As a young person, what did you want to be when you grew up? The answer to this question is not so obvious to young students. But, what is obvious is what students are passionate about right now.
Take our 4th grader, Jorge, for example. Jorge started Thiebaut (T-Bow) Method Tutoring passionate about baseball. His birthday parties are baseball themed, he plays baseball, his heroes are baseball players, and Jorge is convinced he is going to become a professional baseball player. He might!
Jorge with one of his Thiebaut Method cultivators
In school, though, Jorge reads at a 2nd grade level despite being in 4th grade. Complicating matters, his classroom doesn’t contain a single book about baseball.
The gap between what school offers and a student’s passions can be vast — what Thiebaut Method calls the “passion gap”. The passion gap results largely from the fact that our current education system dictates so much of what must be learned that schools and teachers are left with very little choice about what they can allow their students to learn.
The passion gap often prevents students from pursuing their motivations and interests in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean their passions can’t support classroom learning and student achievement.
After discovering that Jorge was passionate about baseball, we designed his classes around our #1 Passion Principle: Plan instruction and teach in ways that expose the student to college and career skills and goals related to their passions. In just two months, Jorge learned that there are many more goals and skills related to baseball than just wanting to be a baseball player.
Take, for example, when Jorge interviewed ESPN/49er reporter, Nick Wagoner.
Thiebaut Method connects every student with a professional whose occupation relates to the student’s passions. By exposing students to a “real world role model” they learn how their passions are applied in the real world and the critical importance of learning through doing and long-term commitment.
Jorge spent two classes and 10 hours of his free time preparing for his interview. Despite a massive deficit in his reading skills, Jorge did background research on Nick, reading articles written about him and by him. To make sure Jorge was well prepared, he wrote summaries of what he read and engaged his cultivator in Q & A sessions related to Nick’s profession so that he could build rapport with Nick when they met.
Jorge also created his own interview questions. This is where Jorge exhibited a natural ability. His questions were simple, unique, and yielded interesting responses from Nick. Not only that. Jorge was allowed to ask three questions, but to everyone’s surprise, crafted a 4th, and provocative, question.
Preparing for and while conducting the interview, Jorge showed what world renown intelligence researcher, Robert Sternberg, calls Successful Intelligence. According to Sternberg, “a successfully intelligent person accomplishes their goals by figuring out their strengths and weaknesses, and then by capitalizing on the strengths and correcting or compensating for the weaknesses.”
Jorge, in pursuit of his passion, not only showed a proclivity for journalism, he also was highly intrinsically motivated to address his weakness in reading, writing and language arts in general.
To top off Jorge’s learning, after the interview Jorge wrote an essay describing his realization that he needed to read more in order to become a successful sports professional. He also self-initiated his next project to interview a local high school baseball player.
From the point of view of Jorge’s passions, he appears to be talented, not a struggling student.
Thiebaut Method shows students how to cultivate their passions intellectually, creatively and practically in order that they can develop a greater awareness of their passions and avenues their passions can follow into adulthood.
A wealth of research, one such study being E. Paul Torrence’s 40 year study, shows that above and beyond school success, a child’s ability to convert their passions into a career covaries with economic success and emotional well-being — and, works of genius in rare cases.
The reality, though, is that passion isn’t always a centerpiece of how children are educated or parented.
Often, extrinsic motivation is prioritized, giving children clear goals such as earning good grades, doing community service, and aspiring to attend college, but sometimes at the cost of them not knowing why they are pursuing such goals. This leaves many students feeling purposeless and arriving at adulthood clueless about what they want to do with their lives.
Tellingly, one of the most popular courses at Stanford University is called “Designing Your Life”, a course designed to help the world’s brightest and best students figure out what they want to be when they grow up.
Thiebaut Method helps students discover their passions so they can figure out why they want to go to college and what they might want to be when they grow up. And, like in Jorge’s case, what they learn while chasing their passions translates into skills needed for academic success.
When Jorge’s teacher found out how much learning he had done in relation to baseball she offered to have Jorge present his interview to the class and plans on adding books about baseball to their classroom library.
While on the topic of reading, Jorge’s reading level has improved from a second grade level to only a few months below grade level. At this pace, I’m happy to report, he will complete fourth grade a successful reader!