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.”
At Nord Anglia Education (NAE) schools, students are encouraged to develop their passions from an early age through exposure to world-class, leading institutions teaching sciences, arts and what it means to care about the world around them. Our partnerships with world leaders like The Juilliard School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and UNICEF enhance learning experiences for our students through the globally-respected curricula we offer and provide outstanding professional development opportunities for our teachers and staff.
For example, by observing the intensity an artist applies to a dramatic work or studying the work of a professor engineering wearable technology to help future astronauts walk on Mars, children are free to stretch their imaginations beyond traditional education methods. They carve their own path to success, achieving more than they ever thought possible.
When passionate organisations support passionate people, great things can happen. This fortunate combination links resources to vision. Consider for example how these organisations, each renowned for a powerful focus, might help students reach their goals:
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Self-described as “obsessed with numbers,” MIT is passionate about science, math, and engineering. They help transform ideas into reality by encouraging people to be “fun and quirky . . . inventive and artistic.” It is this sort of passionate focus that might help a young entrepreneur bring the dream of a web design company to life.
- The Juilliard School. As the global leader in performing arts education, their passion is specific. Stated in their mission, they “provide the highest calibre of artistic education” and serve as a thought leader “about the importance of the performing arts.”
- UNICEF. Founded to ensure a "first call for children," UNICEF defines passionate commitment. They seek to protect the most vulnerable children, such as victims of violence, poverty, and exploitation as well as those with disabilities.
These organisations encourage people with similar passions. They help students stretch to reach challenging goals. When we provide environments that help learners imagine, create, and play, we open pathways to uncharted worlds.
In a commencement speech at Stanford University, technology wizard Steve Jobs said “the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” We want to create. We want to affect the world in a positive way. People energised by their passions can change the world for the better. They can build amazing new technologies, write songs that inspire, and help others learn to laugh, live, and dance again.