BECOMING A SOULFUL EDUCATOR: How to Bring Jewish Learning from Our Minds, to Our Hearts, to Our Soul – and into Our Lives by Aryeh Ben David (Jewish Lights, 2016)
It has often been said that ‘teaching is a work of heart’, and teachers – and especially teachers of Judaic Studies - are renowned for their dedication in preparing and teaching their classes to help maximize the learning opportunities of their students. But what is often ignored is how every teacher – consciously or otherwise – shapes their practice by an agenda set either by themselves, their school or the wider society, and while teaching may be a work of heart, much of those emotions are rarely featured in the classroom.
For example, the agenda of some teachers and schools may be to promote obedience to Jewish law, while others may emphasize the study of text and the pursuit of intellectual rigour. According to Rabbi Aryeh Ben David, ‘it is fair to say that the primary goal of Jewish education, at least for the past fifty years, has been Jewish continuity – the simple preservation of the Jewish people’ which means that ‘Jewish education focused on the transmission of information’.
However, as Rabbi Ben David continues to explain, the time has come to reconsider this agenda and change our focus from preserving identity to discovering identity; from the acquisition of knowledge to the finding of self; from learning to becoming. Rabbi Ben David calls this approach ‘Soulful Education’, and Becoming a Soulful Educator offers wise and considered suggestions to teachers about how they can enable their students to grow and be transformed by what they learn.
For a teacher to engage the souls of their students in their classrooms they need to create a learning environment whose agenda is connection and meaning. They need to model soulful learning through emphasizing the relationship they have with the learning being done, and they need to be prepared to share their own vulnerabilities and yearnings to model personal growth.
In Becoming a Soulful Educator, Rabbi Ben David offers practical suggestions and tangible examples that comes from the heart and speaks to the soul, and I would highly recommend this book to any and every teacher.