A Refresher Course in Passion

I strongly believe in giving your all to the work you do. The problem is, however, that when you invest yourself fully in work, some things get lost in the way. One meeting after another, hitting your numbers, chasing your goals –  the grind in any job can be exhausting. A strong supporting environment- your staff, your colleagues, your friends, your significant other, your family, whoever it may be, are so important to keep you grounded and focused. Sometimes, even that is not enough. For me, especially in the world of education, there’s a need for one ingredient necessary to be truly successful: true passion fueled by the fact that your job is immensely and personally important.

Lately I have lost some of that passion in my work as an Israel Fellow. This work, at times, feels a lot like treading water. For me, the concept of “Israel Education” is one of complexities: of a multi-faceted country, with a diverse population, a rich culture, unbelievable views and yes, a lot of issues, both domestic and foreign. So far, seems like a description fitting… pretty much most countries in the world. However, lately the conversation seems to go back to the basics. It’s all about “the conflict,” people are either for or against something, “pro-Israel” or “anti-Israel,” a discourse of black and white where complexities and critical thinking are not #trending. And don’t get me wrong. I get it. This is how we consume news in 2019. The message has to be delivered in small doses, up to 280 Tweetable characters, a picture, a 2 minute video. Who has time for more when we run around from place to place? From class to class? From work to home and back again?

And yet, this creates a tension: How do we operate in this space when our work should be focused on the complex, on the dilemmas, on the gray areas, those that are so much more interesting than the absolute black and white? How do we empower our students to engage in a difficult balance of of contradicting opinions with respect and genuine pluralism when their surroundings create the exact opposite habits and expectations?

I must say, these almost constant questions and struggles within myself were difficult, and for that I have lost some of my passion to this work. That is, until I was fortunate enough to spend time with some of the most inspirational educational figures I have ever met. I have spent the last few days at an amazing conference built and led by the iCenter for Israel education – a fantastic organization doing that exact work of talking about the complexities, delving in deep and not shying away from any conversation or issue, creating a space for all to talk, but mostly listen. In that space, I engaged in fascinating conversations with peers and colleagues, learning so much from them, and in that process, get a free refresher course in the science of passion.

The truth is that we cannot afford to lose even a little bit of our passion for our work. It is on us as educators to challenge our students, our colleagues, our surrounding; To empower engagement in difficult conversation, face dilemmas and complexities head-on and not shy away.

So please, let us not take anything we are presented with at face value, let us think, read and write critically but respectfully, let us be genuinely pluralistic and welcoming of other opinions. And most importantly, let us find those people, resources, and experiences that can fan the flames of our passion for what is most important when we need our passion the most.

About the Author
Yotam was born & raised in Haifa, Israel. and is the Jewish Agency Israel Fellow at Yale University Hillel. served in the IDF for 3.5 years as a commander in the air-defense branch of the air force. Yotam holds a BA in International Relations and Communication Studies from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, as well as previously worked in the Jewish Agency for several years.
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