This year, my students have been enjoying their passion projects. I still have a lot to learn and there are certain things that I want to do differently next year, but this allocated time for exploring passions (commonly known as Genius Hour) has been one of the most rewarding parts of teaching this year. It is also, undoubtedly, my students’ favourite part of the week. In an upcoming post, I’ll reflect on my first year of passion projects, what worked well and my areas for development. This post, however, is just a quick reflection on why I wish I’d started sooner.
On Friday night, I attended the Year Five Celebration Dinner for our PYP graduates. As a Year Four teacher, I taught many of these students last year. It was wonderful to celebrate their achievements and acknowledge what fantastic young people they are. We wish them every success in secondary school and beyond.
For the yearbook (titled ‘Dream BIG’) the students were invited to share their hopes and dreams for the future. Here are a few examples from students who were in my class last year:
To be an artist
To be a video game designer
To become a chef
To become a professional basketball player
To be a famous YouTuber
To be famous for something I am good at doing
In particular, the last one got me thinking. It perhaps implies that she doesn’t yet know what she is good at. As I read these, a thought struck me: I wish I’d started doing passion projects sooner. I could have supported the students and guided them closer towards these dreams. When I taught these students, I provided very few opportunities (if any) to explore these areas. Many students in my current class have the same passions, but they have been given the time to explore, learn and develop them.
A fantastic quote is spread across the back cover of the album:
“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
I am confident that these students will go on to achieve great things. Many of them will achieve the dreams that they outlined in the book while many others will find new passions and talents along the way. However, this will only happen if they are given the time to discover and develop them. If not at school, when and where should students work towards their dreams? If not teachers, who will guide them? I believe that schools should be providing these opportunities. We have to move away from the idea that only academic progress is important in school.
“Many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not – because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued or was actually stigmatised.”
Sir Ken Robinson
How many of our students feel like their talents are unvalued or stigmatised? How many of them, like the girl mentioned above, have no idea what their talents are? Sir Ken’s famous TED Talk is now over a decade old. It has been watched and rewatched millions of times. The support for his message was and still is overwhelming, and yet the shift seems to be slow. Whatever the reasons, let’s remember this:
“Talent is equally distributed but opportunity is not.”
I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure who Leila Janah is and I’m not sure what the original context for this quote was. However, it is perfect for supporting my point. Like Sir Ken, I believe that all students have talents but, typically, only the academically able would know about theirs from school. Genius Hour is one way of providing opportunities for all children. Let’s spread the word, develop the craft and unlock the passions and talents that lie in all of our students. Like me, consider how many of your former students have left your class without advancing towards their dreams. What more could we have done? What changes can we make for our current and future students?
Like I said, I will post a reflection on how it has gone this year in an upcoming post. For updates, please follow my blog via email or its Facebook page. If you are unfamiliar with Genius Hour (as it is most commonly known), I encourage you to conduct your own research and, if possible, offer it to your students. It might just become the most rewarding part of your job.
I like what Sir Ken suggests in his book The Element, that most people don’t find their passions. They grow them. They practice and get really good at something and it becomes their passion.
I still haven’t read that book, but I would very much like to. I like that thinking, too. It makes sense to me and that’s what I meant by “many others will find new passions and talents along the way”.
It’s interesting to consider the difference between passions and talents. I can see how passions are grown. Are talents also grown, or is there an element of discovery in finding something that you are naturally good at?