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How to Lose Sleep at Night

A passion for education

This week, I began teaching a short, six-week introduction to the orchestra for a group of elementary students. I worried that I’d talk above their grade level or sound simplistic, but I felt better when one of the youngest boys, after listening to a jazz sample meant to showcase the sound of a trombone, exclaimed in amazement: “It sounds like a hotel!”

Exactly, you amazing, hilarious boy.

I was so proud of him for connecting something he knew about (hotel music) to something he didn’t know about (trombones). It lit something inside of him and he understood. That moment is worth my preparation.

In college, one of my political science professors was a young woman with bright red hair. She was new and nobody really knew what to think of her. I was in her class on the U.S. Congress and one day she told us that she couldn’t sleep the night before because she was too excited about teaching that day’s lesson.

And that’s the funny part. We were studying the congressional committee system. And she was thrilled and honored to teach it that day. I have no idea what she taught that class period. But I do remember her passion, her enthusiasm. I wanted it. I remembered it.

The congressional committee system, to most people, is certainly not that interesting. But she made it fascinating. That was one of my favorite classes in college because she took what could have been a horribly dry subject and made it shine.

That is passion.

Several years later, I teach part-time and while I have yet to lose a night’s sleep for anything not related to my son, I still get up early in the morning to teach third grade girls about history, science, and English. And I love it.

Sometimes, I forget they're only in third grade and I find myself making connections between their lesson for the day and the rise of German fascism. It’s way too cool not to. I don’t want them to miss how their simple history lesson is tied to an idea that affected the entire world. If you’ve ever read the whole of history like it’s meant to be read, as a huge story with tie-ins and connections, you’re missing out. It’s what makes teachers heads explode over something as seemingly boring as committees. When you know something well, and you have a passion for others to see it like you do, you can’t help but watch it take over in your classroom.

I want my students and my son to see this: that a passion for learning is much more than reading books and finishing high school. It’s reading about the past, understanding the present, and changing the future.

Even if it’s just telling them how thrilled you are to teach them.

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