In this episode, we are joined by Jorge Valenzuela, an education coach and author, to explore how we can align passion to purpose. This connection is important in education, during our career journey, and in our personal lives. Jorge suggests that we should first differentiate between passion and purpose. Once we do that, we can begin to identify our passions and ideally infuse them into school and career. Aligning passion to purpose can be motivational and empowering. Tune in to hear Jorge’s suggestions and practical steps for turning this goal into a reality.
The thing about looking inward is that it can be scary, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. But the truth is you never truly start living until you learn to live from the inside out. And in unlocking potential, we need to look inward to identify the things that give us a deep sense of fulfillment, the things that give us the deepest joy, and then weave them into the patterns of our daily routines. In so doing, we cease to work and we start to live.
Noeline Kirabo, a social entrepreneur, author, and life coach
The following resources are available from AVID and on AVID Open Access to explore related topics in more depth:
- Inspire Students With Project-Based Learning (article collection)
- Engage Students Through Inquiry Learning (article collection)
- Facilitate Effective Student Reflection During Digital Learning (article collection)
- Empower Students Through Creativity and Choice (article collection)
- Create Community and Nurture Connections to Support Social and Emotional Learning (article collection)
- Start the Year by Fostering Your Students’ Growth Mindset (article)
- Seize Your Life and Achieve Personal Success by Starting With Your Goals, with Jasmine Brett Stringer (podcast episode)
- What Does It Mean to Live a Life Full of Possibility? A Conversation with AVID CEO Thuan Nguyen (podcast episode)
Embedding Passion Into Learning
“If you’re able to take your passion and flip it into service of others, then I think that that becomes a purpose,” Jorge explains.
Throughout this episode, Jorge shares insights and actionable strategies for how to identify personal passions, as well as how to design learning experiences that allow students to infuse their passions into the curriculum. Our conversation touches on ways to develop student–teacher relationships, questions that can be used to help students identify their passions, and student-centered instructional strategies that can allow students to see themselves and their passions in their learning. The following are a few highlights from our conversation:
- About Jorge: Jorge is an author and education coach based out of Virginia. Through his company, Lifelong Learning Defined, he works with a wide range of education stakeholders, including administrators, school leaders, teachers, and students. Jorge has experience as a teacher and a curriculum specialist, with a background in STEM and computer science.
- Passion: “Passion is something you can’t stop thinking about,” explains Jorge, and it’s important to help students identify their passions. Because looking inward can be painful and difficult, Jorge suggests asking young people safe questions that are not overly intrusive but still make them reflect.
- Start By Understanding Peace, Joy, and Happiness: To make passion and purpose more understandable to students, Jorge suggests having them become aware of the things that give them peace, joy, or happiness. Identifying what activities and interests align with the positive feelings can help them identify their passion.
- Five Questions: Jorge shares five questions that can be used to help identify personal passion: What do you think about often? What is the thing that you want to change or that you lose sleep over because you’re thinking about it? What makes you lose track of time? What do you want to be known for when your name is mentioned? What would you do for free if money wasn’t an object?
- Money: Oftentimes, money is an initial career motivator. While earning enough to pay the bills is a life necessity, money itself won’t bring happiness. In an ideal situation, we should strive to find ways to infuse our passions into our careers. Jorge says, “If something isn’t your passion, even if you get the money, it’s not really sustainable.” He adds, “I’ve never seen a person that is running after money not be stressed out.”
- Turn Passion Into a Career: “If you’re good at what you do, someone’s gonna pay you for it,” says Jorge. Still, he cautions not to quit your 9–5 job until your passion is no longer a hobby and can cover twice your overhead. This transition takes time and dedication.
- Steps for Developing Passion: Jorge outlines three steps. First, he says to “pay attention to your recurring thoughts” in order to identify your passion. Then, people need to “speak it into existence” and map it out as a goal, so they know where they intend to go. Finally, move to the implementation stage. This includes determining what resources can help someone master their passion. This help might come in the form of a person, a book, or some other resource, but it should contain expert advice. Jorge says, “I highly recommend never taking advice or learning from a person who hasn’t accomplished what you want to accomplish. It’s a waste of time.” He also reminds us that we’ll have bad days and struggle at times as we work on mastering our passions. He adds, “It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay not to have a way out.” This is important since some metrics suggest it will take up to 10,000 hours to become an expert. Failure will undoubtedly happen along the way.
- Purpose: Passion becomes purpose when it is used to help others. The step of applying passions into service work to help others or some other cause is a key part of the passion process.
- Project-Based Learning: Jorge is a strong proponent of project-based learning as a way to make learning student-centered, hands-on, and infused with reflection. He suggests five steps for engaging young people in learning. These steps fit nicely into the project-based learning framework. They include beginning with a compelling hook, learning concepts within a topic and figuring out problems to be solved, learning from an expert, conjuring up a solution, and finally, presenting to the public. Because project-based learning is student-centered, students are able to bring their personal passions into the learning experience.
- Time for Reflection: Jorge believes that project-based learning is “a great way to help young people, and even adults, do some hands-on learning but also some reflection for metacognition. It’s got to be a little bit of both. . . . You don’t learn from just doing. You learn from reflecting on the doing.”
- The Role of Technology: “Technology is used to enhance instruction,” Jorge explains. “It’s not the instruction. You’re learning technology to solve a problem.” He adds that we need to leverage the interests of the child, and then use tech to enhance their performances. The key is to design engaging learning experiences that allow students to be at the center of learning and doing.
If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:
- What is the difference between passion and purpose, and how are they related?
- What is your personal passion?
- How might you help students discover and identify their passions?
- What is your purpose?
- How might you help your students turn their passions into purpose?
- How might you use the three steps for developing passion with your students?
- How might you use Jorge’s five steps for engaging young people in your classroom?
- How might you integrate project-based learning and reflection into your classroom?
- How can you use technology effectively with your students?
Extend Your Learning
- Lifelong Learning Defined (Jorge Valenzuela’s official website)
- Jorge Valenzuela’s Profile and Article Directory (Edutopia)
- 2 Questions to Uncover Your Passion — And Turn It Into a Career (TED Talk by Noeline Kirabo)
- What Is PBL? (PBLWorks)