Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Can Anything be Taught?

At the start of every year I remind my teachers that we can’t take things for granted and assume that our students know things without being taught. Therefore especially when it comes to certain behaviors we shouldn’t assume our student know what the proper behavior is but that we as teachers need to model it and teach it. I don’t remember when I heard this idea nor when I actually believed it was true. I do believe it to be true but I was skeptical at first that anything and everything be taught. Can we teach kindness? Can we teach empathy? I believe we can model it give examples of it and yes for certain grades and ages we can “teach it”.

What about teachers. I have mentioned more than once that you need to lead by example and show your teachers what you want and except. However are there things that can’t be taught?

In the last few days there have been a number of tweets and blog posts about Passion and Enthusiasm, two things which I believe are crucial for a good teacher. However personally I am not sure that these two things can be taught. You either are passionate about what you do or you are not. You either enjoy and love teaching and instill this love and enthusiasm in your students or you don’t. I have heard some say that in the classroom they put on a good act and show enthusiasm. Honestly I think if you do that then you are selling your students short and aren’t given them enough credit. Students know when you truly love teaching and care and love them and when you are faking it.

Do you agree that you can’t teach Passion and Enthusiasm and are there other things we just can’t teach. Please share what you think

I promised myself I wouldn’t get sucked back into the debate about reform etc. I believe my feelings are clear on that. But before we talk about curriculum and before we talk about testing and NCLB or any of the other issues that have come up we need to in the words of Jim Collins get the right people on the bus and the bus pass must only be given to those who are truly passionate and enthusiastic about education and helping children grow and learn.

My thoughts


  1. Actually I think passion and enthusiasm are things we extinguish. The real goal should be to find ways to keep them alive.

  2. Wm Chamberlain,

    Thank you for your comment, truthfully I never thought of it that way.
    Thank you for sharing

  3. My initial reaction is similar to William's. While I believe most educators are passionate about learning, the varied obligations and responsibilities of working in formal education causes our passion and enthusiasm to both wax and wane. When the students are thoughtful and engaged, when the curriculum is interesting, when the colleagues are caring, these are among the longlist of things that cause my enthusiasm to peak. At the same time, I could give an equally long list of things that zap my fervor. The fact is we are not "super heroes." We are humans called to share ourselves and our love of learning with our students. I think it is important that the students see that I, too, sometimes struggle with motivation. I, too, am not always my best version of me. They need to see an honest me, but also know that I will attempt to do my best even when I'm not feeling it.

    My wish is that school leaders (both administrators and teachers) would look for ways to lessen the effects of those things that drain enthusiasm and build up educators who have lost the zeal of the first week of school. We may not be able to "be awesome" every day, but as professional educators who love students and love learning, we can work hard, be honest, and model for students that you always give your best no matter how you may feel.

  4. Phillip
    I agree with you and William 100%.
    My point was really two fold and I probably didn't express myself clearly.
    The first issue is can we teach and model passion and enthusiasm and is it something that people just have naturally.
    Secondly is that there are teachers that I believe either based on their comments or their actions are in the wrong profession.
    That being said I do agree with the comments that administrators need to build on the passion that most teachers do have and we shouldn't try to take steps to increase their passion rather than as William said extinguish it.
    I hope this clarifies my position
    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts. the only way we can learn is through open and honest conversations
    Have a Great weekend