When asked to think quickly, I find that I speak with surprising access to the deeper meanings of what animates who I am and how I think about my work as an educator. Asked to speak for two minutes or less about a Jewish ritual or practice of significance to me, I responded “greeting others with a pleasant demeanor.” Check out the video below to see how I explain it. Read below the video to see what I think it means for educators and for all of us.
Sever panim yafot, I believe, makes me a better educator. By greeting someone this way, I leave room for whatever walks in the door. How often do we want to move a lesson or project forward and find resistance from unknown sources? A pleasant greeting opens the moment of entry into a moment of recognition and sharing. Yes, I often have to delay my agenda for the moment; and yet, returning to the agenda after really seeing the other where s/he is allows for both of us to go through it together, better.
More than a device for getting on the same page, “greeting others with a pleasant demeanor” also has an ethical application that is worth modeling. Greeting the maintenance staff, the stakeholder, the beggar, the celebrity (okay, I don’t meet celebrities, but if I did . . .), and the person behind the counter with a pleasant demeanor reminds me and that other person of our common humanity. Even more, it reminds anyone watching of our common humanity. Our commonness has become, for me, the place in which real learning happens.
- What value or practice would you say animates how you relate to the world?
- Given fifteen minutes to plan a two-minute or less video, what would you do?
- How are you affected when you are greeted pleasantly by others?
Special thank to Rabbis Without Borders for challenging me to articulate this value and to my mentors along the way who have taught me to teach lived values.