There is a wonderful little gem of a book that you may not know about. It is called Soulful Education, written by Aryeh Ben David. And while this is a book primarily written for Jewish Educators, make no mistake that this is a book that will speak to ALL educators.
The tagline tells us plenty: “Why imparting knowledge is not enough.”
The issue, as Ben David sees it, is simple: We need a paradigm shift in our definition of “successful teaching”. He says, “I believe we need a full-out paradigm shift: in the way we prepare material, the atmosphere we aim for in the classroom – and certainly in our expectations of our students and ourselves…I realized that our goal could be – and should be – about more than content and pedagogy.”
He goes on to redefine success in a number of ways including, “Success means enabling students to hear their own authentic inner voices, and to feel nourished and clarified through the learning process.”
I love when I find books that resonate. I connect to a book most significantly when I find myself nodding along and recognize my own philosophy and behavior in what has been written, while also finding small kernels of new, insightful ways to think or act.
Soulful Education speaks to me of Finding Joy. The focus is on seeking depth and helping students to reflect, understand and connect to themselves in significant ways, in turn enabling them to live what they learn. I believe that Joy Isn't Fun would resonate with Ben David. None of this is about dressing up the content; rather we are seeking to transform our own teaching to give students the room they need to grow, learn and transform themselves.
But it was the following statement that brought me back around to inclusion: “Everyone has a unique path and pace – an individual face, voice, taste buds, fingerprints and soul. God does not create clones.”
Ben David has realized that teaching is not and should not be about imparting one’s own truth to students. We may think we are enlightening them, he shares, but in reality we may be dimming their personal light.
Too often teachers do not make enough room for their student’s opinions and their paths.
Too often teachers miss the opportunity to listen to their student’s unique personal voices.
And we will all miss the mark completely if we do not adequately value the truth of each student’s unique and individual journey.
Enable your students to live what they learn.
How will you honor their souls?