Thursday, December 11, 2014

Working My Way Up the Greased Pole

There's a new Normal in Jewish Education. Ten years ago, we scrounged around to find 5 congregations willing to try to re-imagine the conventional model of religious school. Today, new models are spreading across the country.
 Isa Aron's recent summary, "Upending the Grammar of Conventional Religious School," shows that re-modeling has produced a range of changes, from "project based learning," to more dramatic re-design like "home-havurote-with-skype-Hebrew-led-by-a-counselor-based-on-questions-of-the-learners-with-with monthly-family-social time."

Personally, I've spent over 30,000 hours of my life supporting the creation of new models that foster learning that has rich content, is relational, enables inquiry and meaning based, and speaks to every day life. I devoted my waking and even sleeping hours to this work because I believe the classroom alone could never convey powerful Jewish learning. I've been driven by an almost evangelical conviction that we needed alternatives like Shabbat family models and camp-like models so learning would move to real life.

To all of us in the "re-modeling business" I say:  Keep the ball rolling.
Kol Hakavod! A great wave is sweeping the country. Yes, a lot more work has to be done.

And, I'm ready for what's next.
I need to move on because I believe no matter how we re-model those four to six hours, even with extremes like  the "learning-on-trampoline-while-your-personal-spiritual-coach-helps you-recite-Mishnah" model, it will not be enough to grow a Jewish child.

So I'm asking, where will I commit the next 30,000 of my work life?

I'm energized by ideas from Harvard's Family Research Project "Anywhere, Anytime Learning."

They say:
     "Children and youth learn anywhere, anytime, not just in classrooms during school hours. How can families, after school programs and community organizations work together to offer children meaningful learning opportunities outside the school setting? What is the role of families in                 anywhere, anytime learning? How can we make quality after-school and summer learning  opportunities accessible to all children? "

LOL. Their project bemoans that children are only in school six and half hours a day and that is not enough.  I've been using 30,000 hours to work my way up the greased pole of four six hours a week.  I'm laughing  and I'm seeing the opportunity for what's next.

If this is where children learn, then what is our work, to create Jewish Anywhere, Anytime Learning?
Folks around the country are already starting to re-position the role of the congregation, of cultural centers, and after school programs to create aspects of Anywhere/Anytime Learning.
Examples include:
*Schools and camps building partnerships that result in a 12 month curriculum & more kids in camps
* Educators using secular spaces for Jewish learning  like, in museums,  and the park --spaces where families are, become Jewish spaces
*Engage the real needs of families  like Jewish parenting & home enriched time
* Pre-schools, congregation, and teen engagement programs working together to usher folks from stage to the next...the list goes on.

So for me what's next?
1 Learn from the successes in the Community.
2. Find partners who believe in building the bridges to somewhere
3. Learn from the learners-as promoted by Design Thinking-Do some Wild Empathy
4. Try some stuff out

Ok I have my next steps to get off the greased pole. And, Hello Harvard. Deuteronomy 6 had this idea of Anywhere, Anytime learning, a long time ago. We just haven't figured out YET how to do that for the liberal Jewish community of America in the 21st century. By the way, how do you get grease stains out?