By Elliot Goldberg
I’ve argued that the teaching of rabbinics begins sooner than you might think. How would early childhood educators respond to my theories? I went on the road to find out.
Recently, I spent two days with the faculty of a Jewish early childhood center in a Jewish day school, to launch their participation in the Legacy Heritage Instructional Leadership Institute Rabbinics Initiative, a project of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary. One of the consultation’s goals was to raise teachers’ awareness of the ways in which rabbinics was already a part of their curriculum.
From the onset, teachers had some reservations about the notion that they were teaching, or were teachers of, rabbinics. That they were teaching in a Jewish school whose curriculum was shaped by Jewish values, the Jewish calendar and Jewish practices was apparent, yet faculty shared a commonly held assumption that the starting point for the study of rabbinics begins when a book from the rabbinic canon is placed in front of students.
There is a certain logic to this assumption. Because, for the most part, we encounter the rabbis – and their stories, thoughts, ideas, and values – through texts, we equate the discipline of rabbinics with the study of rabbinic literature. Because rabbinic literature is often complex and, due to its language and logical structure, can be challenging to learn, we wait until students have acquired the appropriate skills and intellectual maturity before we engage them in the study of rabbinic texts.
Yet, while rabbinic texts might be absent from the early childhood environment, rabbinic literature has significant influence over many of the topics in the curriculum. Jewish early childhood programs, therefore, do teach rabbinics. Continue reading
Teacher retention and effectiveness stem from a clear vision of good teaching, strong alignment between coursework and field experiences, a focus on subject matter preparation, and a year-long internship. That view is supported by a new report from the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education and funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, which finds that graduates of the DeLeT (Day School Leadership Through Teaching) Program at Brandeis University and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion feel well prepared for their responsibilities as day school teachers.
The report comes from the Longitudinal Survey of Day School Teachers, which has been tracking the careers of DeLeT alumni since 2007. Previous reports described graduates’ backgrounds and views of day school teaching, the factors influencing their decisions over time to stay in teaching or leave the classroom, and the opportunities and challenges they face in their schools.
At the Mandel Center’s recent Teacher Forum, Kathy Schultz presented us with new ideas and practical advice about the role and meaning of silent students and silent classrooms. In this video we share highlights from her presentation. We also share clips Kathy presented from two different classroom settings. They show how two different students use their silence to participate and demonstrate their teachers’ strategies for supporting that participation.
Teachers who think that silent students are not participating in class should reconsider, according to Kathy Schultz, who spoke recently to an audience of about 100 local educators at the Mandel Center’s fifth annual Teacher Forum. There are many ways to think about student silence in classrooms, but all should include an understanding that silence is a form of participation, said Schultz, dean of the school of education at Mills College and author of Rethinking Student Participation: Listening to Silent Voices.
Instead of rewarding speech and penalizing silence, Schultz urged teachers to think in a more nuanced way about how students participate in class. Continue reading
Teaching is complex work, and learning to do it well takes time. Even the most rigorously-prepared new teacher encounters a steep learning curve on the job. The first several years of full-time classroom teaching are a time of intense learning, during which teachers form the teaching habits and professional dispositions that will stay with them through their careers. Continue reading