Who says that reading is under-rated? This 4 year-old has read 1,000 books. No kidding.
Pop quiz: What has 15 year-old Toby Thorpe from Huonville High, Hobart done?
a) Created a two-year renewable energy plan for his community.
b) Met the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev
c) Won $US100, 000.
d) Met Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed.
Both of these stories blow me away. Four year-old, Daliyah, and Toby have both achieved incredible things at such a young age. Their feats are of the kind that we look to in admiration, unsure of whether we could achieve what they’ve done.
The useful takeaways from their stories though, is not that we should feel inadequate for not having done similar things. That response feeds into unhelpful beliefs and attitudes, such as the sense that “I just wasn’t born to be able to do X”. We don’t need to look at success for the purposes of drawing comparison, but we can still celebrate the achievements of others and take joy in what they have done.
We can also learn from what these two stories tell us about supporting young people to pursue their passions. Daliyah’s parents entered her in a reading program where the bar was set extraordinarily high. Toby’s teachers supported his participation in a prestigious international competition. In both cases, the adults involved could have stopped and not provided the opportunity out of concern for Daliyah or Toby facing failure. It’s easy to think “What’s the point of my child/student doing this? The chances of them succeeding are incredibly slim”. But if opportunities are never provided in the first place, then there’s no way of knowing what potential height can be reached. Opportunity combined with passion form a powerful couple. As these two young people have shown us, passion is a great motivator that pushes us to exceed expectations.
Daliyah’s and Toby’s stories have left me wondering about how we can harness the passion/opportunity combo for more young people. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of the goals of our education system was to support every individual to uncover and pursue something that got them excited and deeply curious, without the pressure of having a defined end-point (e.g. curriculum outcome) or standardised metric for success (e.g. report mark)?