The Energy of Education

What if your lesson plans were a complete blank slate? What if you did not worry about your administrator asking to see standards alignment or when you could cover this, that, and the other thing that feels less than important? What lesson would you teach? What would fill that slate? Would you teach about the stars and constellations? The nuanced writing of John Steinbeck? The mysteries of the Indus Valley Civilization? A statistical approach to constructing a professional baseball roster?


It’s no secret students are energized by a teacher’s mood, attitude, and enthusiasm. When we’re excited and positive, students adopt a similar stance. The reverse is also true. It is its own law of the conservation of energy: what we put out; students take in. This energy relationship doesn’t mean we should necessarily teach with our hair on fire; it does mean we should teach with our souls aflame, though.


We have lived through (and may still be living through) days of scripted curriculum, mandated lessons and books, and test prep frenzy. But these constraints should not stifle our passion. We became educators for a reason: there are lessons teachers teach that jump off the page and stick with students for years. We live for those moments. More importantly, we know – despite what some might want us to believe – good teaching takes care of the test, the mandates, the standards. We also know our best days teaching are the days where we get to teach what we love to teach, whether it a particular book, topic, idea, or equation.


Whether it’s using primary sources to engage in a discussion about the national parks (a favorite topic of mine) or calculating the precession of the earth to calculate true zodiac signs, passion can always find its way into the curriculum. Sure, there are parameters to what you need to cover. The key is to identify the spaces within those boundaries where you can embed content and topics that are close to your heart.


There is no one best way to teach main idea or constructing an argument – the number of topics you could use as a vehicle for having students practice these skills is endless. What car do you want to put your students inside to drive their learning? There is no wrong answer except for maybe accepting the single answer and approach mandated curriculum devises. And you never know, your passion may ignite the passion of your students. Amazing things happen in the classroom when both students and teacher love what they are learning. It makes the journey much more memorable, and isn’t that what this is all about, for you and them?

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