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“Igniting Your Students’ Passions by Using the FIRE Method”

Recently I was asked by my middle school alma mater to give a talk to sixth graders as part of their curriculum on pursuing passions. The teacher specifically asked that I be as honest as possible, since a lot of the students were not being very realistic and assumed that life was going to be handed to them.

To explain it in as fun and clear a way as possible, I used the “fire” method: comparing a burning passion to a burning fire. Passions and fires can both be dangerous if you’re not careful, and both require the same three elements to stay burning: a spark, oxygen, and fuel.

#1. Spark: The thing that sparked the student’s interest

Just like how a fire can’t exist without an initial spark, a passion can’t exist without one either.

For me, my passion is writing, and the biggest spark came when I was 13 years old and waiting for the fifth Harry Potter book to come out. Instead of waiting another two years, I decided to just write my own fanfiction version. That was the first time I realized that I could write a book, since up until then I’d always thought writers had to have a special office with some sort of writer magic in it. But as it turned out, all anyone needs is an idea and something to write it on.

Sparks can come in all sorts of varieties. If the student’s passion is basketball, maybe it was the first time they played with their friends. If their passion is baking, maybe it was the first time they tasted a slice of cake. If their passion is video games, maybe it was beating their first game by themselves.

Having students think about their spark can help remind them why their passion is their passion in the first place, and prepare them for the next two steps.

#2. Oxygen: The perseverance that prevents the student’s fire from going out.

It’s important for students to be aware that while pursuing their passion, obstacles are going to get in their way. It’s during those times that they have to take a deep breath full of oxygen and tell themselves it’s going to be okay.

For me, that happened when I wrote my first original book. I sent it out to publishers and got nothing but rejections or silence. So I wrote another, and the same thing happened. Again and again for a total of five books and nothing to show for it except tumbleweeds in my inbox.

My fiery passion for writing was dying, and I needed oxygen. Just like you can pump air into a dying fire with a bellows, I had to do the same: take deep breaths, get that oxygen, and persevere. I wrote another book, and the sixth time was the charm. That was when my first book was finally picked up by a publisher.

There are many different types of oxygen. If the student’s passion is being an athlete, maybe no team wants to have them play for them. If their passion is being a doctor, maybe they discover that they can’t stand the sight of blood. If their passion is being as actor, maybe they can’t find any acting jobs.

Thinking about what kind of obstacles can get in the way of their passion is a good way for students to prepare for them down the road. It can hurt to be very passionate about something and have it not work out right away, but as long as they remember to breathe in that oxygen, learn from their mistakes, and keep going, their flame won’t go out.

#3. Fuel: The job that pays the bills.

Just like a fire needs some kind of fuel to keep burning (wood, charcoal, etc.), passions need fuel too. Students should know that a lot of creative passions don’t pay well, and if they don’t have money for a roof over their head, then it’ll be hard to write, create music, make art, or whatever they want to do.

But the good news is that their “fuel job” can be related to their passion. For me, I work as a writer/editor at the news-entertainment website SoraNews24. Not only do I get to put my writing experience into practice, but I also get to pay the bills and have food in the fridge too. Meanwhile, after work, I still get to pursue my passion of writing books.

There are a ton of different “fuel jobs” out there. If the student’s passion is sports, maybe they could be a personal trainer, or a coach for a school team. If their passion is music, maybe they could be a music teacher/tutor, or edit music for movies/videos. If their passion is gaming, maybe they could playtest games, or help market them.

Being realistic with students can help broaden their view of what they can do with their passion. It also can help show them that they’re not a failure if they don’t achieve their dream job, they’re just fueling their passion in a different way.

Students can come up with their own list of the three elements, and then see for themselves how they link together: the spark that made them interested in the first place and reminds them why they love it, the oxygen to help them overcome obstacles, and the fuel to feed their passion. It’s a lot of fun to have them share their sparks, oxygen, and fuel with each other, and give suggestions as well.

Just like a real fire, as long as they have all three elements, their passion will burn bright for a long time.

About the Author: Scott Wilson works as a translator and editor for the Japanese news-entertainment website SoraNews24. He runs ScottWritesStuff, a creative writing livestream on Twitch, and in his free time can be found playing video games and Magic: The Gathering with friends. Metl: The ANGEL Weapon is his first novel. He lives in the Japanese countryside with his wife.

METL: The Angel Weapon
Author: Scott Wilson
Published March 5th, 2019 by Month9Books

About the Book: When technology is outlawed, the future looks a lot like the past.

Thirteen-year-old Caden Aire spends his days working in the fields and his nights sleeping in a horse stable, all under the watch of Metl—Earth’s mysterious and artificial second moon, a looming relic of humanity’s lost era.

But Caden’s simple life changes when one night, a fiery red X suddenly appears on Metl’s surface, and the same red Xs start glowing on his palms.

Now Caden must find the only person who knows what’s happening to him, but he doesn’t have much time. Metl has started on an impact course with Earth, and to stop it, Caden will have to face both the unsettling truth about his world … and about himself.

Thank you, Scott, for the advice on how to keep our students’ writing passion burning bright!

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