Barbara Bray purpose and passion

Helping Students Find Passion and Purpose: Barbara Bray

Barbara Bray talks about personalizing learning in the classroom. She teaches us strategies and helps us think about how to make our classrooms better. (Note: There were so many great quotes in this show, I’ve made some graphics for you to share. Enjoy!)

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Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure.


Enhanced Transcript

Helping Students Find Passion and Purpose: Barbara Bray

From Audio File: 174 Barbara Bray

Vicki: So today we are talking with Barbara Bray about finding our passion and purpose. Now we’ll put it in the show notes Barbara has her own podcast,“Conversations on Learning“ and I want you to check that out.So Barbara, we as educators, you know, sometimes it easy to kind of go, Why am I doing this?

How do we find our passion and purpose again?

What happens when you wake up one day and realize you need to find your passion and purpose again?

Barbara: Well, teaching is hard and teachers aren’t valued. And we have to figure out a way, or they have to figure out a way to find that passion again because as soon as you start expressing what you love, something happens. The kids get excited because you are modeling that passion for them. And when I see teachers do that it’s so exciting.

What if you’re scripted?

Vicki: Well, what happens when a teacher says I’m scripted, I can’t put my passion into the classroom.

Barbara: Well, I do a lot of coaching and I work with different organizations and districts where what we need to do is figure out, is that really going the way that’s going to help your kids? And so, I’m actually working in Georgia. So there is a coaching group where they go in the classroom and they work with the teacher to see where the gaps are. And see what’s going on, why can’t they go off the script.

Barbara: Sometimes teachers need a little nudge or need someone to model it for them. Kids need you to go off the script.

Vicki: So this is just so tough. If I was scripted, I couldn’t teach. I just wouldn’t do it. Because me and a script, we just wouldn’t go together. I kinda write my own but I just talk to lots of teachers who said, ”Vicki, I would love to do what you do, but nobody will let me“. And I guess, how do we either help them break out of the straight jacket or feel some empowerment, even within a script, where they can bring their passion and purpose?

How to connect and go off script safely

Barbara: I think what you do is when…if you really want to go and try something, take one lesson. Just one lesson. And look at a way you can give your kids some voice. And sometimes the way to do that is to open the conversations with them. And tell them that a little bit about why you are doing that and your own experiences, so they see you are vulnerable but you also had to learn in different ways. And sometimes, if we just stick to the script we don’t take the time to build those relationships. Sometimes you need one on one supports.

When you’ve lost your purpose

Vicki: Ok so we talked a little bit about passion. How about those teachers who say, ”This is not the same profession I got into, I don’t know if I have a purpose.“

Barbara: Well I think it’s time to find the purpose. Because, if you’re going to school and you are going through the motions – the kids know it too. So we have to figure out what we can do to bring the passion back so we can find or discover your purpose. If your purpose, most teachers go into make a difference in a child’s life. So how can we do that? And sometimes, a way to do that is to stop, take some time, and to really breath and rethink what you’re doing with your life. And so this is more competent coaching that takes you into your personal life and your professional life. I call it personal professional learning. How can you tie what you love with what you do?

Vicki: I love that. You know sometimes, I even have to remember and reflect. Because it is so easy to look at today that you forget that special things do happen when you bring your best and your passion.

Building relationships matters

Barbara: And kids want to know you and get to know you. It’s about those relationships. If outside of school you’re a rock climber and you’re taking risks and the kids don’t know that. What if you bring that in and just tell about what you do in your life? And then get them to talk about what they do and what they’re excited about. The conversations change in the classroom, it’s just not rote, following the script. It’s starting to be some fun. It’s just about those relationships.

Why do we lose our passion and purpose in the classroom?

Vicki: So Barbara what do you think the mistake is that teachers make that causes us teachers to lose our passion and purpose?

Barbara: I don’t think it’s the teachers. I think it’s the system. I think that we’ve been taught to follow orders or to be compliant ourselves. And the system is changing all over because we have to. The problem is that we are kinda caught into that compliance mode because we’re scared, we’re not sure what’s going to happen. So we have to look at the ability to build relationships with administrators who hopefully give us a little bit leeway, so we can take those risks and not feel that we are going to get in trouble.

Vicki: Well you know, this is a hard topic, Barbara. Because I think most teachers want to be passionate and want to have a purpose. We do. It’s just so easy to like…ants are a little thing here in the South but you get a whole bunch of bites and you just go running. And I don’t think it’s a big, huge attack of a dragon.I think it’s a thousand tiny ant bites sometimes that get teachers to forget.

Barbara: Well, maybe we need to…how do I … That’s an interesting metaphor. I don’t know if I want to bite that or….

Vicki: Go bite back – go for it

How to regain your purpose

Barbara: Well, I mean the idea of how do you eat an elephant, it’s a bite at a time. If you look at things really big you’ll never be able to tackle it. But if you take one little lesson or one activity and give the kids voice. Move the chairs around, try to figure out some other strategies so you can just kind of test the waters. And all of a sudden, if it doesn’t work you can ask the kids, what would work, what would you like to do differently? Get them involved more so there is voice in it. It really changes the whole culture in the classroom. And I think that’s a problem unless they experience it they don’t know.

Vicki: Yes, you know I think there’s power in rebooting and saying, Ok we are rebooting the classroom, even alpha, and beta testing. Saying, hey kids we’re gonna test something new today. I mean, doesn’t that just spark something?

Ask the students

Barbara: Oh yeah, especially if you ask them. I mean, no one has ever asked them. How do you like to learn? What would you like to learn today? Hey, let’s take everything off the walls. What if we start all over? And you help me design the classroom? Wow. I did that in a 6th-grade classroom in Oakland. The kids every day they said what if we want to change it more often and I said go for it. I mean it’s amazing what the kids want to do if you give them the opportunity. And they own it.

Yes, yes. Like, let’s do this together, this is not me doing everything and you sitting here. Learning is not a passive activity.

Barbara: And all the research shows that. And we know that. But we can’t let go because we are supposed to cover instead of uncover the learning. And I want them to figure out if they can just open up and uncover some of those gems that are inside and even go outside. Look at learning in a different way. Just try one or two activities. Something maybe you love.

Vicki: So give us a thirty-second pep talk about finding our passion and purpose.

How to find your passion and purpose again

Barbara: “Go with your strengths to find your passions so you discover your purpose“ and that was a quote I wrote almost fifteen years ago. It kinda goes with this a little bit. And when I wrote it, there was a principal in Ohio that said,“Could I put this on my gym wall?“ So it’s up on a gym wall somewhere in Ohio.

Vicki: So teachers, we need to find our passion and purpose. And you know to be fair, I’ve asked Barbara some hard questions. That’s just because you guys are asking me hard questions. And I feel those questions, but she’s totally right.

Take everything off the walls and reboot your classroom.

Let the kids be involved.

Talk to them about how they want to learn.

Try little things.

You don’t have to do huge big things.

But also, open yourself up and talk about your passions and what you’re doing on the weekend. Sometimes it really…believe it or not, it was a while before I talked to my students about what I did on Twitter and what I did outside the classroom. They think it’s kinda cool. And you’ve got some cool things too, so let’s really bring our passion and purpose back. And it starts with us bringing our passion and purpose as educators.

Bio as submitted

Barbara Bray is a creative learning strategist, author, writer, speaker, instructional designer, and coach who connects people and ideas around transforming education. She uses the design thinking process to facilitate moving to a culture of learning and redesigning learner-centered environments. Barbara is the co-author of Make Learning Personal and How to Personalize Learning and co-founded Personalize Learning, LLC with Kathleen McClaskey. She is also the founder/owner of My eCoach ( that is based on a coaching platform for educators, and on her website Rethinking Learning (, Barbara blogs and hosts her new podcast series Conversations on Learning with educators and change agents from around the world.



Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.) This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.
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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere