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October 3, 2014

What are you passionate about?

by Dr. Eliezer Jones

What are you passionate about? This is a question not asked often enough in our schools. This is unfortunate given the fact that we know that when a student connects the learning to something they are passionate about they are more successful. Plus, if we are truly preparing them for their future, supporting the discovery of their interests is a critical preparatory element.  At Valley Torah, we are asking this question.

A couple of week ago we began our TED-Ed Club, which is the speech component of our Improvisational Arts and Speech course. As stated by the organization, “TED-Ed Clubs is a flexible, school-based program that supports students in discussing, pursuing and presenting their big ideas in the form of short TED-style talks.” If you have never watched a TED talk, I highly recommend them and have provided a few of my favorites below. However, the talk is the end product of the development of an idea the speaker is passionate about, which is the primary goal of this class. We want our students to discover what they are passionate about, understand what makes a great idea and learn how to articulate their great idea. Sounds awesome? It is! Sounds easy? It is not.

At the first meeting the students were asked to describe themselves and list three things that they are passionate about. The meeting began by watching this video from TED-Ed Clubs.


After the video, which was meant to highlight the expression of passions, we turned to the students to begin the discussion of the above questions. This was a struggle given they were not used to these tasks. So, myself and Mr. McCaffery modeled the answers and explained how knowing yourself is helpful in figuring out what your passions are. The we turned it back to the students and the answers were open, honest, vulnerable and powerful. I was beyond proud of the two groups that have this club. They supported each other and laid the foundation we needed to move to the next question, which was “What makes a great idea….great?”

At at our second meeting, which is where the club is up to, the students watched this video and then were asked these guiding questions:

  • What is your club’s definition of an “idea worth spreading”?
  • What are the qualities of good ideas?
  • Are ideas created by individuals or groups?
  • What can keep ideas from spreading?

Again, the students were impressive and beautifully discussed what it will take to create “ideas worth spreading” in this course. We will continue down this path together and the students will learn how to develop their passions into ideas they can articulate as well as film them to share with the world. However, the question of what you are passionate about does not only sit with this club.

After the break, we will begin the Principal Project which will support our students interests in the areas of professions, universities and making a difference in this world. Our fine arts class is completely passion-based where students propose what they are interested in exploring and producing within the arts. We have expanded our electives to increase our ability to target the growing array of student interests and after the break we begin our clubs to further support their interests. In addition, our staff is exploring project-based learning and models of education that increase deeper and meaningful learning with the unique talents and interests of our students in the center of it all.

So, as we enter Yom Kippur focused on atonement and purification, may we all leave with a clean slate undistracted from the irrelevant and be able to return to school after the break able to answer the question what are you passionate about?

As promised, here are a few of my favorite TED Talks:

Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

Phil Hansen: Embrace the Shake (I wrote about it here)

Ron Gutman: The hidden power of smiling (I wrote about it here)

If you like these you can also check out the 20 most popular TED Talks by clicking here as well as the 10 of the best TEDTalks on improving education by clicking here.

Read more from Boys, Dr. Jones

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