A middle school student builds an innovative web design business, working with clients across the United States. He subsequently earns the Youth Entrepreneur Award for the City of Atlanta. A high school student completes his second Juilliard Summer Performing Arts with Juilliard camp. He goes on to produce numerous songs and albums, releasing them to acclaim across multiple media outlets. An elementary student visits elderly invalids in the US to share humour and hope, eventually giving similar encouragement to disabled children in Nicaragua and the United Arab Emirates. She later undertakes a doctorate in occupational therapy, pursuing her desire to “help people learn to dance again.”
These former students of mine were different ages, with different callings. What do they have in common? Each of them pursued a passion to make a difference in the world, one using technological creativity, another through original music, and a third by caring for people in need. Their passion transformed work into vibrant energy, and something purposeful rather than a chore. They achieved success. They, and others like them, have taught me that our passions are what fuels lifelong learning, guiding people along a path of ambition and achievements.
Mark Twain once said that “work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions,” where the differing condition is the presence of passion, which these three learners have in abundance. How can we enable all of our students to discover and pursue their passions and convert it into a calling?
While I believe education is a powerful tool, passion can help wield it. Albert Einstein expressed this point about himself when he said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
Einstein not only embodied passion, he also modeled playfulness. He generated some of his greatest ideas while playing the violin and insisted that play is the highest form of research. His conviction is echoed by psychologist Abraham Maslow who said that “almost all creativity involves purposeful play.”