Sunday, January 6, 2013

Drop Jewish and Education

I would like to drop two words from the work I do:

1) Jewish

2) Education

The language we use to describe success in my field goes something like:
Jewish engagement
Jewish identity
Jewish observance....

I don't want to speak to the "Jewish part of a child." When I do I miss an understanding that humanness, what we all quest for, is an integrated way of being. Being Jewish is not for special days and special issues. I don't want to message to a child that being Jewish is a separate identity from being a girl or a boy, an American or a citizen.

I don't want my work geared toward a side car profile of self. I don't want to ask our children to live in two civilizations. Judaism is the foundation for being fully human as you live in one civilization, every day.

If my work is not in service of the "Jewish," what is it?
My work is to support families in enabling children to grow more fully as human beings who live with purpose and meaning. Jewish tradition, and community are the path to a full and worthy life.

Purpose:
My work is to help young people to discover and commit to a sense of purpose in the world. Children can fill their  pockets with notions like: I am  here to serve..to shape..to mend. I want to help each child  to figure out his/her ability and  responsibility to wake in the morning with the call to make the world more whole.  I want to help each child to know how to achieve that goal.

Living with purpose sounds lofty. But it not so high that children can't reach for it every day. Would we all agree that children need a sense of purpose greater than doing well on a test and getting a trophy?

Meaning:
Understanding. Making sense. Putting it my own words. Writing my own words.
 These are all the processes that children need in order to have a sense of purpose. If you haven't made sense of the text, the experience or the relationship, it is just happened. Then it is gone. To stick, to guide, to stir, and to turn to action  you have to make meaning.

Nix the word education too.
When I understand my work to be working with families to help children grow in their humanness every day then it is so clear this can not be learned in a school. Education characterized by books, and i-pads and desks and activities and recess are not the answers.

Instead I want my work to be about:

1) Close and caring relationship. What can I do to facilitate a child growing up with regular connections with people who share the struggle and triumph of living with purpose and meaning? How can my work help children know peers, teens, parents, and adults in the community who convey "I care about the story you are writing with your life?" Isn't my work about children learning ways to express "I also care about your story?"

2) Dialogue with our ancestors. What's my job to help children know their  ancestors so vividly that they walk with a child when he goes to school? How can I make sure Abraham and Sarah challenge a child, represent a diversity of paths and even listen to a child? How can my work help a child know there is room for failure and growth? Can my work help children to hear the voice of God?

3) Regularization. Pomp and circumstance. Yes I want my work to help a child be bound to folks at the table, to the folks in the time tunnel and to Makom.  I want my work to turn ritual into the calendar planner for families that embues awe and mystery into a week of  tests and tv shows and play dates.

4) Creative Experimentation. How does my work help the just "Do it" approach? Do the purpose thing in big and inspiring ways. Do it every day on the playground and at the dinner table.  Talk about it with others. Talk about with the Prophets and the Sages and your friends. Can I help a child learn from it and try it again? Can my work help a child  try something entirely different next time?

So the tools of my trade are:
1. Relationships
2. Conversation
3. and 4.  Regular and rich experience

What does that make me?
Not a Jewish educator but a ...?
What?
What would you call me?