Growth Mindset and Our Task as Jewish Educators

David Farbman, Director of the Gateways Center for Professional Learning

Celebrating JDAIM

JDAIM – Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month—is about recognizing the intrinsic worth of each human being and demonstrating our appreciation of each other by ensuring that every person finds their place in the same broad Jewish community. Nowhere is this aspiration more fitting and more powerful than in congregational and day schools, where we have committed our communal resources to helping the next generation to enjoy a full, rich life steeped in Judaic values. And unless every child who desires a Jewish education is included in our Jewish schools, we have not lived up to this aspiration.

But what does it take to create schools that are truly inclusive and enable all learners to succeed? There is no easy answer; the task of organizing the learning environment, of setting high expectations and of fostering an inclusive culture is exceedingly complex. Simultaneously, this undertaking boils down to a very simple (though far from simplistic) idea: any child can succeed, given the right support and expectations.

This belief—that everyone has growth potential—has received a lot of attention over the last several years, thanks largely to the work of Carol Dweck, who popularized the idea and codified its scope through a theory known as Growth Mindset. But this notion of “growth mindset” is not limited to our work with students. All of us—children, teachers, parents—can improve.

At the Center for Professional Learning (CPL) at Gateways, growth mindset is the animating idea behind our work. We exist to enable Jewish educators to strengthen their skills to reach a diversity of learners and develop their capacity to foster a culture of inclusion. We undertake this work in a variety of ways, through providing consultation and coaching, convening workshops and developing and sharing resources and tools. And, true to form, the CPL is continually growing and improving. In the coming weeks, we will be launching a new website to house our expanding library and to better connect you with our services.

Dozens of times in the Torah, God commands us to remember the widow, the orphan and the poor among us. The message is clear: Our task as Jews is to ensure that all people, regardless of their circumstances, gain a fair and full stake in the communities we build. Seeing the potential in each individual—applying growth mindset in everything we do—is the essential first step toward realizing that holy vision.

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Tagged under: Center for Professional Learning, Growth Mindset, Professional Development, Jewish Education