There is a lot of talk in education right now about passion. Teachers are encouraged to find out what a student is passionate about and massage their teaching to reach that student’s passion. There are countless articles and books written about passion-based learning. I keep hearing “find your passion” and “follow your heart.” Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think we should be providing engaging, meaningful and relevant opportunities to our students. We certainly should provide them with opportunities to explore curiosities, and we should co-build learning pathways with and for our students that include catalysts that are interesting and relevant to their lives. We need to spend time with our students to learn what lights them up and what they care about. However, we need to stop sending the message that they must find their passion.
Passion comes from experience. Passion comes from being in front of a real, messy problem or opportunity. Passion is ignited during moments of discomfort as well as moments of great success. Passion is not something you search for – it’s something you feel while you are engaged in meaningful work. I’d argue that when I feel called or empowered to make change and I have the skills to make that change, that’s when I feel passionate. For me, it was when I started to see that I had something of value to contribute and that there was a real gap I had to fill that I became filled with passion and understood my life’s work. Let’s help students experience the feeling of passion by letting them follow curiosities, and show them that what they happen to be curious about now is not necessarily a life-long passion, and that’s okay. Let’s focus on nurturing and fostering passion for learning instead of passion for the sake of passion.
Top Five Reasons You Should Stop Telling Kids to “Find their Passion:”
- It’s Paralyzing: I’m pretty sure I didn’t find my passion until well into my late 20’s. Are we trying to paralyze kids by telling them they should “find their passion” when they aren’t even old enough to drive a car?
- It Communicates and End-point: Finding passion shouldn’t be what we strive for – it communicates an end point. Search and search until you find your passion…then what?
- People are More Important Than Passion: What about COMpassion? What if we focus on being compassionate, just and empathic people who care about the world around us?
- Passion is Me-Focused: By focusing on individual passion are we unintentionally communicating that to be successful you have to work alone on what YOU want to accomplish? How do we foster collaboration if everyone is following their own passions?
- Passion is a Noun: There is no action in passion. Let’s focus on verbs like explore, question, wonder, create, design, impact.
Our job as educators, as members of a community, should be to nurture the innate curiosity in our youth and empower them to explore, challenge, create, question and experiment – and ultimately take action. Let’s stop placing unreasonable pressure on our youth to “find their passion” and stop pretending that finding passion is the mission. It takes an explorer who is open and curious and has had numerous opportunities to wander and wonder to experience passion. Are we actually providing that for our students? Let’s put less emphasis on “finding passion” and more emphasis on facilitating rich experiences and empowering students to follow curiosities that may or may not lead to lifelong passion. At least then we can assure that our kids are not just on an endless search, but that they’re, in fact, living rich and meaningful lives now.