Educators are Real People Too

July 18, 2014

Source: iCenter for Israel Education


I also cannot help but think of all of the Jewish educators in the world, those at summer camp and in southern hemisphere classrooms today, and those who in a few short weeks will be seeing the fresh faces of children coming back to school after their summer vacations. In conversations with many of you, I can sense the anxiety of what you will say and do in relation to this summer’s events in Israel.


But this piece is not about what an Israel educator ought to do. Nor is it about what to include when educating about these conflicts or when it is developmentally appropriate to do so - both are clearly important topics for educational settings to address. This piece is about something even more fundamental - acknowledging that our educators, just like our learners, are real people.


I am advocating for every educational leader (or leader of educators) to consider facilitating what could be a most difficult conversation. I am asking you to consider asking your educators (and ancillary staff) to be their real selves and not simply your employees. This is the conversation when you ask people to talk about their relationship with Israel, and how the current escalated conflict is impacting them.


The discussions that I am advocating for are not ones where people are trying to convince others that they are right and others are wrong.


The conversations that I am suggesting occur are ones in which ask more fundamental questions:

  • When was the first time in your life that you thought about the situation in Israel?

  • How do you keep informed about the situation in Israel in a way that advances your thinking?

  • What are some of your life experiences that have challenged the way you think and feel about the situation in Israel?

  • When you contemplate the situation in Israel today, how do you feel and what do you think?

You must establish some ground rules– including no pre-judgments, no advocating for political positions, and no disclosure beyond the bubble. Allowing for everyone who wants an opportunity to express themselves is vital, ensuring that no one monopolizes the time is critical, and to ensure that the conversation ends when it needs to end is respectful. This is not therapy because there will be no resolution. But it is a conversation of trust, authenticity and integrity.


Only once educators have had the opportunity to talk openly and safely about these questions for themselves and to their colleagues can we ask them what and how they want to teach their learners – our children. 


As I write this piece I am reminded of the words of Parker Palmer who writes:

“Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul. If I am willing to look in that mirror, and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject.”


In these troubling times I urge all of us to hold a mirror to our souls, especially those among us privileged to be the educators of our people.

Updated: Jul. 22, 2014