you propose to do with them? Throw them away?

    Despite those two criticisms, I'm in agreement that those students who do develop passionate interests should be given more time and more support for pursuing them.

  2. Actually, the conclusion that we should expose students to as many learning opportunities and teaching how to learn follows perfectly from the forced phil class.

    There is often very little structure of knowledge, of having the students construct or even reconstruct stuff, and at worst school can be a vaccine for curiosity via rote memorization. A good phil teacher, looking at the process of logical and ethical thinking, and therefore, learning, can offer an opportunity to deepen and heighten the level of thinking.

    If you have a student who isn't passionate about anything, I'd be willing to bet you don't know that student well enough... although it seems like some, when you scratch the surface, only have more surface, you can generally find a passion in even the nastiest pieces of work in the school.

  3. @gas station I agree with Matt that it makes sense in my mind :) I see it as a tension between passion and exposure to interesting things.

    I also agree with Matt that all humans are passionate about something. It may not something traditionally part of the curriculum. Try fire for example, or a chemical explosion as examples to get attention.

    So the problem for me is not a lack of passion from students, but lack of opportunity to explore their passions or lack of exposure to interesting situations.

  4. Hi Mr. Kaechele, my name is Samantha Deardorff. I've been assigned to read your blog for Dr. Strange's EDM310 class. I really enjoyed reading this post. Passion is an important emotion to feel with anything that you plan on doing in your life, ie, your career. I feel that if you don't have passion about what you are doing, you will become bored with it. I went through a point recently where I had no passion to become a teacher, something I had wanted to be since I was a child. I was going to change my whole career path until I became assigned at an elementary school to observe for one of my classes. Once I was actually in the classroom environment and to see the children learning everyday, did I realize that teaching was actually what I wanted to do. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!