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DEEPER: A new model for writing goals for tefillah

 

The authors propose a new model for generating educational goals appropriate for tefillah.

Schools need to articulate goals for tefillah, whether it occurs in the classroom or in the synagogue. While this may seem selfevident, our shared experience indicates that this is rarely the case. Tefillah occurs daily in most Jewish schools and aspects of tefillah are covered in Jewish studies curricula, but the services themselves are often not taught so much as experienced and, in some cases, endured. As Goldmintz (2009) aptly suggests, staff and students often view tefillah as the worst part of their day. To create improved instruction and quality learning, goal-setting is essential (Hattie, 2008; Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2002).

The concept of SMART goals originated in the 1970s and was extended by Brown, Leonard & Arthur-Kelly (2016) and applied it to educational contexts (see Sidebar 1). According to their definition, SMARTER goals are:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Trackable

Enjoyable

Rewarding

SMARTER goals can offer teachers an excellent framework with which to plan tefillah programs and lessons.

Keva vs Kavvanah

In our effort to apply this specifically to tefillah education, we struggled to use the SMARTER framework to touch on the spiritual dimension of tefillah education and experiences. Tefillah, argues Greninger (2010), tends to be a “mishmash” of various curricula, programs and worship services geared toward some vague, unspecified goal of learning Jewish prayer. Greninger continues to describe tefillah education as the interplay between keva and kavvanah.

Keva literally means “set” or “fixed,” and it refers to the structure of Jewish prayer, the liturgy that’s typically recited in a service, the set “form” of Jewish prayer. Kavvanah on the other hand, means “intention.” When talking about prayer, the term Kavvanah generally refers to the affective, spiritual dimension of praying, the extent to which a person feels connected to and/or moved by prayer.

The keva, or content and mechanics of teaching and learning tefillah, aligns neatly with SMARTER goals. It is straight-forward to measure and track student progress in the mechanics of tefillah, such as how well students know the prayers in Hebrew, their familiarity with possible meanings of the prayers, or their familiarity with the structure and order of the siddur. The kavvanah, or spiritual aspect of tefillah, however, does not easily fit within existing goal-setting frameworks since it is, by definition, personal and almost impossible to measure or track in generalized or standardized ways. In fact, Goldmintz (2009) claims that the only measure by which we tend to judge children’s commitment or seriousness in tefillah is their external behavior. These two linked yet separate aspects of tefillah require separate but interrelated models for planning their instruction.

Spirituality is widely believed to be associated with student wellbeing outcomes (Cotton et al., 2006; Lau, 2009; Pargament, 2009; Rasic, Kisely & Langille, 2011; Shire, 1997), which are essential elements in a well-rounded education. Fraillon (2004) summarizes the attributes of student wellbeing as including autonomy, emotional regulation, resilience, self-efficacy, selfesteem, spirituality, curiosity, engagement, and mastery orientation. It is not surprising that tefillah has the potential to play a central role within the development of student spirituality and Shire (1997) argues that one of our aims in tefillah education is to promote a sense of Encounter – a spiritual confrontation with the Absolute. Prayer, argues Siegel (2016), can be a source of meaning, comfort, connection and wellbeing. She argues that many Jewish day schools miss the opportunity to connect student prayer with wellbeing because students have neither the conceptual language skills nor the opportunity to articulate and explore their feelings and doubts about prayer with good habits of thinking. Moreover, de Souza (2009) articulates how fostering student spirituality, for example through meaningful prayer, can give students a feeling of connection and being part of something greater than their own selves, which should promote wellbeing.

DEEPER goals

Wellbeing is difficult to standardize and measure, but can be explicitly planned and taught, albeit differently than cognitive topics. Hill & Maltby (2009) explore many existing models that aim to measure and assess spiritual development. None of the models and measures that they suggest align neatly with the concept of kavvanah, just as kavvanah does not fit neatly into existing paradigms for goal setting. As a result, we have developed a model to create learning goals to facilitate deliberate planning for kavvanah, aligned to student wellbeing objectives. We call these DEEPER goals (parallel to the cognitive SMARTER goals, see Sidebar 2). DEEPER is an acronym for:

Deliberate > The spiritual aspects of tefillah are taught consciously and intentionally

Existential > The spiritual aspects of tefillah are connected to students’ experiences and existence

Enriching > The experience or learning improves and enhances the quality of the connection between the students and tefillah

Purposeful > The tefillah experience or learning is meaningful and significant

Elevating The experience or learning explicitly aims to heighten students’ spiritual connection to tefillah

Reflective > The experience or learning promotes students’ deep thought and contemplation

We believe that the DEEPER goals paradigm will allow Jewish educators to more successfully plan specifically for outcomes associated with student spirituality and promote a connection with wellbeing outcomes. We provide detailed, scaffolded examples of SMARTER and DEEPER goals for tefillah in Sidebars 3 and 4 to advance collaborative discussion on this topic. These examples stem from real goals set in our school that were developed collaboratively using the SMARTER and DEEPER frameworks.

Sidebar 1: SMARTER goals

SMARTER goalsGuiding questions. Ask yourself…
Specific: I know what I want to do!1. Do I know what to do?

2. Do I know which students?

Measurable: clear & concrete1. Do I have clear, objective data?

2. Can other teachers see these data?

Attainable: knowledge &

resources

1. Do I have the knowledge?

2. Do I have the time?

3. Do I have the resources?

Relevant: to me,

my school &

students

1. How will this impact on my teaching skills?

2. How will this impact on students (now and in the future)

Trackable1. How often will I check for change?

2. How much time will this take?

Enjoyable1. Is the task enjoyable for me?

2. Do students enjoy the session?

3. Are students successful?

Rewarding1. Do I need extrinsic rewards?

2. How is this goal rewarding for me?

3. How is this goal rewarding for my students?

M

Supporting SMARTER and DEEPER goals within school contexts

While goal writing may be an obvious starting point for effective teaching, it is by no means easy. This is particularly true when planning goals associated with student spirituality and wellbeing. Brown et al., (2004) argue convincingly that for teachers to succeed in writing SMARTER goals they need to be supported in several ways, including through professional learning. They highlight several academic studies that suggest that a collaborative and coaching model of professional development would be helpful in successfully integrating effective goal setting in schools. While we believe that the framework of SMARTER and DEEPER goals for tefillah can assist teachers to achieve better outcomes for students, these frameworks need to be practiced in a collaborative and supportive professional learning environment. Indeed, we have written this article and developed this model as a teacher and a head of school, and feel enriched by each other’s perspectives and experiences.

Another important consideration for supporting SMARTER and DEEPER goals for tefillah is that of the student voice. Shire (1997) shows that creative prayer experiences which result in meaningful reflection for students take place in schools where leaders and students plan such experiences together. Erricker (2009) expands on this notion, arguing that for students to feel happy, in any educational context, they need to feel a sense of control and be empowered within that context. In a more limited way, Goldmintz (2009) comments that students should be given the freedom to choose from a variety of possible meanings of text to find the one that they connect to best. These authors indicate that there is a rich opportunity for educators to involve students in the planning and implementation of tefillah in their schools.

Many schools already involve older students in leading tefillah, and it is indeed worthwhile to consider expanding student involvement in both the planning and delivery of tefillah. Student leadership in tefillah can also achieve the DEEPER goals of enriching and elevating the experience.

Sidebar 2: DEEPER goals

DEEPER goalsGuiding questions. Ask yourself…
DeliberateWhat potential spiritual connections can be made?

What approaches are most likely to build spirituality?

 

ExistentialWhat is the scope for building existential understanding?

How can we provide opportunities for individual students to deepen their existential understanding through tefillah?

 

EnrichingWhat are the opportunities to enrich student spirituality?

What approaches are most likely to deepen connections between students and tefillah?

PurposefulHow can tefillah build connections between students and their sense of purpose in life?

How can the way we teach tefillah make students believe it’s important?

How can we assist students to see the role and importance of tefillah in their lives – now and in the future?

 

ElevatingHow can this experience promote a sense of awe and wonder?

How can we build students’ sense of satisfaction and joy through celebrating learning?

ReflectiveWhat opportunities are there for personal reflection?

What opportunities are there for communal reflection?

What tools can be used to provide opportunities for reflection: Journals, Guided discussion, Guided silence

 

 

 

Conclusion

Brown et al. (2016) suggest that effective goal setting is a complex, problem-solving process for many teachers. Their model of SMARTER goals in education provides a framework to assist teachers and educational leaders in the development of these goals. Setting goals for tefillah is even more complex as educators need to consider not just the cognitive aspects of student learning and experience but the affective and spiritual aspects as well. By considering tefillah as a dynamic interplay of keva and kavvanah educators are better able to conceptualize the learning that needs to occur for tefillah to have meaning and relevance for students. We thus introduce a dual model for goal setting in tefillah education – SMARTER and DEEPER goals. We provide two detailed, scaffolded examples of how to write SMARTER and DEEPER goals. We suggest that for these goals to be effective teachers need support in the form of professional learning and collaborative planning time, and suggest that the students should be active participants in setting these goals. Setting appropriate goals for tefillah is one important step toward making tefillah meaningful and relevant for students. We hope that the model we have developed is helpful for other educators on the road to improving tefillah instruction and experience for students.

goals Guiding questions. Ask yours

Sidebar 3: Scaffolded planning sheet – Primary

Original goal: To teach Year K-2 students the Modeh Ani prayer and about gratitude
Keva: Modeh AniKavvanah: gratitude

 

S: Specific – I know what to do!

Am I going to teach students to read the prayer in Hebrew?

Am I going to teach students translations of the text? If so, which one/s?

Am I going to teach students the historical context of the prayer and how it entered the Siddur?

 

M: Measurable – goals are clear and concrete

Is this teaching going to occur during tefillah services?

How long will the instruction take?

How will I know that my goals have been achieved?

What methods will I use to teach this prayer?

What opportunities are there for further exploration at a later date or in later years in order to enrich student understanding of this prayer?

 

A: Attainable – I have the knowledge, time and resources to achieve this

What do I need to know in order to teach this prayer?

What other resources will I need in order to achieve my goals?

 

R: Relevant – to me and to my students.

How is this prayer relevant for my students?

How might it have been perceived as relevant in the past in order to be included in the Siddur?

How does this prayer fit within overall school goals; Jewish and general?

Is there a particular time of day or academic year that this prayer would be extra relevant?

 

T: Trackable – how often will I check for change?

What data can I use to determine how well students know this prayer?

 

E: Enjoyable – for me and for my students

What constitutes student success for these goals?

Can students “master” this prayer? What would that look like?

 

R: Rewarding – how is this goal rewarding for my students and how is it rewarding for me?

How will I acknowledge or reward student success in their knowledge or mastery of this prayer?

 

D: Deliberate – spiritual aspects are taught consciously and intentionally

What are the spiritual aspects of this prayer?

Which of these spiritual aspects to I want to focus on?

Who is going to define gratitude? Me? Past sages? The students? A collaboration?

 

E: Existential – spiritual aspects are connected to students’ experience and existence

How do students understand and experience gratitude?

How is the concept of gratitude relevant to the students’?

What opportunities are there to connect the concept of gratitude to the students’ lived experiences beyond the usual cliches of being grateful for possessions?

 

E: Enriching – the experience improves and enhances the quality of the connection between the student and tefillah

How can I enhance or extend students’ understanding of gratitude?

What approaches are most likely to deepen students’ understanding and experience of the spiritual dimensions of this prayer?

 

P: Purposeful – the tefillah experience is meaningful and significant

How can I make this prayer meaningful for my students?

How can I connect this prayer to the students’ sense of purpose in life?

Why is gratitude important?

 

E: Elevating – the experience explicitly aims to heighten students’ spiritual connection to tefillah

How can gratitude lead students to a sense of awe or wonder?

How can we connect gratitude to the students’ sense of satisfaction and joy in the celebration of learning?

 

R: Reflective – the experience promotes students’ deep thought and contemplation

What opportunities can we give students to reflect on their personal understanding of the concept of gratitude?

What opportunities can give the students to reflect on the concept of gratitude in a communal sense?

 

Redefined Keva Goal/s:

SMARTER goal 1:

During Term 1, I will spend 15 minutes during daily tefillah service teaching Year K-2  students the mechanics of reading the Modeh Ani prayer in Hebrew, including two tunes for reciting the prayer.

SMARTER goal 2:

During Term 2, I will spend 15 minutes during daily tefillah service teaching Year K-2 students the meaning(s) of the Modeh Ani prayer and its historical context.

 

Redefined Kavvanah Goal/s:

DEEPER goal:

Students will develop a deeper understanding of the concept of gratitude, what it means in the context of the Modeh Ani prayer and for their own lives.

 

Original goal: To teach Year and about gratitude

 

 

Sidebar 4: Scaffolded planning sheet – Secondary

Original goal: To teach students the Asher Yatzar prayer and connect it to World Toilet Day
Keva: Asher YatzarKavvanah: The miracle of the human body

 

S: Specific – I know what to do!

Am I going to teach students to read the prayer in Hebrew?

Am I going to teach students translations of the text? If so, which one/s?

Am I going to teach students the historical context of the prayer and how it entered the Siddur?

 

M: Measurable – goals are clear and concrete

Which students?

Is this teaching going to occur during tefillah services?

How long will the instruction take?

How will I know that my goals have been achieved?

What methods will I use to teach this prayer?

What opportunities are there for further exploration at a later date or in later years in order to enrich student understanding of this prayer?

 

A: Attainable – I have the knowledge, time and resources to achieve this

What do I need to know in order to teach this prayer?

What other resources will I need in order to achieve my goals?

 

R: Relevant – to me and to my students

How is this prayer relevant for my students?

How might it have been perceived as relevant in the past in order to be included in the Siddur?

How does this prayer fit within overall school goals; Jewish and general?

Is there a particular time of day or academic year that this prayer would be extra relevant?

 

T: Trackable – how often will I check for change?

What data can I use to determine how well students know this prayer?

 

E: Enjoyable – for me and for my students

What constitutes student success for these goals?

Can students “master” this prayer? What would that look like?

 

R: Rewarding – how is this goal rewarding for my students and

how is it rewarding for me?

How will I acknowledge or reward student success in their knowledge or mastery of this prayer?

What value does learning this prayer have for my students?

 

D: Deliberate – spiritual aspects are taught consciously and intentionally

What are the spiritual aspects of this prayer?

Which of these spiritual aspects to I want to focus on?

How does connecting this prayer to World Toilet Day allow me to connect students to the spiritual aspects of this prayer?

 

E: Existential – spiritual aspects are connected to students’ experience and existence

How can this prayer fit into students’ experience of their world?

What opportunities are there to connect this prayer to the students’ lived experiences?

What opportunities are there to connect this prayer to the lived experiences of others around the world?

 

E: Enriching – the experience improves and enhances the quality of the connection between the student and tefillah

How can I enhance or extend students’ understanding of the connection between this prayer and their bodies?

What approaches are most likely to deepen students’ understanding and experience of the spiritual dimensions of this prayer?

 

P: Purposeful – the tefillah experience is meaningful and significant

How can I make this prayer meaningful for my students?

How can I connect this prayer to the students’ sense of purpose in life?

Why is it important to acknowledge our bodies and their most basic, bodily functions?

 

E: Elevating – the experience explicitly aims to heighten students’ spiritual connection to tefillah

How can this prayer lead students to a sense of awe or wonder?

 

R: Reflective – the experience promotes students’ deep thought and contemplation

What opportunities can we give students to reflect on their personal understanding of the miracle that is their body? What collective opportunities can give the students to reflect on their good

fortune to have functioning bodies?

 

Redefined Keva Goal/s:

 

SMARTER goal 1:

During November, to coincide with “World Toilet Day,” I will teach students in years 7 and 8 the pronunciation, meaning(s) and historical context of the “Asher Yatzar” prayer. I will do this for 15 minutes, once per week.

 

SMARTER goal 2:

For “World Toilet Day” students will design posters with the Asher Yatzar prayer on them and put them up in the student toilet areas. To aid in the making of these posters, I will provide resources from:

Rose George: Let’s talk crap. Seriously. | TED Talk | TED.com http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/Global-Development/

Water-Sanitation-and-Hygiene

http://strikewithme.org | http://sanitationdrive2015.org/faq/

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45490#.UoK-XBYajzI

They will also present in assembly about the meaning(s) of the prayer and its relevance today on “World Toilet Day.”

 

Redefined Kavvanah Goal/s:

 

DEEPER goal 1:

Students develop a greater sense of awe and wonder at the miracle that is their body and its working mechanics and are reminded of this every time they see and/or say the Asher Yatzar prayer.

 

DEEPER goal 2:

Students develop a greater sense of gratitude for their surroundings and understand the miracle of sanitation in a global context and thus why this prayer is so significant.

 

 

References

Brown, G., Leonard, C., & Arthur-Kelly, M. (2016). Writing SMARTER goals for professional learning and improving classroom practices. Reflective Practice, 17(5), 621-635.

Cotton, S., Zebracky, K., Rosenthal, S. L., Tsevat, J., & Drotar, D. (2006). Religion/spirituality and adolescent health outcomes: A review. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38, 472-480.

de Souza, M. (2009). Promoting wholeness and wellbeing in education: Exploring aspects of the spiritual dimension. In M. de Souza, L. J. Francis, J. O’Higgins-Norman & D. Scott (Eds.), International handbook of education for spirituality, care and wellbeing (pp. 677-692). Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London, New York: Springer.

Erricker, J. (2009). The importance of happiness to children’s education and wellbeing. In M. de Souza, L. J. Francis, J. O’Higgins-Norman & D. Scott (Eds.), International handbook of education for spirituality, care and wellbeing (pp. 739-752). Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London, New York: Springer.

Fraillon, J. (2004). Measuring student well-being in the context of Australian schooling: Discussion paper. Victoria, Australia: Australian Council for Educational Research.

Goldmintz, J. (2009). Helping students find their own voice in tefillah: A conceptual framework for teachers. Rav chesed: Essays in honor of Rabbi Dr. Haskel Lookstein, 109-121. Hoboken, NJ: Ktav.

Greninger, N. M. (2010). Believing, behaving, belonging: tefillah education in the 21st century. Journal of Jewish Education, 76(4), 379-413.

Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge.

Lau, G. (2009). Cultivation of mindfulness: Promoting holistic learning and wellbeing in education. In M. de Souza, L. J. Francis, J. O’Higgins- Norman & D. Scott (Eds.), International handbook of education for spirituality, care and wellbeing (pp. 715-738). Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London, New York: Springer.

Nakamura, J., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). The concept of flow. In Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 239-263). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer Netherlands.

Pargament, K. I. (2009). The spiritual dimension of coping: Theoretical and practical considerations. In M. de Souza, L. J. Francis, J. O’Higgins- Norman & D. Scott (Eds.), International handbook for spirituality, care and wellbeing (pp. 209-230). Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London, New York: Springer.

Rasic, D., Kisely, S., & Langille, D. B. (2011). Protective associations of importance of religion and frequency of service attendance with depression risk, suicidal behaviours and substance use in adolescents in Nova Scotia, Canada. Journal of Affective Disorders, 132, 389-395.

Shire, M. J. (1997). Jewish spiritual development and curriculum theory. International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 2(2), 53-59.

Siegel, D. (2016). Prayer and adolescence: Can formal instruction make a difference? Religious Education, 111(2), 200-221.

 

Lior Misrachi is a passionate Jewish educator who teaches Hebrew and Judaics at Emanuel School, a community school in Sydney, Australia. She has a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Teaching from the University of Sydney and recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Adolescent Health and Wellbeing from the University of Melbourne.

Natanya Milner is the Head of Primary at Emanuel School, a community school in Sydney, Australia. She is passionate about creating a well-rounded experience for students that balances academic, wellbeing and spiritual domains.