For me it involves my God, my family, and my chosen career.
This week, I had the opportunity, as I do for three out of four Sundays, to preach for churches in Columbus, Kansas, and Nevada, Missouri.
This week, I had the opportunity to watch my daughter perform at Stained Glass Theatre Joplin, in their stage production of The Near-Sighted Knight and the Far-Sided Dragon. We're always proud of both of our children.
And as for my chosen career, perhaps it's not the highest-paying job, but it's often quite rewarding.
Sometimes passion reveals itself as something else. Sometimes, when the things we love the most fail to work out the way we envision, passion appears as negativity. That has happened in recent years in the field of education. With No Child Left Behind, we confronted looming expectations that were impossibly unrealistic. With Race to the Top, our high standards and higher-order thinking were threatened in the name of equity among schools and states.
Locally, we have faced many issues that have presented concerns, both before and after our EF5 tornado of 2011. Packaged programs and canned presentations became the expectation from administrators with little to no regard for teacher strengths. Quixotic expectations from a purely scientific approach to teaching became the norm, with no thought of the art and joy of teaching.
Big government's increasing attempt of controlling local classrooms, state politicians who trade Common Core for something that is word-for-word the same as Common Core in hopes of appeasing (read, "fooling") the patrons of our state, and administrators' attempts to micromanage every aspect of every classroom all seek to destroy the professionalism of the teacher. When teachers become minions to political whims and pet projects, we are no longer respected members of the team.
Teachers must remember that we work for the government, but we must make note that our government is uniquely of the people, by the people, and for the people - including but not limited to politicians and bosses: we must remember that we serve our students first!
Sometimes passion reveals itself as something else. It can be perceived as negativity and whining when, in reality, is in frustration that we aren't being allowed to do the things that may serve our students the best. It may be that we want so badly to achieve that we don't know how to address the things that are out of our control. We find ourselves jumping through hoops, sorting through red tape, pushing paperwork, and running ourselves out of time and energy to do so - all while trying to retain our passion and joyfully motivate children to improve.
It's hard to motivate through testing, but that's all I'm going to say about that.
It's hard to motivate students with engaging lessons when meetings take up a teacher's time to prepare, but that's all I need to say about that.
It's hard to motivate when a teacher survives in fear of failure and failure is defined by a single student who doesn't significantly improve during a specified time limit, but that that's all I'm going to mention about that.
Don't be fooled by the "positive" rhetoric. We are often honor-bound to be loyal and present a positive face for our employers. We often feel like that duck in the pond - peacefully floating above the surface while paddling furiously below just to maintain our position.
I fully believe that Joplin Schools can be a shining beacon in the global educational world where these issues abound, but I'm smart enough to realize that we cannot - and will not ever - do that by using the same materials and methodology as our neighbors, the so-called "experts" in San Francisco, New York City, or the District of Columbia. We can only shine a beacon when we are let off of our leashes, allowed to think and work outside of "the box", and innovate beyond our wildest dreams.
Our passions are the keys to unlimited success.