Unhurrying the Hurried Educator: A Convo about Personal Learning and Passion

My first iPh*ne reconnected me with a love of photography that I’d abandoned at some point. Perhaps it was because I had become so consumed with my professional work. Or, maybe it simply reflected the difficulty of having a camera with me when I had moments I wanted to capture. However, when I discovered the pretty decent quality of my embedded phone camera, I became somewhat compulsive about grabbing photo opps both inside the schools I walk routinely, as well as reconnecting with the built and natural world.

Photo-sharing inside flickr, instagram, and Pinterest offers the chance to share photos with others and build a different kind of PLN that is image, not text-based. I know I’m a better photographer today as a result of reflective interaction inside global photo PLNs. I also believe a rediscovered passion for photography has positively impacted me professionally. Use of my own photos inside my blogs and in professional media reminds me that pursuing learning outside my profession also adds value within it.

passion

Recently, Steve Hargadon spent time with a small group of educators in the community where I live. The conversation led me to reflect on the value of photography in my life.

For over an hour, we chatted about education, from Virginia to Nepal. At some point, we ventured onto the topic of personal interests and passion. We began to explore the narrative of what interests us beyond our profession. Where do we find personal sources of learning passion in our own lives? What do we enjoy personally as learners? What are we drawn to do outside of our day (and night) jobs as educators? Why should we connect with a personal passion for learning beyond work -whether it’s gardening or volunteering with Habitat for Humanity?

a rake lies in on the red clay in front of the tomato plant

Steve wondered with us how our own personal learning pursuits and passions help us as educators to both recharge ourselves as well as to elicit similar learning passions from young people we serve and colleagues with whom we work. He shared his own personal interests, including building a PLN of people around the world who live with Vitiligo, a pigment disease experienced by Michael Jackson – and Steve. Some in the room that day shared their personal interests. One administrator described his love for Emily Dickinson poetry and his own poet’s alter ego as Dickinson’s “third cousin, twice removed”, Emmett Dickinson. Another described a passion for cooking. Someone else whispered, “I garden.” Some simply listened.

After Steve moved on to his next stop in his wayfarer world, I began to reflect further on our conversation. I was reminded of something Karen Olivo, youthful Broadway star from the Tony-winning show In the Heights, shared on Skype last spring with our local high school cast who were about to perform In the Heights. She commented to them that being an artist is “a way of life, not just a job.” She spoke to her own passion for what she does.

I think most educators feel that way, also. Sometimes it’s hard for us to separate our lives and personal learning passions from our profession. For example, our young people performances of In The Heights caught fire on stage because of the passion and love of performance their drama teacher brings with her to work every day.

Ms. Olivo shared her personal story of rehearsing, finally performing day and night for months, and, at some point, choosing to work through significant illness because the cast was counting on her. A young performer in the room asked her what she did to stay focused day in and out during the show’s run. She responded when people were sitting out there beyond the lights expecting her to deliver, she was compelled to bring her best to each beloved moment she spent on stage. Ms. Olivo sounded just the way many educators do about their work, too.

IMG_1035Yet, I fear even as we cherish the passion we find inside our own profession, it’s a life that also consumes us. We often don’t take time to step away and reflect on what else is important to us outside of the walls of our classrooms and administrative offices. We begin to miss the vicissitudes of life around us as we move in and out of the boxes we call school, day after day. In doing so, we disconnect from our early passions – whether in pursuing personal interests or igniting a love of learning in young people. We may forget what brought us to love learning ourselves and into the most important profession in the world. We may no longer see ourselves as learners with interests we want to pursue, too.

With Steve, we discussed that day how our own passions for poetry, photography, music, art, collecting, gaming, projects, sports, writing, drama reading, history, and so on can help us ignites interests, and ultimately, learning passions in others. The conversation centered upon the idea that as we pursue our own lifelong learning work, we become models of curiosity, inquiry, and motivation. While others may never share our interests, we can inspire them to find their own. When our own interests and passions become stories, then our stories can be shared to engage others in learning.

As we bring our own interests alive, we can connect dots for young people that lifelong learning isn’t something we do for grades, but rather because we love to learn in our own way, in our own time, about those things that intrigue and inspire us. Our personal interests also provide down time from the intensity of our day jobs. In our pursuits, we step away from being “hurried” educators, whether for an occasional few minutes, few hours, or few days. We renew and refresh our memories of what it means to take risks to learn something new, to stretch our own thinking and skills, and to find joy in the simple pleasures of doing what we love.

And, that’s good for us and it’s good for the people with whom we work as well as those we teach.

Art Stow: the Bagpiper Principal

About pamelamoran

Educator in Virginia, creating 21st c community learning spaces for all kinds of learners, both adults and young people. I read, garden, listen to music, and capture photo images mostly of the natural world. My posts represent a personal point of view on topics of interest.
This entry was posted in culture, Leadership, learning technologies, school culture, social story, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Unhurrying the Hurried Educator: A Convo about Personal Learning and Passion

  1. T. Henriksen says:

    Hi Pamela,

    I love this post so much because I can relate so strongly to it. I have a passion for photography that was amplified when I went through a very difficult time after my second child’s birth. Photography is a way for me to express myself, connect with others and “get away from it all”. Unfortunately, because my work life was so demanding this year, I barely picked up my camera. So sad. Since now it is summer and I have more time, I am exploring my camera again (and learning how to take HD videos with it). It is such a pleasure!

    So, yes, I agree with this post whole-heartedly. We must all remember to explore our own passions, especially if we are trying to nurture them within our own students.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post,
    Tia

    • pamelamoran says:

      Tia,

      Your comment resonates. I often find myself putting everything on the back burner for work – and others we serve in that work. Yet, when we do that, we defer our own potential to grow and develop over time. I think that many educators get stuck because of their commitment to those they serve and then wake up years later wondering where the time went. As we give and give, get consumed by the day to day cycles of work, we become more caught in a maintenance cycle. I appreciate your insight and self-reflection here. I hope you get your camera out and get back to connecting with that world and passion again. I love instagram because I get to see the work of amazing photographers who share common interests in both built and natural environments. I get pushed by them to improve my own captures. Thank you for sharing.

      Pam

  2. Lisa says:

    Beautiful insight. I struggle with this often.

    • pamelamoran says:

      Lisa,

      I think we all do- finding a space for ourselves can be difficult and a challenge for us all. Yet, by not continuing to explore our own interests and passions- to span boundaries beyond education, we neglect our own need as learners.to expand and extend our understanding of the world in which we live. Thank you for reflecting about this with me.

  3. mtechman says:

    A lovely and thoughtful post, Pam. I was thinking recently about how I have learned about other places through the eyes of my PLN. Darcy Moore, https://twitter.com/Darcy1968 , an Australian educator, photographer and blogger has wonderful Flickr sets and my favorite is the set capturing his admin exchange year in Denmark:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/sets/72157627216057697/
    I regularly check in on your nature photos, which I think are phenomenal, and also nature and culture photos from Maine art educator Sarah Sutter, who is currently teaching in Japan:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sutterview/
    I’ve been thinking about how to connect some of my students with a small multi-grade school on an island in BC, and I think I now want it to be a blog focused where children can share and discuss images….
    thank, as always : )

    • pamelamoran says:

      Melissa,

      Thank you for your note on this post- I love the idea of a blog share with focus on their natural world- am playing with how to use snippet vids as learning opps with kids. Keep me posted and thanks for all the links!

      pam

  4. We are thinking about In The Heights for our spring musical. No time today but I will be back to watch the video.
    Thanks,
    Sarah

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