Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Thin Line Between Passion...and Anger

"Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion." Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

I am ridiculously thankful to be working in a school district in which the teachers are passionate about not only the content they teach, but more importantly, the young people they teach. One example of our teachers' passion for their profession is the number who have continued laboring since school officially let out for the summer on June 11. Since that day, approximately 25% of our total certified staff have spent one or more days attending professional development opportunities we have hosted or working on our curriculum maps and assessments. Some teachers have worked non-stop since school "officially" dismissed for summer. Passionate teachers like those in Deerfield Public Schools District 109 make it a point to enjoy time away from school, but I have been reminded so far this summer, how many of them also dedicate a large portion of their summer "vacation" to continuing their learning in order to continuously improve their own performance and, in turn, that of the students they teach. Teachers like these are clearly passionate about the job they do and the noble profession of education in general.

The fact that I work alongside so many passionate teachers warms my heart, as I have long been one to espouse the idea of teaching and leading with passion. In fact, when I assumed my first principal position about a decade ago, I began closing all my emails with the following:



Eventually, one brave soul at our school inquired as to what this "TWP" was all about and I shared that it stood for, "Teach With Passion." It soon became a catchphrase our school became known for and even made its way as a recurring theme into one of my books. Today, in my current role as a district level administrator, I find myself sending fairly regular emails to building administrators. On these, I typically encourage my colleagues to "lead with passion" by signing off with:



You might say that teaching and leading with passion, is, well, a passion of mine. So serving as a passion-filled educator is clearly a good thing, widely recognized as a trait for which to be known. Alas, a fine line exists between "Passion" and "Anger." At times, I find myself guilty of crossing this line. Each time I do, I end up feeling a bit embarrassed. More importantly, I am disappointed, because while I agree with Hegel in the above quote that nothing truly great is ever achieved unless there are passionate people involved making it happen, I am equally aware that not much--if anything--great has been achieved with anger.

Sadly, while working with teachers this summer, I suspect I crossed this dangerous line between passion and anger. It was silly, really; in an effort to convey my strong belief that our district provide a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all students that is tightly aligned to the Common Core State Standards, I  became impatient with a few completely legitimate and honest questions--and I lost my temper. Obviously, this is not an advisable leadership characteristic and it resulted in (temporarily, I hope) damaged relationships between teachers I respect and myself. Subsequent to the incident, I met with one of the teachers involved in an effort to clear the air. She was very kind, even saying, "We know how passionate you are about this..." While this is accurate, generally speaking, during the moment in question, I was not exhibiting passion; instead, I was exhibiting anger. It was not only uncalled for, it was counterproductive to the goals of the work I was trying to lead. I can only hope that I work to repair these relationships--and not put myself in the position of having to do so in the future. 
Our very best educators are obviously passionate about what they do. First and foremost, they are passionate about the kids they teach. In addition, they are passionate about the content they teach. They are also passionate about collaborating with their colleagues and pursuing professional growth opportunities in a variety of ways. Although Robert Kiyosaki, bestselling author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad suggests that passion is both a combination of anger and love, it definitely requires a whole lot more of the latter and a whole lot less of the former. Our very best educators are also aware that passion is a close cousin to anger and act intentionally to keep their anger in check, whether interacting with students, parents, or colleagues. Note to self: passion, good; anger, not so much. Keep your passion; let go of your anger. Here's to a passion-filled summer for all!

3 Worth Reading:

1. An Interview with Robert Kiyosaki: Passion = Anger + Love


  1. Jeff,

    Your post got me reflecting on many interactions that have taken place. What I began thinking was, everyone shows passion in different ways. I thought of my passionate teacher that dedicates every Friday evening to connecting with parents and planning for the next week. I thought of another teacher in our building that reads hundreds of children's books each month in an effort to preview and recommend for her students.

    After thinking of these passionate and dedicated teachers I then remembered the other teachers that at times share frustrations...your post got me thinking I think back, maybe these frustrations boiled over because of the passion they have.

    Educators show passion in different ways, and you are spot on when you say, "not much--if anything--great has been achieved with anger." I as a leader must give my teachers the chance to share anger and frustration with me, in a safe environment. Then we must channel our passion in a productive way to help our kids.

    Thanks Jeff,



  2. Ben,

    Thank you for commenting as well as your additional insights. You actually raise an important point: anger--like nearly all other human emotions--is likely inevitable at times. As leaders, we need to make sure to control our own, of course, but also allow for anger to be expressed, but in safe ways and safe environments. We need to turn the anger back into passion. Thanks, my friend; LWP!


  3. Jeff, show me someone without anger, and I'll show you someone disconnected to their soul. More than getting angry, was you recognizing it, and trying to make it right. How many of us do that last part?

    1. Thanks, Barry; it is an unavoidable truth that we all get angry at times. So important to--as you say--recognize that and make it right!