What We Have Learned: Words From Our Hearts

Posted on 11/12/2021 @ 07:00 AM

Tags: Jewish Schools & Educational Services

This week, as the “virtual curtain” fell on our final Torahtron performance, the co-creators of Words From Our HeartsA Prayer Exploration for Early Childhood, Evelyn Goldfinger and Joy Schandler, had an opportunity to reflect on what they learned throughout the yearlong program. 

  1. Deepening the spirituality of children and adults is crucial to wellbeing. We deliberately chose to explore a spiritual topic (prayer, talking with God) with teachers and children based on the groundbreaking research done by Dr. Lisa Miller and explored in her book, The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving. Dr. Miller explains that children are innately spiritual and developing that spiritual domain in children is critical to their future wellbeing. However, if the skills of spiritual expression are not practiced and/ or encouraged, they lie dormant. 
  2. Teachers are eager to learn about Judaism on an adult level. In their evaluations, one of the things teachers enjoyed most was learning more by delving into prayers on a deeper level. One teacher wrote: I absolutely loved how we dissected and closely looked at the Modeh Ani prayer. That has inspired me to do the same with other prayers. Learning alongside other educators and having discussions about spirituality really illuminated my heart.
  3. Ongoing teacher professional development is what improves learner outcomes. Educators are energized by professional development opportunities, which give them opportunities to reflect with peers about the art and practice of teaching. And research shows that the best way to improve student outcomes is by improving teacher skills and knowledge.
  4. Bringing spirituality and prayer into the classroom uplifts everyone. Teachers expressed how the learning helped her better understand the unique value of each child and listen more generously and empathically. Many conveyed their new intention of slowing down, both personally and with their students, in order to intentionally recognize their daily blessings and feel gratitude.
  5. Collaboration is a powerful tool for learning and growth. We read in Kohelet/ Ecclesiastes 4:9: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. Collaboration is one of the most important learning and working skills needed to succeed in the 21st century. More often than not, teaching is a solitary profession. We plan our lessons alone and spend all day teaching in our own rooms. What a delight and adventure it was to develop the content for this workshop with a colleague! The creative process was filled with inquiry and “aha!” moments. And best of all, we pushed each other to explore and express our own personal spiritual perspectives. 

Created by Evelyn Goldfinger, the Founder and Director of Torahtron, and Joy Schandler, CAJE’s Director of the Early Childhood Education, Words From Our Hearts: A Prayer Exploration for Early Childhood is an original program. It was generously funded through the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Incubator Grants Initiative. Its goals were to help ECE educators connect to spirituality, recognize when children experience spiritual moments, learn how to nurture their spiritual expression, and imbue these spiritual moments with Jewish blessings, prayers and vocabulary. 
We thank Federation for the opportunity to create Words From Our Hearts and feel blessed to be a part of Miami’s Jewish education community.