Let’s Learn From Panera…

I have always found it interesting that name tags at Panera include the employee’s passion. Often times I find myself striking up a conversation with the cashier about it and why that’s their passion. Sometimes, they are caught off guard and don’t understand why I’m asking them the question. They eventually realize it’s about their name tag. One thing that always happens though is their level of engagement and excitement in the conversation is much higher than when they were first taking my order. Sunday morning, I struck up a conversation with Melissa about her passion. Her name tag said family and music. She beamed when I led with the question…What are you more passionate about…family or music? She went into a story about growing up with six siblings and all of them played different instruments and loved to sing. She completely forgot about the line behind me, and it seemed as if she was taken back to twenty years ago when she was playing the piano and her brother was on the drums. For those few minutes, she was passionate about what she did for a living. Yes, she was taking my order and not playing the piano, but there was a difference to who Melissa was. I may be wrong, but I bet that was the best iced caramel latte she’s ever made!

What if this model was taken from Panera and put into schools? What if teachers had their passions posted somewhere present for everyone to see? What if students had their passions on display? Would learning be taken to whole new level? Would teachers find ways to connect their passions to what and how they taught? Would students find ways to connect their passions to what they were learning? If students and teachers were able to have conversations on a daily basis about their passion, would deeper learning take place?

I know I harp on this a lot, but it’s because this is what I am passionate about. Passions need to be present in what we do throughout the day if we want to do things well. The same is true for learning. A few years ago, I heard Will Richardson (@willrich) say that if it was up to him, college students wouldn’t declare a major, they would declare a passion. How powerful would that be? I lacked passion throughout my college years. Because of it, I barely skated by. Once I found what I was passionate about, it showed in my graduate work and in my daily life when it came to my career. If we can get students to start developing their passions when they first walk down our halls, imagine the possibilities.

To Melissa at Panera…I hope that you are still finding ways to live out your passion. I hope that you and your family are still making music. Don’t stop! And thank you for the drink!


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