- When was the last time you examined the passion you have for your subject matter? I daresay that your academic passion for a particular subject is what started you on your path toward higher education. Why? Because it's hard to study a subject for years and years without being passionate about it. Let's take a moment to think about why you are so passionate about the subject you teach. Remember, passion is a strong inclination or desire toward an activity or subject that drives a person to invest and energy in that activity or subject.
Why does passion matter? It matters because passion is motivational, inspirational, and transformational, and few individuals have as much opportunity to ignite passion in the incoming generation as professors. So be a passionate professor. To be a passionate professor is to be someone who is deeply committed and involved with their discipline and their students. It is to be a person who is stirred by the ideas, concepts, and issues facing your field.
A passionate educator is someone drawn by the opportunity to share knowledge with others. Now, I get it. You may not be teaching the subject you love. Maybe you have to teach an introductory course or some subject vaguely related to your passion. But stop and think. Your passion had to start somewhere. You didn't jump into a higher level class or begin groundbreaking research your first day of college. Now you have your chance to use your introductory course to ignite that passionate spark in a new student.
Take that chance, and light that spark. So how do you share your passion with students? First, let them know why you're passionate about your academic field. Do you like the intrigue of discovering meaning in ancient documents? Do you relish in this discovery of new knowledge? Do you enjoy putting pieces together of history? List out the attributes of your subject that you are passionate about, and share that list. Take time each class period to review with students why you are passionate about your subject and why they should be passionate as well.
Even if those students don't become passionate in your discipline, ideally they will become passionate in some discipline, and you will have served as a model of how to share academic passion and how to pursue what drives you. Think of what the subject matter and your passion mean to you specifically. What do you do that is different from a person who might be dispassionate about your subject? What does your passion allow you to overcome? Why does your passion allow you to persevere in difficult times? Answering these questions in front of your students on a regular basis will demonstrate how passionate researchers, teachers, and learners live their lives, and how they share that passion with others.
Another way to share passion with students is to tell them about the larger community of dedicated educators who care about the subject. Every discipline has one or more organizations of people who share a common interest. Provide information about those organizations, their websites, conferences, and meetings with students. If you go to a conference, come back and share the experience with the students. What did you do? Who did you meet? What did you see? These experiences share the passion you and others have for the field.
Finally, why do you want to be a passionate professor? Because it has motivational and emotional properties. Your academic passion will drive students to action and help them see the relevance and joy in the subject you are teaching. When you are passionate about a subject, or your students, or ideally both, it is contagious, and students work hard for professors who are enthusiastic about what they are doing.
- Respecting your students
- Conveying your passion for teaching
- Maintaining academic rigor
- Engaging students in and out of class
- Making learning active
- Staying current
- Continually improving your teaching
- Publishing your work
- Being flexible
- Connecting to the outside world
- Collaborating with peers