Aryeh Ben David

Creating a Classroom of Soulful Hospitality

What will we say to our alumni if they return and tell us:

“You helped me think and relate. You cared about me. I’m extremely grateful. But I finished my youth as a stranger to my own soul. Why didn’t you help me with that?”

Teachers work very hard to welcome their students. They decorate the rooms, generously listen, and care about each student. They make sure that the minds and hearts of their students are present and engaged, practicing what could be called: “Educational hospitality.” 

What would happen if we extended this hospitality to include also the souls of our students? What if we practiced “Soulful Hospitality?”

As we begin our new school year – I’d like to offer a new vocabulary word for the classroom: “Soulful-izing”.

How can we create a classroom that not only develops the critical thinking of our children and deepens their emotional intelligence, but also welcomes their souls and expands their spiritual awareness? How can we soulful-ize our classrooms?

It starts with asking ourselves the right question. When we invite guests into our homes, we ask ourselves: What will they need to feel at home?

  • For their physical needs, we ask ourselves: What would they like to eat?
  • For their emotional needs, we ask ourselves: What would they like to talk about?  

Maybe “Soulful Hospitality” begins with our asking ourselves:

What does their soul need to be comfortable in this space?

We don’t need to be theological experts. We don’t need to have resolved all of our spiritual questions and doubts. We just need to ask welcoming questions for their inner lives and make space for them to get comfortable.

“Soulful Hospitality” in the classroom would include:

  • Mystery: Asking the students if when they connect to a mystery or sense beyond themselves.
  • Reflection: Creating space for students to individually reflect and listen to what is going on inside them.
  • Spontaneity: The soul is much bigger than 45-minute structured periods. Allowing for “flow.”
  • Soulful Talk: Inviting students to talk about their inner lives. Inviting students to ask their parents, grandparents, friends, and even strangers about their relationship with God.
  • Best Selves: Creating conversations about generous kindness and giving; of living beyond ourselves, and when we felt we were living in the Image of God.
  • Calling: Discussing if they ever felt an inner sense of calling, an intuition of clarity and meaningful purpose for their lives.
  • Prayer: Writing their own personal prayers.
  • Life: Classes on fear, insecurity, hope, and journeys.
  • Faculty Soulful-izing: Teachers administrators and parents working together to come up with the best ways to make their particular schools hospitable for the souls of their kids.

Helping our students prepare for their lives is much more than critical thinking and emotional intelligence. They have souls. The classroom can be a nurturing and supportive place to get to know them. We need to prepare our students for their life journey.

About the Author
Aryeh Ben David founded Ayeka: Center for Soulful Education in 2008. Ayeka educates rabbis, teachers, and professionals to bring Jewish wisdom from our minds to our hearts to our souls and into our lives. He recently published: The Secret of Love - A Glimpse into the Mystical Wisdom of Rav Kook. He lives in Efrat with his wife, Sandra.
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