HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


From the Editor: Deepening Talent

by Elliott Rabin, Editor Issue: Deepening Talent Prizmah

The word “talent” derived from a Greek term meaning balance or weight, and in Latin a talent came to mean a significant weight—some 60 to 80 pounds—of silver. Only in the Middle Ages did the current meaning of innate ability become standard. Talent is like an amount of money received at birth, the idea being that different people are endowed with different talents, and different amounts of talent. The word suggests that talent is an inheritance for its possessor to use.

The Hebrew term for talent, kisharon, reveals a different emphasis. It comes from the word kasher, fit, capable. (The word first appears three times in Kohelet.) A Hebrew talent is less an endowment given in the past than a fitness for accomplishing something in the present or future.

Of course, people are born with talents, and a few are endowed with extraordinary talents. But modern brain science has demonstrated that the traditional notion of talents needs revision. People are born with an enormous capacity to grow in many ways and areas. The talent that people reveal is generally one that they have pursued and cultivated with passion, intensity and diligence.

This issue reflects Prizmah’s belief that Jewish day schools are populated by stakeholders who possess immense talents, and that all people at Jewish day schools deserve opportunities to deepen their talents. Moreover, day schools thrive on the model of professional growth. A school best helps its students grow by supporting the growth of its educators.

The authors in this issue of HaYidion describe different methods, programs and practices that day schools employ to deepen the talents of faculty and leadership. The first group of articles explores the power of relationships and teamwork. Cappell presents Prizmah’s work and vision for strengthening lay leaders, while Oberman describes opportunities that boards have for development both individually and collectively. Brown posits the critical role that mentorship can play in a teacher’s mid-career. Farbman relates a case study in which teacher teamwork powerfully transformed the delivery of education, and Raider-Roth shares her work in fostering collaborative learning environments. Applebaum observes the ways that both agreement and disagreement among teachers can spur growth.

Articles in the next section consider culture as the pivotal factor for teachers to thrive as they join and remain on the faculty. Lurie is inspired by the idea of a “culture of excellence” that many corporations look to create. Wise explores five levels, five types of culture, that school leaders establish through their leadership style. The next three articles show the importance of induction in unlocking teacher capacity: Katz and Lerner chart the process from hiring through the first year; Rabinovitch presents scholarship on best practices in mentorship; Grebenau explains the benefit of strong induction for teacher recruitment, especially in smaller Jewish communities. Haber tells of his experience in a Teach for America-type program for Jewish day schools.

The school spread presents a variety of ways that day schools foster student talent. In the final section, authors consider the impact of programs of study and methods of reflection, both in-service and beyond the school. Hassenfeld assembled a program for experienced teachers to perform research on questions of practice. The next two focus on Hebrew education: Benjamin’s school devised a unique solution to faculty recruitment challenges through a university partnership, and Shapiro-Rosenberg helped a school tackle deficits in achievement and motivation through the adaptation of best practices in second-language acquisition. Shire and Skolnick Einhorn scrutinize the impact of a master’s degree in Jewish education. In response to issues of teacher stress and burnout, Levey describes the creation of a health and wellness program, and Wechter surveys school leaders who practice mindfulness meditation. Schorr and Davis discuss their research on haredi women who are highly talented heads of school.

Finally, this issue represents a new beginning for HaYidion. Just as print media is evolving and experimenting with new ways to deliver content online, so too have we decided to take the leap across the digital divide. Starting with this issue, we will explore the potential of digital platforms to bring you information about day school education and leadership in innovative, exciting ways. For those of you who still enjoy holding the issue in your hand, you have the option to print a high-quality copy at a reasonable price through blurb.com. We’d love to hear your feedback at editor@prizmah.org.

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Deepening Talent

Jewish day schools are ecosystems that cultivate growth and vitality for all its stakeholders, from students to board members. In this issue, you will discover ways to recruit, preserve and deepen the talent in your school. Learn about the shifting paradigm of professional development, from individual study to a culture of collaborative exploration. Articles offer inspiration for schools throughout the field to support the abundant talent found in their midst.

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Want your own hard copy of the issue? Print one out at Blurb.com.