Tools for Building a Mensch

Posted: January 16th, 2015

By Linda Block-Love, Director, Learning Initiatives in Leadership Development

As part of Jewish Learning Venture’s Leadership Development Seminar (LDS) series, 14 education directors met last month with Dr. Jeffrey Kress, a nationally recognized expert in Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), to discuss the role SEL has in our religious schools. It was a timely conversation: Take a look at almost any website that focuses on important issues in education and you’re likely to see something about SEL. It’s not because it’s the “flavor of the month;” this topic is in the spotlight because research and experience have found that SEL not only makes it easier for a student to learn other content, but it can have a significant and life-long positive effect on all aspects of a person’s life.

SEL deals with how individuals understand and manage their emotions, make decisions about their actions, build relationships, and interact with others. In other words, it’s about the way we relate to the world within and around us. In Jewish education we have our own way of capturing this concept: It’s about building menschlehkeit. While our religious schools already focus on learning and living Jewish values, the current work on SEL provides new approaches and techniques that we can use to enhance that learning.

Earlier this week, a group of education directors met again to collaborate on ways to bring the learnings from the December session into their schools. We look forward to supporting them in this work, and to hearing about the impact it has had on their students and school communities.

To learn more about Social-Emotional Learning, visit:
CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning): http://www.CASEL.org
Edutopia’s SEL page: http://www.edutopia.org/social-emotional-learning

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