A Meaningful Visit

Instructional Leadership

This would not have happened last year.

Last year Rachel Levitt Klein Dratch was in Baltimore, and I was in Brookline. But this year, we are both working in New York, and one day in December, Rachel was sitting in my office, awaiting her meeting with the Head of School, Rabbi Yahel Tzaidi. His office is next to mine, and therefore my room usually becomes the waiting room for those about to meet with him. Little did we know that this fortuitous encounter would end up being so meaningful. We started talking and reminiscing for a few moments, and our conversation eventually led to a unique professional development partnership between Prizmah and the Yeshivah of Flatbush (YoF).

A few weeks prior, Rabbi Tzaidi suggested at an administration meeting, that YoF extend teacher learning beyond our walls and arrange visits to other Jewish New York area day schools. Then on February 14th, a day designated for professional development at YoF, the staff could share their takeaways from the visits. I pitched this project to Rachel, and she immediately wanted to assist. Because of her numerous contacts and connections with leaders of Jewish day schools, she felt that she could be instrumental in bringing this idea to fruition. Our administration team agreed, and we joined forces with Prizmah. Time was short, and we immediately started to design the next steps.  

Our first move was to decide on the goals and purpose of the visits. Some goals include: 

  • Grade level teacher bonding over a shared experience
  • Learning together as a group
  • Being inspired by what others are doing
  • Validating our practice
  • Connecting to educators in other schools
  • Implementing new ideas and/or strategies

As an administrative team, we began to ask questions to make these visits more effective and meaningful. 

  • Should we visit as grade-level teams or mix teachers from different grades?
  • How will we enlist teachers and include them in the process?
  • How will we measure the success of our goals?
  • How will teachers record and share information on the 14th?
  • What are the guidelines and protocols when visiting other schools? 

Other questions were logistical:

  • Who will cover classes when the teachers are visiting?
  • How will teachers travel to their destination and how far of a distance are we willing to go?
  • Should assistants also visit?
  • Should a gift be brought to the schools on the day of the visit? 

The administrative team grappled with these questions and many others as part of the planning process. Once these were clarified and answered, our decisions were communicated to Prizmah. Rachel got to work calling, emailing and recruiting schools that were willing to host our teachers. The response by the schools was overwhelmingly positive, and more than 12 schools agreed to welcome our teachers into their classrooms. Meanwhile, Rachel also designed Prizmah’s Guide for an Awesome School Visit, and she shared a choice board of questions to ask or items to notice while visiting schools. During the week of January 27th, our weekly grade-level meetings focused on these two documents. We reviewed guidelines for a successful visit and decided on individualized goals with the grade-level teams. During the weeks of February 3rd and 10th, we plan to send about 15 teacher teams to the various schools, including (so far) Har Torah, YCQ, NSHA, Heschel, SAR, RAMAZ, HAFTR, Kineret, HANC, MDS, and Beit Rabban. On February 14th, Prizmah and Rachel will facilitate the follow-up meeting at our professional development morning.

We are very excited about this opportunity and have incredible HaKarat HaTov to Prizmah and the schools that offered to welcome our teachers. We hope to create partnerships that will strengthen our teaching community and ultimately improve the learning experience for all of our students.

Stay tuned for a future article about the results of this professional development adventure!