Passion in Learning and Teaching | Work Passion | Steve Barkley
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Passion in Teaching and Learning

The title of an article, The difference between engagement and motivation matters. Here’s why, caught my attention. Author and consultant, Susan Fowler describes employee work passion (EWP).

 EWP, employee work passion, is a persistent, emotionally positive, meaning-based state of well-being stemming from reoccurring cognitive and emotional appraisals of various job and organizational situations that result in consistent, constructive, work intentions.

As school leaders are approaching the start of a new school year, EWP seemed a great focus for how teachers and students engage in teaching and learning.

passion on card

Fowler shared that EWP is characterized by five positive intentions:

  • Performs above standard expectations.
  • Uses discretionary effort on behalf of the organization.
  • Endorses the organization and its leadership to others outside the organization.
  • Uses altruistic citizenship behaviors toward all stake-holders.
  • Stays with the organization.

Sounds to me like a great set of intentions for classrooms and schools. The article identifies that motivation is a key to generating EWP and differentiates between optimal and sub-optimal motivation. Consider how and what motivational elements you want to build into the start of year. Fowler compares optimal motivation to a healthy snack that builds energy across time for perseverance verses an unhealthy sugar snack (suboptimal motivation) that gives you a quick rush and then you crash and burn.

  • You create optimal motivation through aligning with values, connecting to purpose, and the pure joy of doing something without the need for an external reward. Abundant research proves that optimal motivation leads to higher creativity, innovation, sustained high performance, and health and well-being.
  • You create suboptimal motivation when you are motivated by rewards, money, power, status, image, fear and pressure. Suboptimal motivation undermines your results, both in the short- and long-term.

The work of Randy Conley and Drea Zigarmiun covers twelve factors of EWP categorized as organizational, job, and relationship factors. (You can find them here.) I’ve selected two that I believe deserve attention as leaders plan for the opening of school interactions with staff and as teachers plan for creating classroom culture:

Autonomy – The extent to which individuals can choose how tasks are performed, are trusted to do their jobs, and can make decisions.

WOW book

What jumps to my mind are the opening day activities where high school students sit in homeroom, advisory, or first period class and read through the student handbook. Don’t think I’ve seen one yet that illustrates where autonomy and trust are described. I have found in some on these schools, teachers signed in and out of the first day staff meeting where they received the faculty handbook. If such activities are required by your system, until they can be changed, consider how you can counter them. I’m recalling the district that invited me to be the opening motivational speaker. Before I was introduced the audience was informed that following me would be a presentation on retirement guidelines.

“I will never cover rules the first day of school again! Catching students with
a WOW the first day was amazing and powerful.”

— Ruth Angert, Florida High School Teacher

Start your year with WOWs. Here are several blogs that explore possibilities.   How will you show your passion? What autonomy can teachers and students envision for the coming year? What choices might people make opening day?

Collaboration – The extent to which the organization encourages the sharing of ideas, teamwork, and collaboration.

Teaming for me means shared responsibilities for outcomes…. common goals. In classrooms, problem-based learning often provides an opportunity for students to have a truly shared ownership of responsibility and outcome. Too often, I find students sitting in groups, each with their own “paper to be handed in”. While there may be some sharing or helping present, it’s rare for students to be responsible for the learning of others. To what extent will first week of school activities illustrate a collaborative expectation for students?

Teachers often describe administrators using the term teams but working with teachers more as franchise owners, responsible for “their” students’ success. Consider starting the year setting some vertical or across content area goals, giving staff shared responsibility. As an example:  Have grade six teachers assess students’ current writing skills and working with 7th and 8th grade LA teachers, set goals for those students to achieve by the end of 8th grade.  You can then work back to end of 7th and 6th. As a department team, they can meet quarterly identifying student progress toward the goals. Next year, as 7th graders, those students have last year’s, this year’s, and next year’s teachers teaming toward a common goal. Sessions can be held with cross curricular teachers looking at student writing samples from their classes and getting input from LA teachers on writing tasks and the feedback students are receiving. Shared goals building shared responsibility and teamwork. (Here is a blog illustrating collaboration in PLCs.) How will you be illustrating collaboration as the school year starts?

What purposeful actions will you take to generate optimal motivation? …. Aligning with values, connecting to purpose, and the pure joy of doing something without the need for an external reward.

Here is wishing you a great start to the school year with high work passion!

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