Choice in Learning, Experiential Learning

Finding Your Passion in Life

What is your passion? We hear this phrase all the time. Find your passion, they say, and you’ll never work a day in your life. But how do you find this passion? Do you read books to explain it to you? Or, perhaps you should consult with an “expert” who will surely explain to you the process for finding your passion in life.

Most of us will realize that you can’t discover your passion in any of these ways. And this is because, being passionate about something, means having a positive emotional feeling towards it. You have to experience something first to determine if you’re passionate about it. This is the quandary for public education, and also for work. How do we know what we like to do until we have a chance to do it? It’s a Catch 22 situation.

To begin to understand this quandary, I often reflect on my own experiences and those of my family. In my case, I knew from an early age that I really loved to read. I always had a book in my hand when I was growing up. I knew that I loved to read and write and be involved with the English language all the time.

Luckily, my parents had both been English majors, and they provided me with many classic books as a teenager. I often wonder what would have happened if I’d grown up in a different family – perhaps one that didn’t read as much. Would I have been able to find my passion? I also like to consider my father, who also had a love of reading. He grew up as the son of 2 German immigrants, who spoke very little English, but he experienced an unlikely event when he was 13. He got heat stroke one very hot summer day from riding his bike all day, and it soon developed into Rhematic Fever. He had to stay in bed for 3 months and was out of school for an entire semester.

Being poor, his mother worked part time as a housekeeper for a wealthy family, and she brought many books home that her employer gave her. There was no TV in those days. This is how my dad developed his love of reading. He would often talk about how much he loved those books that his mother brought home when he was sick. Although he was the son of two uneducated immigrants, he ended up going to college to become an English teacher, and he eventually got his PhD to become a Professor of Education.

My son is another case when I consider how passions are developed. He played a lot of video games as he was growing up, which is pretty common for young boys. But he seemed to be obsessed by them. This eventually made me realize that he had ADHD, and he was hyper focusing on them and not paying attention to much else, including school. But I also noticed that he liked to play very strategic games. He especially enjoyed playing On-line Chess, and now he often competes in chess tournaments. He recently started school at the local community college, where he is studying computer science. I often wonder what would have happened had he not had the experience of playing those video games. Would he have found what he was passionate about in any other way?

So, what can society and especially schools do to help students find their passions? They simply have to find ways to allow students to have chances to experience different jobs/careers. While there are an infinite number of possible professions, the use of technology can help students narrow down the options, especially through games and simulations. One example of using games and simulations to promote a career interest is within the U.S. Army. Faced with a reduced enrollment, the Army actually created a video game called “America’s Army” to introduce prospective recruits to what army life is like., and it has been very successful in convincing people to join the Army. There are many other kinds of educational games that have been around for some time. Students can determine what it’s like to be a city planner by playing Sim City, or they can have the experience of flying an airplane by using a flight simulator.

Even in my case, if I’d had time during school, perhaps in a learning lab, to just read books, I could have had the same exposure to reading as I had at home. There are reading apps, actually, that provide a simple comprehension test on popular classic books. After reading a book, a student can take the simple comprehension test and then receive credit for reading the book. It can be a way for students to explore reading/writing even if they aren’t fortunate enough to have parents to introduce them to different books. As for me, I could have been rewarded through certificates for all the books that I had read when I was young. My career is now a Technical Writer. I interact with words all day long, and I love it. Let students experience different events or professions, and they will be better able to discover their passions in life.

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