Encourage a hobby, inspire a passion

Students need teachers to help them develop their interests. Sometimes, what begins as merely a hobby can turn into a passion. The teacher is the one who fans the flames and turns that burning ember into a forest fire!

We can inspire students to pursue their interests with more gusto:

Tutor: Ask open-ended questions that help students to identify their interests.

Teacher: Assign work that helps students make connections between schoolwork and their extra-curricular activities.

Mentor: Give students an idea of the careers that are available in their field.

Coach: Challenge students to try for the next level of achievement, testing their commitment – and perhaps fueling a passion!


Marsalis compares jazz improvisation to cruisin’ through town in a beautiful car.

Develop Characters with Renoir

The Luncheon of the Boating Party (TPC) is a dynamic work that possesses every possible social interaction. Pastoral dwellers pass the time with Parisians while politicians parley with poets. This picture affords wonderful opportunities to discuss character types.

Imagine that this picture represents a scene in a novel. Who is the main character, and what is their story?


Luncheon of the Boating Party, Auguste Renoir, The Phillips Collection
[Image: http://www.phillipscollection.org]

Try to identify the dynamic and static characters.  Who would the main character’s foil be? 

You might also draw inspiration from the true identities of those pictured.  Each person represents someone in Renoir’s circle.  Visit this page at The Phillips Collection website to learn more.

This whimsical performance from a two-person horse was choreographed by Léonide Massine, with set and costumes by Pablo Picasso.

I can only imagine that you would need a very complicated logarithm to account for her movements!

The Process of Summer

Summer is the ideal time in which to process what you learned during the school year.  “Processing” sounds boring, but it means having fun and incorporating what you learned into your own life!


Kids Building Castle, Mariann Everleye

Project learning is a great activity for the summer, because you have time to let the project take on a life of its own.  You could choose something that was interesting during the year but was left unfinished because of a busy schedule.  

Of course, visiting museums is a great way to pick up threads of learning.  Spend time in the exhibit discussing what you see.  Ask if it relates back to anything they learned in school this year.  

Creative writing is a great activity for that time in the day when its just too hot to be outside.  Setting a time limit (even 10 minutes) keeps it manageable.  

Summer camps are great too, but sometimes they can begin to feel like school, with so many activities and rules.  Make sure they have time to merely be and think and experiment!  Unstructured time can lead to interesting discoveries.  This is the time to let kids be kids!

More summer learning ideas from Barbara Dianis.

Prompting Summer



@ThatsEarth -Thanks!

The Writer

By Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house

Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,

My daughter is writing a story.


I pause in the stairwell, hearing

From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys


Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.


Young as she is, the stuff

Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:

I wish her a lucky passage.


But now it is she who pauses,

As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.

A stillness greatens, in which


The whole house seems to be thinking,

And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor

Of strokes, and again is silent.


I remember the dazed starling

Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;

How we stole in, lifted a sash


 And retreated, not to affright it;

And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,

We watched the sleek, wild, dark


And iridescent creature

Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove

To the hard floor, or the desk-top,


And wait then, humped and bloody,

For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits

Rose when, suddenly sure,


It lifted off from a chair-back,

Beating a smooth course for the right window

And clearing the sill of the world.



It is always a matter, my darling,

Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish

What I wished you before, but harder.


Last January, I wrote about the advice that my professor gave me: to wonder actively.  He also had another saying that he reiterated frequently: maintain a critical perspective.  This is something that I struggle with in my academic life – and in my personal life. 

ImagePerhaps maintaing a critical perspective is about being in a “zone” between not caring about or not noticing things and being overly analytical.  Could this be related to Leo Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)?

Vygotsky’s theory asks us to assess student performance not in a moment, but over time.  The job of the mentor is to help the student to find that Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) in which activities are challenging, but not overwhelming.

Recently, I have been seeing ZPD’s everywhere!  I love figure skating, especially the older skaters like Sonja Henie.  They usually only performed single or double jumps, but their moves were unbelievable to audiences at that time.  Now women are completing triple axels!  What happened?  The human body has not evolved significantly over the last fifty years!

Perhaps the Olympic athletes who continue to push the envelope in their fields are rewarded for being in this Zone of Proximal Development.  They push the limits of their minds and their bodies, imagining the possibilities just outside the realm of what they can do.

Summer of Writing

It’s getting warm, school is winding down, and it is a great time to… work on your writing!  The romance and beauty of summer have inspired many writers, and you could be one of them!  Over these next hot months its almost too much to ask to just sit by the pool and slowly scribble in a journal.  

Here is what I wrote, as a sophomore in college in Ojai, on the very first page of my writing journal:

“I am sitting at the beach.  The sun is shining, a breeze is blowing, and I am writing in my journal.  This is my first entry in my new journal.  I wonder what I’ll write.  

I love the way the clouds spread out, running parallel to the earth.  They limit the upward view, so boundless otherwise.  Likewise, mountains limit the sideways view, boundless also not for lack of end but lack of definition.

The trees up on the mountain look huge from here!  They seem to be in their own world.  I’ve noticed that before.  Because they’re so far away, but yet so visible, you could say mountains are a peak into another world. HAHAHA!!!

I have nothing to say about the sea.  It’s all divided up.  Can it be thought about?”

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