Know, Feel and Do: Social and Emotional Learning at TBE

Posted on September 15, 2019 by Lisa Friedmn, Sarah Gluck and Rabbi Arnie Gluck

In our faculty handbook, we offer the following framework for the work of our Religious School:

In everything we do at Temple Beth-El, we aim to guide our students in developing a greater awareness that their Judaism is an integral and valuable part of who they are. We strive to educate the whole child — to touch each child and help them grow in mind, body, heart, and spirit.

Each time we encounter our students, let’s remember that they are coming from somewhere and will leave us on their way to somewhere else. Our sacred task is to offer them a safe and loving space in which they can slow down, open their minds and hearts, and learn and grow. We must encourage them to open up and share what’s on their minds, and we must listen well and help them think deeply. When we do this, we build trust, help them understand the meaning of their learning, and help them integrate the different pieces of their lives.

We have always tried to do this. Over the years, many of you have engaged in conversation with us about what we — you and us together — hope for, dream about, and imagine for our children going forward. We ask, what will they “know, feel, and do”? What will our students learn? How will their learning touch their hearts? Most significantly, how will they integrate the knowledge they acquire and their response to it as they grow and assume their rightful place in the world?

Judaism demands of us that we learn not just for learning’s sake (though very important) but, ultimately, in order to do. How do we act in the world in accordance with God’s vision at Creation of what human beings can and must strive to be? How do we bring the very best that is within each of us to ourselves, to those we love and encounter every day, to our many circles of community and responsibility, to our people, and to humanity at large?

This year, as a continuation of the temple’s Youth Mental-Health Initiative, our teachers and we are deepening our understanding of Know, Feel, and Do by learning about and promoting Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). The SEL version of Know, Feel, and Do is about preparing children to become “knowledgeable, responsible, and caring” adults:

For children to become knowledgeable, they must be ready and motivated to learn, and capable of integrating new information into their lives. For children to become responsible, they must be able to understand risks and opportunities, and be motivated to choose actions and behaviors that serve not only their own interests but those of others. For children to become caring, they must be able to see beyond themselves and appreciate the concerns of others; they must believe that to care is to be part of a community that is welcoming, nurturing, and concerned about them….

Social and emotional competence is the ability to understand, manage, and express the social and emotional aspects of one’s life in ways that enable the successful management of life tasks such as learning, forming relationships, solving everyday problems, and adapting to the complex demands of growth and development….Social and emotional education is targeted to help students develop the attitudes, behaviors, and cognitions to become ‘healthy and competent’ overall — socially, emotionally, academically, and physically — because of the close relationship among these domains. (Maurice J. Elias et al., Promoting Social and emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators, ASCD, 1997, pp. 1 and 2)

Our work this year with SEL will help our students build important life skills so that they can learn successfully and integrate mind, body, heart, and spirit.

We look forward to sharing more with you throughout the year. In the meantime, we can’t wait to welcome everyone back to shul and back to school!


Sarah Gluck, Lisa Friedman, and Rabbi Arnie Gluck


Originally published in the September-October 2019 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.