Written by Benjamin Hirschman, Masa Israel Teaching Fellows – Beersheva

After University in the states, it seems logical, even a cultural norm, to start your career and gain “valuable experience”. I started this process for about two years at a wonderful company, and very much enjoyed the majority of it. I feel I have a knack and sense of enjoyment for sales, marketing and entrepreneurship and wish to return to a career in the field, eventually. In the meantime, I’m busy doing something I never thought I’d do–teaching English and volunteering in Israel, traveling, and playing on the Israel Men’s Ultimate Frisbee Team.

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan.

In the schools, I am often given struggling students to tutor in small groups to help close the gap between them and their excelling peers. Not only is there a language and cultural barrier, but these are students who may have a difficult situation at home, no desire to learn in general, or are simply uninterested in learning English. Amongst many ways to work through these obstacles, I choose to try to connect with these students on something we have in common and build a relationship based on those features. I choose to not try to force them to read or write, but rather to understand how they best learn (kinesthetically, visually, or auditory) and capitalize on that strength of theirs. If my students walk away with a single thing when they leave my classroom, it’s that they BELIEVE in their ability to learn English. If you want to learn more about this technique, check out Rita Pierson’s Ted Talk on what every kid needs.

I feel as though I run into a wall just about every day with either a cultural or language barrier. Coaching ultimate frisbee to kids who don’t speak my language requires a lot of patience, demonstration, and concise language so that IF I do have a translator he or she understands the message I’m trying to convey. There have been several obstacles as well with playing on the Israel National Men’s Team (besides the obvious language barrier). The way Israelis communicate can be very different than the way Americans typically do; there is no sugar coating or politeness. They are going to say what they mean and mean what they say and it’s not meant to hurt your feelings or to be rude; it’s just the way they communicate. It makes sense though, that teammates who fly F-16s or are in the IDF Special Forces don’t waste their time with small talk.

Miki Agrawal said it well with the title of her Amazon bestseller, “Do Cool Sh**”.  Per Miki’s advice, I started to ask myself questions like what makes me truly happy. What makes me authentically me? The only way I felt like I could potentially answer these questions was by taking risks, and doing uncomfortable and new things. Some examples of this include eating some of the best food of my life  in Italy, jumping off a cliff in Cyrpus, working on farms and kibbutzim, playing and coaching ultimate Frisbee on weekends, learning a new language, traveling to 7 or 8 different countries in a span of 10 months, figuring out how to teach kids who don’t understand me, hiking 30 km in a day, hiking for 4 days straight from sea to sea across Israel, and playing the ultimate Frisbee world championships in London in June for Team Israel. Curious about what I’m doing when I get back? Me too, but right now I’m occupied doing cool sh**.

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