Friday, January 20, 2012

Jewish Education: being less lonesome


"We are lonesome animals. We spend all of our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods, is to tell a story beginning the listerner to say--and to feel---'Yes that is the way it is, or at least that is the way I feel it.'" John Steinbeck

As a teen, my pink princess telephone was all the rage. This sleek object wasn't "wired" to a wall like most phones. Amazingly, it was portable with the aide of a jack. By decades old standards, I was the owner of the best technology for the life chatter of my friends. So today kids are connected by a swipe of a screen instead of rotary dial. Sure technology changed. What's the same?

A deep desire to belong. A deep desire to be less lonesome.

So what are we as educators doing about that?
In New York we're shifting our craft.

Speak to the real life questions of learners
In the spring of last year 100 teachers went to three Macy's departments stores to ask:
What are the daily questions of chlidren's lives?
How do we shape Jewish learning that speaks to those questions like:
a. what's my worth if I don't have all this stuff
b. I want all that stuff how do i decide
c. how do i express me through what I buy

Since then models of education have been created that begin with the questions and passions of the learners. Temple Israel of Great Neck, great example for teens. Less lonesome: teens who answered for themselves: What is a caring community? What do I want to do about it?
So now the teens each week pick up and play with a second grader who has a sick mom. Together they make dinner for the family.

Connect through our stories
In the fall of this year 100 teachers went to 8 homes across New York to ask:
How do we build relationships among learners?
In the intimate setting of a home, teachers practiced making room for:

a. sharing of personal story and connection
b. making connections between and among stories
c. linking individuals' stories to the master story of the Jewish people
d. using tools to measure change in learners "belonging"
Since then over 500 lessons in New York have used techniques to foster belonging

Learn about yourself-others through conversation

In the spring 100 teachers will be eating out at 10 restaurants (10 per restaurant)
to grow their craft. Yes to learners'
questions
to their stories and now to the art of
conversation.

There really is a field called conversational learning theory.
It talks about the kind of learning that emerges through the give and take of information, ideas and heart.

Conversation is not debate.
Conversation is not discussion.
It is more personal, more free flowing, more self directed, more connectivity

What is the difference between a rabbi's sermon and hevruta study?
What's the difference between an interesting discussion when we are all in a circle vs
a conversatoin when look each other eye to eye?

Conversation lets you reveal and reflect. To connect to another. Less lonely?

Conversation can be social: ma nishma? (build social capital)
Conversation can be functional: What would it take for you to climb Jacob's ladder? Why bother? (reflect and make meaning)

Both are needed: Functional conversations are better when we have social conversation.

What are we doing to set the table for conversation?
What's the restaurant do to "set the table" for conversation?

Conversational learning-- not telling learning-- holds promise for being less lonesome. We'll see.

Human hard wiring hasn't change since the days of princess phone. Basic Human Yearnings: static.

A Jewish education that speaks to our desire to be known, to be cared about, and to be not alone is a Jewish education that nurtures a whole learner. I'm guessing it builds Jewish community too.

What is LOMED about? In great part it is about congregational education being the
Jewish place where kids/parents explore their questions, their stories through conversations that help them grow as whole people.

Tell me what you think, write a comment, so I don't feel so lonely.