Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Educators' shared lament

No surprise:
Yesterday, I spent the morning with 10 Jewish educators exploring Whole Person learning.

Whole Person Learning is a framework used by hundreds of educators in part time settings that works on the  If-then premise:

IF we want our children to live Judaism-- not just "learn about it"
       THEN we have to attend to the whole person.

Attending to the whole person includes enabling:

1. Rich Content-Knowledge

2. Opportunity to enact learning-Doing/living

3. Opportunity to reflect and make learning meaningful/your own-Values and Beliefs

4. Caring/role model/peer/familial relationships-Belonging

When educators use this whole person approach they see the necessity to expand learning and experience beyond the walls of the classroom.

Deep and caring relationships, for example, are developed when celebrating in real time and in real settings in a way the container of the classroom just can't convey.

The ten educators in my workshop  totally agreed  about the need to move learning from book to life. One seasoned educator said:
"We want a living Judaism. I get students to read, but I'm not sure I help them find meaning or relevance. Some do, but too many students don't  bring it to their lives."

Following are just four items from their long list of reasons why they said learning doesn't move to life:

1. We don't have time to ...build relationships (beyond the classroom..we once had seniors come but it didn't work), enable reflection, we have to cover the content

2. Children like learning/praying until they are in third grade, then we they are not interested...I think we do too much

3. Parents are not on the same page ..they send their children here but don't support it by how they live

4. I loved Hebrew and Israel, but the children today don't care, not relevant

I've heard this list and more before from educators in part-time Jewish educational settings.


The one thing that was surprising: All ten educators worked in Day Schools.

I'm used to this as the educators' lament in part-time settings:
If we only had more time, more parental support and more resource.

 "The story that is out there,"  as a Jewish leader recently told me, is that "Day Schools have this all covered and congregations don't."


I had introduced myself to the educators

"I live in another universe. We have a challenge in part time education to bring Jewish learning to life. I developed This Whole Person Learning framework when I was trying to find a way to talk to educators about meaning making. Learning doesn't count if it isn't meaningful. But over time, used by hundred of educators, I see the Whole Person Learning Approach is a way to think about a child's whole life and how Judaism speaks to that."

 I learned I'm not from another universe.

Before my workshop started, three ten-year old girls greeted me in the hall to show me where my session was being held.

"Thank you for giving up your day off," I said to the shortest with her hair a bit askew, "You could have been home watching TV or something, but you are helping."

"I'm so tired," she said, "I'll watch TV all the rest of the day. I don't sleep very well. I get up at 1 and 4 almost every night."

The dark haired girl with the pony tail said, "Me too. I never sleep through in the night."

In just a few minutes I could hear an opportunity for Jewish learning for real life.
 Do educators take/have the time to hear what is happening in the children's lives?
 What are children's questions and needs?
In what ways does Judaism help these young children find meaning, relevance?
What relationships, what content, what opportunity to reflect and what lived action could speak to ten year old's who can't sleep?

I shared with the educators the notion of children saying Shema and Hashkeveniu at bedtime and talking to G-d about their questions, and worries and hopes.

"I don't think that would work," an educator in the session said.

So I have to ask: What's the opportunity for Day Schools and Part-time settings to move out of  self imposed separate universes and share our questions and learning? Suggestions?