Helping Students Find Their Passions

Passion drives an individual and creates self-motivation. Some students easily develop strong interests that motivate them; for many others, discovering his or her passion is not always so simple.

How can we, as adults, help these kids uncover their desire to learn? This can be accomplished in two ways: first, by exposing kids to a wide range of subjects, interests, and experiences; and second, by allowing kids to observe first-hand another person’s excitement for a topic.

Parents and teachers may assume that a student's passion must be academically driven in order to be important, but this is not true. A student's profound interest in just about any socially acceptable area can be very significant. For example, when a student is driven by an extracurricular passion, he will often find reasons to work harder on academic areas that support that interest.

Eleven-year-old Tyler Befus found his passion in fly fishing. Fly fishing led Tyler to write two books about the subject, develop his marketing skills, and practice public speaking at a very young age. It also motivated him to study entomology and master the fine art of fly-tying. In addition, Tyler developed skills through fly fishing that will serve him well throughout his life, such as the ability to organize information and see patterns, as well as the ability to persist in the pursuit of his goals and overcome obstacles. Tyler’s father exposed him to fly fishing at a very early age, and, luckily for Tyler, one of the first interest areas that he was exposed to was one that stuck. Most people need to be exposed to a wide variety of topics before they latch on to one that suits them.

It is important for adults to supplement kids' academic pursuits by introducing them to different types of music, dance, theater, film, sports, hobbies, and people. If a student's exposure to different experiences is limited, how can he be expected to develop an interest in something suited to his personality? Youngsters may eventually develop interests that are quite different from those enjoyed by the rest of the family and parents need to be prepared for this.

Once your young person does find a topic that she wants to pursue, support her interest by increasing exposure to that subject through books, extracurricular clubs, information on the Internet, supplemental classes, or perhaps summer camps. You may also want to introduce your student to mentors who have excelled in specific areas of interest.

Don’t be upset if your youngster seems passionate about one topic and then suddenly wants to move on to something else. This is a time for experimentation, and it may take a while to find a passion that sticks. Most of us find that our interests wax and wane at different periods of our lives.

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