Helping Our Students Find Their Tennis Ball

I recently read an interview with Drew Houston, the CEO of Dropbox: “Figure Out the Things You Don’t Know.” During the interview, Houston shares the cheat sheet he would give his 22-year-old self.  It contained 3 three things, one of which was a tennis ball.  To Houston, the tennis ball represents your passion.


“The most successful people and successful entrepreneurs I know are all obsessed with solving a problem that really matters to them. I use the tennis ball for that idea because of my dog, who gets this crazy, obsessed look on her face when you throw the ball for her.”

I love that piece of advice, but the biggest problem is knowing what your tennis ball is- what matters to you! Many times our learners are leaving high school with a series of awards, SAT scores, and a GPA but have no real interests or passions. As educators, we should be providing our students opportunities to discover, develop and ignite their passions.  A worksheet or an exercise where they can simply Google the answer will never leave a student wanting to explore a topic further. Students will never be able to Google to find the answer to one of the most important questions they will ever have to answer: What matters to you? 

You can Google for an answer. You can Google for a mate. You can Google for a career. But you can’t Google to find what’s in your heart – the passion that lifts you skyward.

– Plumeri
How Can We Help Our Students Answer THE Question?

There isn’t a direct path or plan you can take to help students discover their passions- they need to find it on their own. There are learning experiences that you can expose students to that will accelerate their journey. Here are some ideas you can start incorporating today:

  • Let them ask questions- needs to be continuous and constant
  • Connect them with experts and show them how they can start connecting on their own.
  • Promote the use of Social Media to research ideas and connect with professional mentors
    • Remember it is far better to see 1 student practicing digital citizenship then 100 educators teaching it
  • Prompt them to raise awareness for a cause of their choice
  • Allow them to use professional tools in the classroom
  • Encourage them to share their work with an authentic audience

It is amazing the tools we have available today that will help facilitate self-discovery. There is no greater feeling to see that lightbulb go off for students when they discover what matters to them!

“To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an
opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.”
– John Dewey

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