Coaching is about teaching, and the more effectively you can teach, the more complexity players can handle. As technology has gotten better so has the teaching, which has had a direct effect on the quality and complexity of the strategy we see on the field. Chris B. Brown
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Jewish day schools want every child to succeed in their learning and social-emotional development. How can schools accomplish those lofty goals while teaching many students in the same classroom? This issue explores that conundrum and showcases various ways that learning can be differentiated to meet the needs, capacities, and interests of different students. Articles address differentiation within the classroom, and supporting teachers to learn, transition to, and apply methods of differentiation. Authors discuss the "how-to" as well as the larger goals and vision.
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Following the Torah maxim to teach a student ke-darko, according to the way he or she learns best, many Jewish day schools today feature programs for differentiated learning and implement best practices in progressive education. No matter how much time a teacher spends differentiating lessons, however, an outlier student with an assortment of unusual talents offset by daydreaming or intense emotionality may stubbornly elude understanding even from the most caring teacher or administrator.
Deeply ingrained attitudes and mindsets regarding fairness and equality may influence a teacher’s decision to embrace or reject differentiated practices. Questions relating to student equality, relative distribution of support among students, and reasonable expectations of teachers may weigh on educators when considering implementation of differentiation. A powerful predictor of whether, how, how often and how successfully a teacher will differentiate his or her instruction is the teacher’s mindset about fairness and justice within differentiation.
Before launching a private consulting practice, I served for five years as director of development at a sizable Orthodox school in a major metropolis. On my first visit as a consultant to a small school, I found myself mentally noting all of the “mistakes” my client, the head of school, was making. Board members were involved in grant writing and reporting. The school could not afford a development director, so her lay leadership coordinated the fundraising program. She was allowing her development committee to spend too much time on events.
In all classrooms, teachers encounter diverse students with individual strengths and challenges. Typically, teachers celebrate student successes and feel frustration with students who find learning to be challenging or exhibit disruptive behaviors. This reaction is, in part, a relic of the behaviorist approach to education of the 20th century and further supported by an education system that praises teachers who minimize behavioral disruptions and produce high test scores in their classrooms (Mary Brownell et al., “Special Education Teacher Quality and Preparation”).
Differentiation in the classroom, artfully executed, undoubtedly holds the power to enhance student growth and development. In part, it’s a matter of identifying individual student strengths and potentials and capitalizing on them. Similarly, on a broader scale, identifying and capitalizing on the strengths and potential of our schools is a means of differentiating them from the competition, and thereby enhancing their growth and development.
Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.
With the new school year under way, the team at Prizmah wishes every Jewish day school the greatest success for 2017-18/5778.
I recently had the privilege of attending a Prizmah convening of development professionals for some of the largest day schools across the country. Hosted by The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Maryland and ably facilitated by our new COO, Elissa Maier, the convening was a wonderful example of the important role Prizmah can play in bringing schools together to learn from outside experts and share best practices. The high level of discussion, dedication and creativity was impressive.
Advocacy is the act of speaking on behalf of or in support of another person or idea. Your Prizmah school advocates serve that role and so much more. Our team is focused on making sure that we get you what you need, be it an answer to an administrative or curricular question, information about a Prizmah program or a connection to a colleague. We strive to meet the needs of all our schools, understand the distinct differences among us and see the commonalities that bind us in the field of Jewish education.
Recent work in neuroscience and psychology reveals two findings that should be central in educational planning. First, virtually all brains are malleable. When we teach as though students are smart, they become smarter.
Differentiated instruction (DI), as a pedagogical technique, has high aspirations. It aims to create a personalized classroom experience for each student, one that allows a degree of ownership and access far more than the types of classes most students experience today. A class that’s ultimately student-responsive, the argument for DI goes, is not just an educational good, insofar as it compels students to individually engage and own particular subjects. It is also, fundamentally, a moral good.
My board doesn’t want to fundraise, and the responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of my head of school, development director and development chair. How can I work with my board so fundraising becomes more of a team effort?
When board members say they don’t want to fundraise, they’re usually referring to the actual “ask.” It’s safe to say that a majority of people do not like to ask for money. They may feel uncomfortable about asking others for money, upset about anticipated rejection, or worried about annoying friends and colleagues.
QUESTION: Boards are made up of individuals with different areas of expertise and experience. What strategies have you used to effectively engage all board members?
Leanne Kaplan, Chair, Committee on Trustees, Atlanta Jewish Academy
At our school, board engagement is a top priority. The team who wrote the first set of by-laws were already thinking about board member engagement when it was decided to keep the board of trustees limited to between 12 and 18 members. This size gives everyone a chance to have his/her voice heard at meetings.
The Admission Funnel:
How to Streamline the Private School Admission Process
edited by Weldon Burge
Differentiation is the opposite of standardization. It relies on the teacher to plan lessons and learning experiences with the diverse needs of the learners in mind. Whether it’s about modes of delivery, flexible use of time or space, student groupings or materials used, the goal of differentiation is to meet the
ever-more varied needs of the students in our care.
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