What Kind of Fire Are You?

I recently attended a workshop for self discovery.The retreat’s goal was to give participants time for personal reflection, and aimed at helping you to find what your true purpose and goals are in life.  This type of thing really interests me, and relates very well to another one of my favorite topics “The Element” by Ken Robinson, which I talked about here.

During the workshop we were asked the question “What kind of fire are you?” as a reflective exercise. This fire is a metaphor for your life and your inner passion.  How strong do you feel that you are doing the thing you were meant to do?

  • Are you a tea-light, just shining so dim, but still lit? Maybe you still have a little glimmer of passion regarding your career or passions in life, but have lost some of it along the way. Maybe some of it was not your choice. Maybe other things took the front burner.
  • Maybe you are a candle?  Enjoying what you do, burning at a very sensible rate and doing things you love, but maybe not to the extent you would like.
  • Are you a campfire?  Maybe you are fulfilling your passions and even helping to spread them to others when you can…
  • Or are you even lit? Maybe you are so far removed from the things that get you ticking that you forgot what they are and have not tapped into them for quite some time. Pretty powerful stuff.

I didn’t share this with the group, but guess what kind of fire I decided I was?  I was a controlled ditch fire. I live in Iowa and grew up in the country. When they burn ditches they seem out of control, spanning for great lengths in the ditches to burn down the brush.  But someone IS in control of them, they rarely become out of control, and do the job they are intended for and then put out.  Sometimes I think I have so many  goals, so many passions and so many things I just can’t wait to do.   Sometimes I maybe need to harness my energy down to the burn of a candle so it can be focused on one thing. Maybe some people live their whole lives as a ditch fire??? It doesn’t sound very glamorous, but it does sound exciting.

I know I was meant to teach art. I have known this since I was in the third grade. I also know that my fire lights even brighter when I help other teachers with professional development to maximize their potential as teachers.  I am still on this journey to find the balance between the two that can use my talents and abilities to their fullest potential.

So, on a day that focuses on “flaming hot romance”  I must ask about fire of a different kind….

What kind of fire are you?

(pssstttt…..Need more motivation?  Read my Teaching Philosophy and  “Mission Statement.” . If you want to write your own Mission of Teaching I provided a simple 5 step process for that right here.)

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • S. Brooks

    The “idea” of teaching art has been with me since primary school as well, but it actually takes a few years until you realize you were not really an art teacher at the beginning of your career, but just going through the motions. I think being a REALLY GOOD art teacher means that we focus on the quality of the Art we are teaching…not flat boring lessons, but engaging, consuming, creative, rich lessons…and integrate all the “other stuff” into rich lessons.

    • I couldn’t have said it better. Every year things just get better and better. The hard part for me is, will I ever perfect this profession? I think the answer is no. We are always learning and improving. Thanks for your insight.

  • Ronda

    My favorite quote from Tim Rollins at the 2009 AEI Conference in Cedar Falls…”You can’t burn out unless you’ve been on fire!”

  • 2Dv8

    it’s not education that burns me out, I love teaching art. I teach my 35 elementary classes, I have 3 art clubs and I teach at a local art center. I just can’t get enough of teaching! What burns me out is discipline issues, paperwork, meetings that have nothing to do with what I teach and classroom teachers and administrators who have no idea or respect for what I do for the kids.