Thursday, September 6, 2012

Why I'm becoming a Health Educator

Note: I wrote this over a year ago, when I was just starting to look for work in health education. Today I start my first day as a 6th/10th grade health teacher!

            As a liberal religious educator, teaching has been all about facilitating the discovery of spiritual (= profound personal and interpersonal) truths for my students. Whether I am teaching Bible, ethics, or theology, my focus is always on creating space and excitement for engaged conversations about what our world/life seems to be, what our cares are within it, and how we can help ourselves and each other thrive.
            As this kind of “spirituality,” is rather universalistic, I am hoping to pursue work teaching it outside of Jewish contexts. The only setting that might actually pay me to do this work appears to be health education.

            According to my peculiar secular sense of spirituality, health education is very spiritual. Spirituality for me is largely about ‘tending’ to various fundamental aspects of human existence. My spouse Mimi Lowe Arbeit assures me that health education consists in the following topics:
  • Nutrition/physical activity
  • Alcohol, tobacco, drugs
  • Reproductive Health
  • Relationships
  • Social/emotional learning (mental health)
  • Violence prevention'
  • Environmental/community health
             As a spiritual educator, these topics all fall one way or another into three ‘spiritual’ categories: 
  1. Sense of self
  2. Embodiment
  3. Social living (including both interpersonal and societal levels)
If I could spend my life (or at least my work week) promoting healthy forms of the above categories, I’d feel pretty useful. As an educator, these categories have already been the focus of my classes—I’ve just been promoting them through Jewish content and themes. It’s time for new content to make the same point. I could address my specific spiritual interests far more explicitly in a health class. And with health education (if indeed there is work for me in it), I will be reaching a far more diverse audience—which satisfies me greatly as a Humanist.