Reflections on Passion

6.30 a.m.
I am at my usual coffee stop, looking out over the water, mirror smooth. No breeze. The sand banks and trees on the other shore divide water from sky. Both are an insipid grey. A good morning for dolphins (I hope). Easy to spot the pods as they break the surface.
I hear some developer wanted to transform Wave Break Island (the one on the left) into a cruise ship terminal complete with 24hour casino, restaurants, apartments and two bridges to the mainland. It doesn't seem likely it will happen now after a change of government. I'm glad.
I learned something about myself recently . . . Drum roll.
I retired from full time work a couple of years ago, after a career as a secondary school teacher, followed by a few senior leadership roles, and finishing as a school principal. We have these stories we tell ourselves on the way through life. I always saw myself as an effective teacher, who did a good job. I ticked all the boxes, produced the goods, and toed the line. By the time I had reached the lofty heights of principal, I even felt entitled to pontificate now and then on educational matters. By most measures I had a successful career.
I always had a heart, some innate intelligence and a natural humility, but I have begun to wonder. Could it be that I never approached my job with much passion? That sounds sacreligious even as I write it. Dare I admit such a thing? Could it be true?
The longer I think about this the less certain I am that I did have a passion for what I did. There were always people around me who saw teaching as a vocation. Selfless souls who worked day and night for their students and who did not seem to think much about free time or what was in it for them. There were also quite a lot who were cynical, closed down, burnt out and did only the bare minimum to stay out of trouble. I didn't belong in either group, but saw myself as closer to the former than the latter.
Yesterday I was offered an opportunity to do a month's classroom teaching at a nearby secondary school. A month's salary would have been welcome, but I turned it down. There was no passion in me as I thought about a month in the classroom. No passion; no enthusiasm to return to an environment in which I had spent a career. Insight descended on me with a clarity as convincing as it was surprising. A small light bulb began to glow and I shook my head as I began to understand something new about myself. It's only now I realise: Perhaps teaching was not my passion.
As I sit here this morning looking across glassy water under a pregnant sky I don't forget the good memories of a life in classrooms: The appreciative students; the respect from colleagues; the sense of achievement. I remember those things, but there are some things I would prefer to forget: The ever present anxiety I felt before I walked into a classroom full of lively young people. I also remember habitually looking for the end of the lesson, the end of the day, the end of the week, and the end of the school year. Weekends were always a release, as were school holidays. Funny how habits of years can suddenly make a visible pattern and you see something in yourself you weren't aware of at a conscious level.
In classrooms was I just a performer? If so I was a good performer, but the performances were often exhausting. I did what I was expected to do, but mostly not out of any altruistic passion. Well, like all generalisations there are exceptions. Sure I was passionate now and then, and I would have said I had the students' interests at heart. I'm sure I did. I would never have acted unethically, but there is a difference between when your heart is in something and when it is not. No one talked to me about passion when I selected teaching as my profession. Maybe looking back at these things is not a good use of time.
I did a lot of things well, at least in a mechanical sense, but I wonder, if teaching had been my consuming passion, how much richer an experience my students might have had. I shake my head as I sit with my coffee. I know myself a little better than I did a week ago.
How many of us find ourselves in careers where our passion is directed elsewhere?
I wonder if there is time for another coffee.

5 thoughts on “Reflections on Passion

Add yours

  1. I’ve been retired about the same length of time. And I’m feeling the same about myself. I don’t miss not being a nurse at all and have wondered now and again if I was a good nurse and did a good job. Did I extend myself enough? Did I care enough. I certainly don’t have the passion for it now. Did I ever? Scary questions. Thanks for reflections.


  2. Profound as usual: I know you were an excellent teacher . Maybe your enjoyment of retirement has masked the passion I’m sure you did have

  3. Wow! Such an honest piece, Rob, and well-rendered. So you’re a coffee-shop-in-the-morning guy, too. We must be distant relatives. I connect with a lot of what you say here. To me passion has to do with being so absorbed in what I’m doing that hours pass without signifying. Only one thing does that for me: writing. Alas, making a living at it is quite a challenge. Enjoy that retirement, brother! Peace, John

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: