Digital Leading and Learning · My Digital Path · My Learning Manifesto

Idealism and Realism- Can We Have Both?

I would like to preface this post with the warning that I am really struggling with these concepts. The reason for this is that I still don’t know if I fully agree or disagree with them. These classroom environment and education shifts revolve around personalization. We need to help students find their passions, use their imaginations, think creatively, and learn holistically. While I 100% agree, I just don’t know if the shifts are right for everyone.

Ken Robinson’s speech in the video, Bring on the Learning Revolution (2010) makes complete sense as an overall concept, but I find it interesting how Mike Rowe’s speech, Learning from Dirty Jobs (2009) contradicts a foundational idea. Robinson believes in creating learning environments that help students discover and cultivate their passions (TED, 2010) where Rowe states that the advice to follow his passion “is probably the worst advice [he’s] ever gotten” (TED, 2009). Rowe continues by explaining how some of the most successful and happy individuals are not doing what they love, but instead found a way to deviate from the paths others have chosen. I agree with Rowe more than Robinson because not everyone can follow their passions. It is important to love what you do, but that does not mean it began that way.

Herein lies part 1 of my dilemma. Not everyone can follow their passions, so what skills do students NEED to be successful in case their passion becomes a pastime as opposed to a profession? How can I create a classroom environment that both encourages them to do what they love while maintaining an understanding that it may not be a payable option in the future?

My goal in each of my classes is to create and environment and be a resource that helps students love learning. For some, this means I need to use the carrot and the stick autonomy because they have lost their intrinsic motivation to learn. Unfortunately some kids have such negative experiences with school/adults/life that they lose that innate desire. I believe they need rewards to hopefully get them to a place where they realize learning is fun. Other students love learning and would flourish just as those in the Atlassian example from Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us (The RSA, 2010). When they are given time and freedom to work as they please, the results are often exceedingly higher than ever expected. And of course, there are those in between. These are the students who, when given this time and freedom, produce the minimum and say, “I’ll just do it when I get home” because here they are surrounded by their friends and have the opportunity to socialize. I have tried all of these environments and, because I teach college preparatory (which consists of all three types of learners I described), deciding on the best environment greatly depends on which student I am taking into account.

This is part 2 of my dilemma. I want to create the atmosphere in which kids can flourish, but how can I do that for all 28-30 students if they all require a different atmosphere? How can I be sure to give the freedom and organized chaos that many kids want/need, while respecting the structure and silence others desire?

I suppose after all of this I have realized that like the current, linear education system we are currently using, the personalized revolution also won’t work for everyone. Perhaps it is a combination of both that needs to be applied. Is it possible to create an environment in which the frustrated student who has felt little positive reinforcement can begin to love learning, while at the same time the intrinsically motivated student can collaborate freely with peers to not only meet standards and growth, but do so through play and passion? And in this same environment, will the students who find value in education but are preoccupied with typical teenage topics become life-long learners? These are the questions that cause me to hesitate. It isn’t that I am stuck in the past and afraid of change; it is that I believe the methods of the past are necessary for certain audiences just like those of the revolution are needed for others. I am only beginning to understand my learning philosophy, but at the core of my beliefs is the idea that truly passionate learners are this way because they love to learn about anything. This is the challenge: how can I create an environment in which students love to learn about everything and anything, not just their passions?


The RSA. (2010). RSA ANIMATE: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us [Audio file]. Retrieved from

TED. (2009). Mike Rowe: Learning from dirty jobs [Audio file]. Retrieved from

TED. (2010). Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! [Audio file]. Retrieved from


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