Helping Students Develop Passions: They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

My fifth-grade son is a musher. Wonder what in the world that even is? I did too.

A musher is a driver of a dogsled and Tyson was able to drive a dogsled through the woods in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. And it was one of the best experiences of his life. Heck, it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Before you get all impressed with my parenting because of the diverse experiences I provide my children, I need to tell you that the ONLY reason Tyson and I traveled five hours north last weekend is Ben Braymer. Ben is Tyson’s fifth-grade teacher. I am the lucky principal of their school.

We frequently ask, “How do you support student passions?” I wonder if we need to reframe that question to, “How do we allow students to develop passions?” Students don’t know what they don’t know.

Tyson would NEVER know what a musher was or that he has a passion for dog sledding and huskies if it weren’t for his teacher. His teacher shares his own passions with his students, which not only develops relationships that last a lifetime but also opens students’ eyes to a world of possibilities. Yes, Ben plays basketball with students who love basketball and football with students who love football and dances and sings with students who love that. He meets students where they are. Then, he takes it a million steps further by introducing them to things they had never even heard of, much less dreamed of.

In this one example of many, Tyson read a realistic fiction book about dog sledding, he participated in a Skype with the author of that book, he worked with a team of classmates to build his own dogsled, then he worked at home with his dad to build another, just because he wanted to. He learned about taking care of huskies and the dog sledding culture. Ben did not abandon the common core curriculum, rather he wrapped the curriculum expectations into the dog sledding learning.

I am so lucky to be the principal of Quincy Elementary where this type of passionate learning happens all over the school. Examples of innovation within the box, from Spiderweb Discussions to researching palm oil (second grade no less) to learning how to crochet to Genius Hour to Makerspace to developing a passion for understanding each other. I could not be more proud.

So, tell us. What passions do you share with students that support them in figuring out their own passions?

2 thoughts on “Helping Students Develop Passions: They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know”

  1. Love this story, Allyson, as it’s so important to tap into, or help develop, students’ passions. With older students, a passion can often lead to further exploration and experience pointing toward a possible career but there is no rush on that front. What I see that helps students is a variety of experiences so they have choices and not specializing too early. Some parents tend to push kids in one arena, especially in sports or even music, capitalizing on talents and skills to the exclusion of other possibilities.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing! When I started Genius hour years ago I didn’t realize students didn’t really have a variety of passions or often didn’t know what passion even was. You are so very lucky to work in a culture where this is so important! As a teacher and parent this story really touched my heart and made me smile.

    Liked by 1 person

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