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Voices: Passion-Impaired

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Nothing is sadder than 5-year-olds who think they have already seen and done it all: Children who talk of nothing but Nintendo and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but have no idea how a bird intricately builds its nest or where the sun goes when it isn't shining--and who aren't interested in knowing.

Of course, it isn't their fault that they are passion-impaired. Two-thirds of them come from stressed-out families that can barely get them to school in clean clothes. And I live in a nice rural area in Wisconsin, not the inner city. I can only imagine what inner-city teachers must see every day.

It's my job to find the passion, to open eyes and weave a web of intrigue and surprise. This has never taken more skill and energy than today. Indeed, some teachers themselves have become passionimpaired due to years of relentless failure to reach many students and the failure of families to support learning and schooling. They become that English teacher who has used the same blue-purple dittos for 30 years or that social studies teacher who assigns pages 415 through 420 the fourth week of every February.

So it is that passion-impaired adults sire passionimpaired offspring taught by passion-impaired teachers. Mediocrity conspires to perpetuate itself.

But the worst thing we can do is admit defeat and give in to the boring, non-creative approach to life. We must surround ourselves with other passionate people because passion is catching. We must keep trying to let students catch it from us. Children bred in front of the television have never felt the warmth of the earth against their backs on a star-lit August night, examined a locust under a magnifying glass, watched blue and red blend together as purple, or seen a kitten born. We mustn't give up. We must insist on a life lived--with passion. ---Ginny Stiles

The writer teaches kindergarten at Reek Elementary School in Linn Township, Lake Geneva, Wis.

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