Below is the written version of this video. But I advise watching the video. WAY more fun! (Hint: There's actual footage of me jumping on the back of an alligator)
Do you remember the Crocodile Hunter?
Well I have a confession: when I was a freshmen in high school, I was obsessed with the Crocodile Hunter. I mean, I was wore this same shirt to class pictures, had a gold crocodile necklace, started saying things like Crikey as if it was part of my normal everyday speech, I wore an empty knife sheath around to look cool, I collected Steve Irwin action figures, and my AIM screen name was Trevor Croc Hunter. I desperately wanted to be Steve Irwin, the Croc Hunter.
I don’t think you understand the depths of my infatuation. You know what I did with my free-time in high school? I romped around the woods barefoot in search of alligators that I could rescue from poachers and safely place back in lakes (Video-evidence in the video above). DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME, KIDS.
When I look back at myself in high school, and think about this identity I formed, I realize I was a total dork, a kid who seriously knew how to geek out about something. I was passionate about being like Steve Irwin. What’s funny is that at this same time in my life I wasn’t passionate about school. I was either bored out of my mind and falling asleep in every class, or I was getting trouble because I was doing things as a result of being bored out of my mind.
And if you were my teacher in math, or English, or science, or history class, you might not think I was a very passionate person. My attitude didn’t show it. My grades would certainly did not reflect that. To my teachers, I looked pretty apathetic.
But these khakis proved otherwise.
I just didn’t care about school. I can only imagine what school would have been like if someone would have harnessed some of this passion in the classroom. I’ve been guilty of this myself as a teacher. I have students who on the outside look totally disinterested and even boring- until you get them talking about dirt bikes, or anime, cosplay, youth group, painting, or whatever, and then you realize these kids are not boring, they’re just bored.
And isn’t that a shame?
That we would have this place that often doesn’t welcome and utilize this passion that is inherent in our students? That we have an obligatory system that many, many students are not excited about? It’s wrong to me. School should be all about harnessing their passion, and introducing new things for them to be passionate about.
And that includes getting them excited about reading, writing, math, working hard, and all the other traditional subjects of school. I'm a huge proponent of teaching and learning this subject matter. But it also means finding ways to do it that engage, are experiential, are memorable- that are epic.
Which isn’t easy work. It takes some time, and creativity, trying new things and sometimes failing. But it’s worth that effort, and spending the time, searching for new ideas, and stretching our mindsets about how we view school.
So that we can take kids like this one and get them passionate about being in your classroom.