Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

Recently, I was in another Voxer group chat that really pushed my thinking. The premise went something like this:

When you’re interacting with other educators on your team, your staff, or even in an interview, should you share anything about your passion projects?

At first, I was taken aback. I thought: Why not? I mean, why wouldn’t you share the topics, causes, interests, and endeavors that you’re super passionate about? After all, aren’t passion projects a part of who you are? If you’re so inspired to act on passions through projects and other outlets, then isn’t that part of your identity? Why would you ever hide that or simply leave it out?

Perhaps, some passion projects might come across as intimidating and overpowering. Others might feel threatened by exuberant educators. Maybe, the passion project risks misalignment with the school, district, or organization’s mission statement. In addition, what if your all-consuming passion project might be interpreted out of context and, ultimately, serve as a major distraction from the overall purpose and job description?

These things are important to think through–especially in the field of education.

Maybe there’s a time and place for everything? Maybe there’s a time and place for your book, your youtube channel, your blog, your vlog, and your next big idea. Maybe there’s a time and place for your portfolio, your podcast, and your next presentation. Maybe there’s a time and place for your classroom crafting, your teachers-pay-teachers site, and all of your social media platforms.

Yet, maybe it’s more about knowing who you are, how your strengths can most appropriately serve others, and understanding who you need to be in different spaces

What ARE Passion Projects?

Many educators work second and third jobs to better make ends meet. Sometimes, people figure out creative ways to get paid for their hobbies, crafts, and expertise. They have successfully converted their passion projects into for-profit endeavors. I marvel at their creativity, ambitions, and marketing strategies.

Yet, when I first heard the phrase passion project, I was thinking about all those things educators do for which they might not necessarily get paid in money. I was thinking more about the passion and the cause than the projects themselves. Perhaps, the real premise behind passion projects is kind of like the reason people choose to enter the education profession in the first place: their ultimate return on investment is more than a paycheck.

From the Heart: Passion

Whether your project yields returns in the form of money, job satisfaction, or personal fulfillment, it’s really about the passion. Nearly inherent in its definition, the word passion overflows from the heart with such authenticity that one is inspired to act. A passion project is something that you want to do, it’s not something that you have to do.

I would argue that even if you know educators who make any amount of money in their extra ventures, that that project ultimately stemmed from and flowed out of a burning passion. Acknowledging this?

That matters.

My favorite experiences are the ones where I can literally feel the passion of others all throughout their project. It’s almost like their sincerity walks up to you, embraces you, and invites you along for the ride. Even if you weren’t familiar with whatever this project might be all about, you suddenly find yourself all about it just because of that one educator’s passion. That’s powerful. And that’s why I believe that passion projects are personal investments.

In fact, when I think of educators whose work influenced me in meaningful ways, I often only know these educators by their passion projects–and not by their official titles. To many, their passion projects are their identity. Stating this underscores the value in personal investments.

From the Passion: Projects

Don’t get me wrong–there’s nothing wrong with educators making money for their hard work. In fact, I applaud and celebrate educators who leverage their expertise, experience, and craft to supplement a living wage.

In addition, know what’s going to supplement your professional learning? Passion Projects. Personal Investments.

Coming out of the COVID Era, it’s never been more apparent: We’re in the age of seeking out your own professional development and professional learning opportunities, and in your own asynchronous time and place. There’s a time and place to extend your professional learning. Maybe it’s right now, right where you are. Maybe it’s later, in your happy place. Regardless, the access, on-ramps, flexibility, platforms, and networks to professional learning opportunities about which you might be passionate have never been more available–anytime, anywhere. Acknowledging this… in the appropriate time and place, and with the appropriate people?

That matters.

What’s Your Passion Project?

I love blogging. My wife often asks me: “What do you get out of blogging?” In addition to a few more reasons why I love blogging, the main reason is that it helps me deeply process an idea, concern, or part of my life about which I’m so passionate, that I’m inspired to reflect upon it in writing. I get to research, cite sources, arrange parts of text, think wrestle through ideas, justify the why, evidence rationales, and gain invaluable perspective to make more sense of the world around me. In this process, I don’t always find my voice right away. I don’t always express everything exactly how I want to say it. It’s far from perfect. And most of the time? I don’t think anyone else even reads my blogs. Yet, knowing that it’s less about a static, one-and-done event and more about a dynamic, ongoing journey is freeing and fulfilling to me.

While I write for my own learning purposes and professional growth, there’s value-added when other educators and network members interact, comment, provide feedback, or contact me on front and back channels to extend the conversations. That’s super valuable to me. In fact, I get more out of this collective think tank than even the best conference presentation, book study, or organized PD. That’s a personal investment that yields priceless returns to me.


What’s Your Passion Project Personal Investment? I’d love to learn all about it.

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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