Teachers at a 16G workshop in Israel

English teachers in Jerusalem learn about the 16 Guidelines
by Ellen Hoffenberg-Serfaty, Jerusalem, Israel

On May 2014 I led a 16 Guidelines workshop for 30 EFL (English as a Foreign Language) Coordinators; representing both junior and senior high schools, this group that has an impact on thousands of upper level students in Jerusalem and surrounding areas. The workshop was part of a ‘continuing education and sharing forum’ that is supervised by the Ministry of Education and organised by Sandra Lahey, an English teacher and coordinator.

The focus of the workshop was to raise their awareness of mindfulness, meditation and using the 16 Guidelines in classrooms, and to enable them to bring this knowledge and these skills to our children.

We primarily used the 16 To Live By magazine as the basis of the workshop, since these educators are teaching older children. Very few of the participants had meditated in the past, most had not heard about mindfulness, and only one has a regular practice, so this was a wonderful opportunity to share the benefits of mindfulness and meditation with teachers as a personal and professional tool, as well as how to use this tool with students.

The three-hour workshop first focused on meditation, with several short ‘sits’ and body scans. During the second half we focused on the 16 Guidelines, doing a ‘heartstorm’ on kindness, where the participants worked in small groups sharing what this word means to them. This is the type of activity that could be very useful for teaching EFL vocabulary, while using the 16 Guidelines to promote universal education goals. Especially successful was our group’s reframing activity: we worked in pairs, sharing a difficult experience, selecting a guideline and then reframing.

This meeting was quite special because the coordinators came from various religious and secular backgrounds, so it was an opportunity to learn how people from more religious Jewish backgrounds receive the 16 Guidelines materials. Several expressed the hope that more Jewish philosophic and spiritual leaders would be used as role models in this kind of material. At the end of our session participants talked about how this curriculum could be used in their schools and classes.

I now hope to share this material with educators in other communities and cultures in Israel, as well as work with the many Buddhist groups on a project. This workshop has taught me that much first needs to be shared with teachers about mindfulness and meditation in Israel as a precursor to any 16 Guidelines activity, and that material that is sensitive to the needs of special religious groups might be required to make it more useful to a wider audience.

Ellen SerfatyRegarding my background, since participating in the 16G Level 1 in November 2012, and more recently a 16G Level 2, I have facilitated several workshops for EFL teachers on the theme of the 16 Guidelines. I created a mailing list group and correspond with other interested people about next steps to expand the 16 Guidelines offering in Israel. In addition, I completed a study for FDCW on ‘Considerations on implementing the 16 Guidelines for children and youth’, in March 2014.

If you live in Israel and would like to collaborate with Ellen you can contact her at: ehoffserf (at) gmail.com