A one-year course for educators in the Gordon Teachers Training College in Haifa, Israel
Gender Education and the Role of Forgiveness in the Educational Encounter

by Prof. Hanna Shachar, Ph.D in Education and Social Psychology and Head of the M.Ed. Program, and Mrs. Esther BarEl, B.A. in Philosophy, and Education Developer in Feminenza International

The cry is out there, everywhere, for a new educational approach, one that can assist our youth in gaining moral stature, in building a backbone of humanity, quality and value. Out of the multitude of burning issues knocking on our door, we chose to start by encouraging our students to tackle two such topics – that of Gender Respect, and the understanding and need for Forgiveness in the educational system.

We live in an era of unprecedented changes. In coping with the massive invasion of information and all kinds of net technologies, we hardly have any clues as to what to expect; we even have difficulties identifying what is in front of our own eyes. Basic concepts are rapidly losing their meaning and relevance. Consequently, in the educational field there is a need to re-examine basic traditional concepts such as learning, intelligence, thinking patterns, success and failure and more. This is pulling the rug from under prevailing definitions of what we call ‚achievement‘, creating a demand for a deep review and updating of educational thinking, including the inescapable question: How, then, do we need to train our teachers?

The technological world causes significant changes in children’s brains, and in ours(1), so much so that we lose track of who and what we are. It seems crucial therefore to ask anew: Who are the children who come to be educated, and who are their mentors? Pondering these questions is not part of the coding and practice of educators, but in facing our present reality, we can no longer avoid or ignore them if we are to be better equipped and more effective in educating human beings for an uncertain future.

So, our focal point becomes the call for deeper understanding and self-awareness – to „know thyself“, and to find what the true value of each human life is. The core problem we are trying to address is that the Educational systems fail to give credence and value to the true potential and opportunity that each human life proposes in this world.

Therefore, this M.Ed. course was designed to try to build a foundation for deeper and broader self-awareness – which is an indispensable condition for change and development – by providing the students with new language and knowledge, new perceptions and tools with which they can reassess basic educational and psychological concepts and update their values and views. That is done by focusing on two topics that still need to find their proper place in the mind and heart of dedicated educators – Gender Respect and Forgiveness.

Semester 1 deals with the perception and attitudes regarding gender – ours, and the children’s. It explores the central and pervasive role that gender identity plays in our lives. The first label that is tagged on to us right from the moment of birth is ‚boy‘ or ‚girl‘, and this carries with it weighty social, religious and historical persuasions, influences and conditionings. Only in the last hundred years or so have these come under examination and questioning, leading to many changes that we are witnessing today. Therefore, we need to find out and learn what natural development is for each gender, in a fresh way unencumbered by those influences, so as to cultivate true gender value, expression and respect.

The course offers new understandings about the constitution of the human, for the participants to become cognizant of the fact that we are not ‚one thing‘, but are made up of different lives, and go through encoded and preordained stages of life, from babies and toddlers to wise old men and women – each stage and part with its own attributes and inclinations – where every individual is called upon to develop each component part and to align and orchestrate them all together according to one’s unique calling and purpose.

Semester 2 deals with a subject that until today has not won recognition and serious consideration in teachers‘ training, namely, the role and place of forgiveness, both personally and professionally, in the educational arena.

The pedagogical reality is not a forgiving circumstance, in that it is based on measuring all children according to one criterion, which is achievement in standardized testing. The fact that human beings differ from each other, that each individual is special and unique, has no translation into practice in the educational system. The educational reality is that of tests, sanctions, competition, and endless comparison between children, classes, schools and countries.

In actuality, a human being’s development processes are made up almost entirely of trial and error. This means that we, all of us, children and adults, with every mistake, shortcoming or failure, forever need new beginnings and new opportunities. This is the deep meaning of forgiveness – to be granted fresh starts, new opportunity, to continue the process of development without being fettered or possessed by mistakes, failures, embarrassments, guilt, and their psychological consequences.

The course dives into Feminenza’s „Seven Pillars of Forgiveness“ – Understanding, Freedom, Remedy, Warmth, Enhancement, Hope and Continuance. Because the children we meet today are soaked in a chaotic technological world which is difficult for us to understand, pedagogy needs to focus on upholding these basic, permanent, natural human values as a platform of inner strength and confidence(2).

Our hope is to see more teachers re-entering the educational arena holding better perceptions and a more forgiving attitude regarding students‘ human potential and development.

The course has already been offered 3 times, from 2013 to 2016, attended by a total of 65 Israeli female M.Ed students. All of them – Jewish (about 80%), Arab and Druze – are already teachers, training to become pedagogical counsellors.

The course is conducted by Prof. Hanna Shachar, Ph.D in Education and Social Psychology, Head of the M.Ed. Program, Teaching and Learning: Educators‘ Mentorship Training, Gordon College of Education, Haifa, and the planning is done in close collaboration with Mrs. Esther BarEl, B.A. in Philosophy, and Education Developer in Feminenza International.

The course has been received with exceptional interest and enthusiasm. Here are a few testimonials:

Thank you for a semester of deep insight into myself and my world… I never imagined it would be conducted in this way and that I would be „the main protagonist“. In each class I found myself going through an inner journey that contributed to my personal, inter-personal, emotional and professional, development
A. M., age 52

How important it is to employ conscious decisiveness in not allowing reality, which is pressing for quick responses, to affect us. At this stage I understand that the evolving ‘higher self’ in me will be intelligent enough – out of my life experience – to handle various situations with less personal involvement and from as wide a perspective as possible.
N. R., age 51

I understand that decisions made today can be taken from a number of focal points… and from a professional point of view, I understand that in the educational encounter one needs to refer to all parts of the self.
M. V., age 32

This course contributed to me firstly in trying to understand, why do I act and respond so quickly, and how can I slow down and look at a situation from more angles? I tried it, and it was amazing!.. All the extraordinary and important knowledge that we acquired in this course is not taught anywhere else and it is so precious. It is amazing how much what we learned is accurate and true!!
H. Z., age 38

Professionally, this course is a must for all educators wherever they are!… We came out of it better women, less judgmental, more understanding and more knowledgeable, and therefore also better teachers, more conscious about ourselves and our weaknesses. From this more developed self-awareness, we can better identify the developmental and spiritual stages in our students… helping them to make better decisions and choices and to gain experience…

This course is unique. Its contents are mandatory for all educators around the world and for humanity in general. It was a moving experience, enriching, provoking both thought and inspiration.. It caused me to „get out of the box“, to change patterns of thinking and to try to implement what I learned in my life. What a great gift!!!
A. O., age 45

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(1) Hanson, R. (2013) Hardwiring Happiness. NY: New York, Crown Publishing Group.
Doige, N. (2015) The brains way of healing: Remarkable Discoveries and recoveries from the frontiers of neuroplasticity. New York: Penguin Random House LLC.

(2) Kaku, M. (2014) The Future of the Mind. New York: Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency, Inc.