Covenant Award winner and widely admired Jewish educator Rosenblit here offers a potent challenge to Jewish day schools and the educational field more generally: to envision what it would look like to take teaching seriously as a profession.
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Day School Teachers
Are there unique qualities and characteristics that we expect—and find—among day school teachers? Is there sufficient infrastructure to train teachers in the numbers needed by day schools, and do schools support those teachers sufficiently to grow and retain them?
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We invited leaders from some of the major organizations training teachers to work in Jewish day schools to reflect upon their work, share what they’ve learned from their experience, offer some guidance and wisdom for day school leaders and think about their work in relation to the whole, as part of a field.
Rabin argues that Judaics teachers don’t just, or primarily, teach texts. They exert an even more profound influence by virtue of who they are, how they discuss and practice Judaism. They themselves are a text that students study.
I have read a great deal about the importance of empowering teachers and developing teacher leaders among the staff. I believe in this form of distributed leadership, but find myself stymied by teachers’ perceptions that I am just giving them more work with no additional pay.
As usual, the first couple of months of the new school year have been filled with excitement and enthusiasm, especially having coincided with the Jewish high holidays. We spent the entire month of September trying to balance school duties, shortened school days, and interrupted currriculum with praying cooking and entertaining. It was both exhilarating and exhausting. October came with great relief and the first real chance to assess the state of our schools, of our boards and of our network, RAVSAK.
In a recent book review, Professor Yehudah Mirsky of Brandeis wrote, “The meanings of ‘Torah’ are inexhaustible, but its plainest sense is ‘teaching.’ It does not exist apart from being communicated.
After describing some of the differences between an Israeli and American classroom, and the shock of going from one to the other, Zeron draws upon the skills that enable a teacher to be effective in any environment.
Teaching Israel effectively, Hassenfeld proposes, requires both content knowledge and relationship-building, understanding each student’s relationship with Israel. He suggests that schools enable teachers to sharpen pedagogic tools for Israel education.
Landa, a veteran teacher, models the kind of vulnerability that leads to professional growth by describing her own experiences being mentored. She shows that mentorship can be a valuable tool at any career stage.
Levingston offers yet another perspective on modeling: a “cool” teacher is a good listener, receptive to the initiative and energy of students, committed to them and their learning, and who always looks for ways to keep the material fresh and meaningful.
Just as teachers serve as role models, they also need role models. Posner draws upon teachings from Pirkei Avot and midrashim about Moses to find guidance about the meaning of a Jewish role model.
Day school teachers conceive of their roles as models in various ways that mirror their own practices and beliefs. This article suggests ways for schools to empower teachers to incorporate modeling more thoughtfully into their pedagogy.
Articles in this section all explore the notion that the special quality of Jewish day school teachers resides in their serving as role models. This first article posits that teachers should be model learners, exposing their interests and a striving to grow.
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