In my last article, I wrote about possible 21st century careers awaiting our students. When I speak about this topic, people respond by wanting to help kids “find their passions.”
But I think the word “passion” is a problem. Here’s why.
“Passion” Is Unreasonable
When we call something a “passion,” it implies lifelong devotion and intense focus. “Passions” sound like they should be big, important, world-changing ideals. But this is way too much to expect from a kid. And how lame does it feel to admit, “I don’t really have a passion.”
So lets drop the word “passion.” Use “interests” instead.
It’s okay to just be “interested” in tennis, the guitar, politics, roller skating, or gardening. There’s no need to force these to be “passions” (unless they really are).
Interests aren’t intimidating. We can all name some interests. They don’t have to be world-changing. But! Interests can become something bigger given enough time and resources.
Interests Develop Over Time
Given time and resources (and luck), an interest might evolve into something greater. After some initial draw, we explore. We learn more. We uncover sub-interests and then sub-sub interests. Sometimes we grow bored, other times we keep going.
Interests appear randomly and grow organically. We cannot know what we’re interested in until we see it. And we can’t tell if an interest will grow into something greater or die off.
My interest in gifted education began when I was randomly assigned a classroom for my student teaching. A decade later, it’s grown and evolved as I’ve explored the topic. I’ve found sub-topics I’m particularly interested in. And I fully expect this interest to continue evolving. I certainly hope I’m not doing the exact same thing in five years!
We should also expect kids’ interests to grow, evolve, and die off.
As adults, our job is to help students discover interests. Gently expose them to as many topics as possible, giving them room and support to explore at their own pace and in their own style.
We can help students find interests by:
- watching movies with them
- wandering through book stores
- going to museums
- browsing YouTube
- meeting professionals
- attending all kinds of events
- following fun folks on social media
But we can’t meddle with the process too much. We can provide resources, we can offer guidance, but when we try to force things, the interest vanishes in a puff.
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Interest Come and Go
It’s okay when interests end. It’s okay when they change. Don’t think of it as a waste when a child spends three years obsessing over ballet only to become fascinated by golf.
It’s important to learn how to get good at being interested! Being interested is a skill. It means you can find information, master the basics, get better, and learn to say no to what’s no longer interesting.
The true power of gathering many interests is that, one day, the perfect set of interests combine and, like Voltron, become something greater than their parts.
Byrdseed is a culmination of past interests: recording music, taking art classes, acting in school plays, reading every book about dinosaurs, learning about startups, and leading a youth group.
Of course, along the road, none of these things seemed related. You might have told me along the way, “Ian! You need to focus!” But it’s really that lack of focus that gives me lots of background knowledge to draw from. It helps me easily jump into new interesting topics.
Goodbye “Passion”, Hello “Interests”
So let’s stop expecting passions from students (and ourselves). It’s unreasonable. Encourage interests. Even when they change. Even when they seem meaningless. You never know what they’ll turn into.
And, if you are interested in this topic, I’d recommend the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You.