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Fostering Passion and Curiosity (Guest Post by Jennifer Sertl)

Hello. My name is Jennifer Sertl, President of Agility3R. It is an honor to be asked to contribute to the Cooperative Catalyst – where education is being changed at the speed of speech. Being given a chance to share my voice, I felt the greatest contribution I could make was to evoke in all of us a cause to foster even more curiosity and passion. In both the school room and the board room I see more and more emphasis on results and measures. I am fearful that our ability to compete in a global economy will be compromised if we don’t counter that focus with the skill and practice of passion and curiosity.

When I think of education today, I am reminded of the wisdom of Jean-Jaques Rousseau’s Emile written in 1762. This was arguably the first book published on how to formalize education. The whole premise was based on the power a personal tutor has to develop the heart and the mind of the student. If you want to learn astronomy – go hiking, get lost, find True North, etc. Real life simulations where attention can be paid on what is personally relevant to the student experience. I believe so long as there is passion and curiosity-students will learn naturally. Our natural state is a desire for growth and curiosity. We are trying to hard to “orchestrate” and “formalize” something that is so natural.

Whether it is teachers in a classroom or leaders in a business–there is so much wisdom in the pupil , in the employee. We need to better honor that natural desire for growth, curiosity and value creation. What is needed is more one-to-one time where people can truly discuss out loud their current thinking, emergent challenges, and the types of questions they are asking. In our culture “the process” is devalued as the focus is on “the result.” I believe we will get better results by honoring the process of learning.

One of the greatest influences on my life is Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. You can meet him, too, on this recent TED Talk where he discusses music and passion:

Zander is relevant here as the greatest lesson he taught me was that the conductor of the orchestra doesn’t make a sound. He/she gets her powerful by facilitating other people’s power. Teachers, leaders – we get our power not from our lectures, but of the way we bring out the passion, curiosity, hunger of the student/employee. We need to put more focus on our role as facilitators rather than educators or bosses. It is an exchange of power and information– it is a dialogue of experience.

Learners – learn. It is their role to experience, interpret and act. Teachers/leaders are conduits– we are to draw forth.

May you be a better facilitator today and tomorrow.

Jennifer Sertl
Co-Author Strategy Leadership and the Soul


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7 thoughts on “Fostering Passion and Curiosity (Guest Post by Jennifer Sertl)

  1. Thank you so much for joining the conversation, Jennifer – I think I’m going to plaster my walls with signs saying “the conductor of the orchestra doesn’t make a sound.”

    I often worry that my teaching interrupts students’ learning. Finding the right way to design and balance class so that I can facilitate the kind of learning you describe is a major concern and passion.

    I appreciate your voice on the Coöp!

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | October 29, 2010, 11:11 pm
    • Chad,

      This is a gem of a comment. Two great phrases I will hold onto:

      “the conductor of the orchestra doesn’t make a sound.” and
      I often worry that my teaching interrupts students’ learning.

      Those will have me thinking today. Thanks!


      Posted by Adam Burk | October 30, 2010, 8:29 am
  2. Jennifer,

    This post resonated so much with me. I think that one of the things that our students are seeing less and less of in our schools is passion and curiosity on the part of the “teacher”. We can’t do something for others, if we’re not doing something similar for ourselves. One of my concerns here in Canada is that our professionals are losing heart, and I think that this is where both passion and curiosity are grounded.

    Scripted lessons, assessment deadlines and performance goals may do the tricks that current policy-makers want to see us do, but they do nothing to engender a sense of awe and wonder in our students or those that lead them on a daily basis.

    Thanks for this!


    Posted by Stephen Hurley | October 30, 2010, 2:52 pm
  3. Jennifer,
    For several years I worked as a facilitator at a great environmental/challenge education program in the San Juan Islands, WA. As I connect what you say about Emile to my own life I think about the kind of learning that took place for me as a facilitator in a challenge education program. You write, “If you want to learn astronomy – go hiking, get lost, find True North,” The “true north” I was able to find came in the form of a question, “When am I facilitating and when am I facili-training?” There is an uneasy feeling, like hands falling from the helm, that comes in letting go enough to just facilitate. I think, though, that when you let go you invite a group’s passion to step forward.

    Posted by Jeff Steele | October 30, 2010, 9:22 pm
  4. I am touched by all of your responses–and thankful to participate in some way acknowledging the vital role we play in next generation—survival and thrivival. Here is a poem I wrote a while ago to honor teachers.
    My best to our journey to foster passion and curiosity:
    Teachers Are Artists

    Teachers are artists.
    The art they practice is awareness. The canvas they use is the curriculum upon which they bring forth an effervescent picture for the world.
    The students arrive at the canvas, each bringing a unique and vibrant color.

    The mixture of the student population gives beauty to the canvas.
    The more diverse the population, the more colorful the painting.
    The artist’s strokes are the skillful, gentle questions that she asks her students.
    Some strokes are broad, confirming understanding. Some strokes are playful, discovering student’s current knowledge to find a benchmark to begin the lesson.
    Other strokes are so delicate that they barely touch the canvas.
    These strokes are the questions that stretch the student’s imagination and foster sensitivity.

    Bloom’s taxonomy provides hue to the masterpiece.
    The artist adds perspective to the painting by facilitating meaningful discussions and sharing observations.
    Once all the color has made its mark on the canvas and the painter has cultivated a glorious picture of a “spot in time,” with bittersweet emotion the artist gently places the work of art on the wall of life.
    It is now time to stretch and prepare yet another canvas.

    Jennifer Sertl , January 2000

    Posted by Jennifer Sertl | October 31, 2010, 5:16 pm
  5. Here is a TED video clip of Sir Ken Robinson speaking about schools killing creativity . . . creativity the most important aspect to our natural ability to learn, be curious and foster passion.

    Posted by Sandra | November 27, 2010, 11:40 am


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