Source: AVI CHAI Blog
At Gann Academy in Waltham, MA, I lead a Mussar-based character development program called Chanoch LaNa’ar (CLN), named after a verse in the Book of Proverbs which advocates for sophisticated child-centered education. We decided that, if we wanted this language, culture, and practice to impact our entire school, we needed to start with the adults in the building, especially the school’s senior leadership team.
CLN follows the Mussar method of growth, which involves purposeful, small, repetitive practices that develop our middot (soul traits) over time to make us as God-like as possible. Grounded in millennia of wisdom about human behavior, this method is based on the premise that everyone has a personal soul curriculum with individualized challenges and goals. Such goals could include developing self-awareness about our character traits (hergesh), delaying gratification (kibush), and sublimating our impulses to positive ends (tikkun). The soul curriculum unfolds in a laboratory of the mundane events of everyday life, such as not looking at a classmate’s paper during a test, overcoming embarrassment to visit the learning center, or inviting a new student to sit at your table during lunch. Through a combination of learning from traditional texts, action and reflection, we work to develop middot such as keinut (honesty), kavod (respect) and yashrut (integrity).
In Mussar, it is important for the language about character traits not only inform work with students, but also be the common language and practice of the school. At Gann Academy, we decided that, if we wanted this language, culture, and practice to impact our entire school, we needed to start with the adults in the building, especially the school’s senior leadership team. For the past two years our management team has been learning Mussar together, combining this ancient wisdom with contemporary leadership challenges like time management, trust and work overload. When our leaders model purposeful decision-making using the language and practices of Mussar, they encourage others to use the same tools and language. Before enrolling any students in CLN, a cohort of 9th grade faculty and advisors went through the program themselves, so they too could bring the language and practices of Mussar to their lessons and one-on-one interactions with students. Mussar’s deep roots in Jewish culture and practical application to everyday challenges in school life make it an ideal vehicle for culture change at all levels of our school.
Read the entire post at the AVI CHAI Blog.