No more passion!

At the recent Early Childhood Australia conference the terms passion and passionate were used repeatedly. People outside the profession used them, at times patronisingly, to describe educators and their work. Educators described themselves as passionate about children and their work.

My online dictionary defines passion as ‘strong and barely controllable emotion; a state or outburst of such emotion; intense sexual love; an intense desire or enthusiasm for something; a thing arousing enthusiasm’. Is that really how we want to portray ourselves?  Does highlighting passion contribute to advocacy for greater respect and status for the profession? How accurately does ‘passion’ capture the complexity of the work you do?

Enthusiasm suggests liveliness, energy, and perseverance in the face of obstacles – a necessary quality for educators. Passion, on the other hand, suggests irrationality, actions based on feelings, lack of thought. It conjures up an image of a way of working that is the opposite of intentionality. Passion is incompatible with critical reflection.

The EYLF and the NQS advocate consciousness about what you are aiming for in your practice, why you are doing what you are doing (your intentions) and how you go about it. They also emphasise being able to articulate these ideas. Passion can interfere with articulating clearly. Members of our profession need to be dispassionately articulate, to appreciate that the complexity of good practice isn’t obvious to others. The distinction between mediocre and excellent practice is subtle.

People in professions with high status can afford to talk about being passionate. In high-status professions everyone accepts that those who are in them bring talent, formal qualifications, broad and deep knowledge and extensive skills to their work. Sadly we are not in such a profession. Singling out passion as the number one requirement works against increasing appreciation of the work of educators by others!

We owe it to others to be able to explain and justify our values, beliefs and practices. We can’t do that unless we understand them ourselves. Passion won’t get us very far! In fact, uninformed passion or passion without intelligence diminishes our profession.

The intentions of users of the terms passion and passionate are always positive and complimentary, but their use doesn’t help to enlighten about the complexity and importance of the work that educators do.

My suggestion: let’s abandon the words passion and passionate and instead use terms such as committed, intelligent, enthusiastic, intellectually curious, thoughtful, open to learning, reflective, skilled, creative, compassionate, empathetic and enthusiastic to describe educators and their work.Alternatively, use the terms passion and passionate if you must, but always pair them with words that more accurately reflect what you do and demonstrate respect for the work of educators.

The next time you’re tempted to describe yourself or a colleague as a passionate early childhood educator, think again!

Why are the terms passion and passionate so prominent in descriptions of members of the early childhood education and care profession?

What effect do those terms have? 

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Anne Stonehouse

Anne Stonehouse AM lives in Victoria and works as a consultant, writer and facilitator of professional learning in early childhood. She has published many books, articles and other resources for educators and parents. Her main professional interests are the nature of good quality curriculum for babies and toddlers and family-educator relationships in early learning settings. She was a member of the writing team in the Charles Sturt University-based consortium that developed the national Early Years Learning Framework. She is currently engaged in a number of projects related to the national and Victorian Frameworks.

2 thoughts on “No more passion!”

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