The future of Jewish education IS Jewish Life Coaching.
Now the explanation. In my work, Jewish Life Coaching is helping folks to reach goals that they want to reach in their lives, using Jewish frames of reference.
For example, one person I worked with wanted to overcome perfectionism in personal and professional areas. In a very short term coaching situation, we used the Kotel, the Western Wall of the ancient Temple compound ruins, as a visual representation of something that is imperfect, yet special and holy. If a destroyed wall can be holy, then an imperfect project (or lesson plan or layer cake) can also be just fine. We worked on visualizing the Kotel whenever there was an incomplete or imperfect situation as a means of moving to a better way of seeing things.
Another way of using a Jewish frame of reference in life coaching is the parent who is looking to improve communications with children. Making Friday night into family dinner night, and framing it as a Shabbat experience, provides the opportunity to bring busy family members to the table and to have at least one good family conversation during people’s busy lives. How a family chooses to do Shabbat dinner – whether as a home cooked traditional meal or around a table at a pizza place – is not the point. The idea is to use Jewish language and concepts to help people reach real life goals.
Oh, and this isn’t just about adults or families. I learned about what one Jewish education professional, great guy named Andrew Paull, was doing at Larchmont Temple (NY). He’s taking small groups of teens out for coffee and helping to guide them on their Jewish life journeys. This model is catching on, and is a totally different way of looking at how we educate teens, using coaching as a model.
What makes coaching different than how Jewish education has worked until now?
- First of all, Jewish education has generally had educational goals that were set by synagogues or schools. It could be Hebrew fluency, prayer literacy, commitment to Israel and the like. Coaching takes a different approach. It begins with the proposal that we all have goals that we want to reach in life. And, in my model, rather than “Jewish” being the desired outcome, it becomes a means to an end.
- Jewish education has tried to define the “ideal Jew”. In a coaching approach, it is the individual, family or small group that defines the end goal and the Jewish path that helps to get one there.
- A Jewish Life Coaching approach is remarkably non-judgmental. It plays to the strength of the person, family or group, and to their existing commitment, rather than pointing out the deficits that need to be filled.
- In my model, the learner – whether an individual or a family – does not even have to be Jewish, making this approach great for interfaith families. All that is needed is a commitment to working towards goals, and an agreement to value Jewish perspectives and language in the achievement of those goals.
I’m already using this model in working with individuals. This summer, I will also use elements of Jewish Life Coaching in working with teens. And I’m waiting for the first congregation or school to bring me in to experiment with using Jewish Life Coaching as a better way of providing family education, whether in person or via Skype.
There’s a standing offer from me for a free session of Jewish Life Coaching, to see if it would work for you as an individual. I’m ready to expand the offer to any family or group that would like to try it on for size.
Regardless of whether you avail yourself of my offer, I am assuring you that coaching approaches are the future of Jewish learning. And, in my opinion, Jewish Life Coaching is a great strategy towards building the Jewish connectedness, which I believe is the goal of all Jewish education today.