Passion Projects – Aiming Our Marshmallows

Posted: 25th September 2017 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized


I found this quote when I was surfing the net to find some “food for thought” to contribute to a professional learning day for my staff last week.  I like it – it’s a little quirky, not too serious, but also thought provoking.

But the quote kept nudging at me.  I am keen to support voice and choice in student learning, but that’s not what was getting to me.  If we are working to convince educators to support student voice and choice in their learning, shouldn’t we also support voice and choice in educator learning?

Now, that’s not to say that educational leaders don’t support educator voice and choice, but sometimes the structures of learning we are provided limit this.  For example, in my district we are engaging in four cycles of Continuous Learning and Improvement this year.  (This is, essentially, just a new acronym for the plan/act/assess/reflect cycle of various acronyms we have participated in for many years).  These cycles are fast paced in our already fast-paced school year.  As a result, it will be really difficult to focus on teacher professional learning in a meaningful way and the time will be spent on focusing on looking at student data, planning instruction, measuring progress and planning again.

Student learning cycles may be good for focusing on student learning, but does it always help educators:

  • reflect on their own learning?
  • feel their interests and passions in education are valued?
  • find their own voice?

I’m not so sure it always does these things.  Also, I worry that having only a few months for each cycle of learning will not give teachers enough time to find their niche in deep learning.  I don’t want to just throw marshmallows at my teachers’ heads and call it professional learning.

I strongly believe that the best teachers are those who are excited about learning, invigorated by their jobs and keen to create new experiences for their students.  And I also believe that the best way for them to be excited about student learning is to allow them to be excited about their own learning.

So, we’re going to try something new for our school.  In addition to participating in the CLI cycles to focus on student learning and improvement, we’re also going to engage in teacher professional learning that is a little different.  It has:

  • educator voice
  • educator choice
  • an open learning stance
  • opportunities to share and learn from one another
  • opportunities to learn ABOUT one another
  • time to mull
  • opportunities to learn how to connect to student learning and student needs
  • passion

We’re using the premise of passion projects that are so popular in our classrooms and bringing it to the staff room.  Why?  Well, one of my colleagues asked me to create an “elevator speech” to explain why passion projects for staff.  Here’s what I came up with:

To me, a teacher passion project is the opportunity for learners to invigorate their practice or experience by digging into learning that connects to their interests, questions and passions.  It allows for self-directed, self-paced learning, reflection, collaboration and sharing.  It’s benefits include further professional knowledge that will affect one’s own teaching and student learning, and an excitement for personal inquiry.

I don’t know yet how it is going to go.  Right now, the staff at my school have discussed and researched some passion possibilities, and have started to plan some of their learning and how it connects to what they want for their students.  As the year goes on, I hope to learn whether this is a good way to support educator and student learning.

So that’s how a quote about marshmallows led me to educator passion projects.  But now I’m curious.  How do other people ensure that educator learning is as valued and important as student learning in our schools?


  1. adunsige says:

    Kristi, I just love this, and I’m very curious to hear how others answer your final question. I’d also love to hear more about these “passion projects for teachers.” I think this speaks to the tremendous value for adult professional learning. I’ll admit that it’s usually through the reflection on my professional blog that I determine next steps and areas of interest for my own learning. I think this is so important. How did your teachers respond?