The Case for Passion and the Scholastic Awards

Most education doesn’t prioritize passion. Maybe it can’t - in a traditional middle or high school environment, teachers are challenged to juggle the different interests of many (and often too many) students, in addition to any number of external requirements (school and statewide learning goals, college readiness, etc). Yes, a great teacher can navigate these obstacles and help many of their students find inspiration in the material, but we do ourselves a disservice if we don’t acknowledge the reality that this is exceptional- most of the time, most students aren’t passionate about most of their learning.

It’s not hard to see that when students lack passion, their work suffers. They’re more easily distracted, more inclined to careless mistakes, less able to internalize the material, less willing to give it the time that it deserves. These kinds of poor results can generate negative self-talk, which prompts students to further disengage. It's also a cycle that can make the many hours that students dedicate to schoolwork exhausting and demoralizing- leaving students drained and leading to a whole host of other issues.

This certainly describes a lot of my experiences growing up. That’s why, looking back, I feel especially grateful for a few specific projects that inspired passion. They empowered my curiosity and my critical thinking, and, in doing so, they taught me HOW to engage deeply with my schoolwork. Armed with that information, I found myself more able to take ownership over my other assignments- to identify passion in projects that may not have initially caught my attention or grabbed my imagination, and then to harness it in order to more fully realize my potential. In this way, a few exceptional assignments transformed me as a learner.

As educators, we aspire to facilitate this sort of engagement. Tutoring is a gift in that way- with only one student to consider, it’s a lot easier to tailor the process to their individual interests. Some projects are particularly well suited for this, and, in my experience, none more so than the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.