April 21, 2024
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April 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

In the field of education a community of learners can be defined as a group of people who share values and beliefs and who actively engage in learning from one another—learners from teachers, teachers from learners, and learners from learners. The Talmud expresses this in the famous adage:

“Much have I learned from my teachers, more from my peers, but most of all from my students” (Ta’anit 7a).

Those who interact with students daily in the classroom have ample opportunity to affirm the truth of the last clause of this statement. Nevertheless, the lessons of peers and teachers become less accessible when in the classroom as teachers. Novice teachers in Jewish day schools report that continued communication, with their friends who teach and with experienced Jewish educators willing to share their expertise, plays an essential role in their development as educators. I would like to suggest that this be formalized. Our day schools should create a community of learners in which teachers can share their pedagogic insights, successes and failures. Much of the material taught in our schools is the same, so sharing techniques and mentoring can only yield positive results.

The internet may allow for the possibility of creating that type of interaction on a broad scale and to a wider audience. The classroom problem that you have, the idea that you are working on, the question that your student asked that has you stumped, can all be shared with other teachers who have, perhaps, grappled with these issues before. But doing it in person in real time is so much more effective.

Granted that teachers meet at conferences, and in-service programs abound. However, regularly scheduled class visitations within a school, and regularly scheduled meetings for sharing between and among all our schools can only bear fruit. These meetings, moderated perhaps on a rotating basis by principals or master teachers, will become a platform for sharing ideas, experiences and innovations, as well as a central place for posting information about new resources, gatherings, books and presentations of interest to Jewish educators; discussions of current issues in the classroom; more references to online resources of use to classroom educators; and more opportunities to connect and learn with peers.

When our community had a central agency for Jewish education this was done on a regular basis. There was even a video library of master teachers where teachers could request a lesson plan by grade and subject and get a video of that lesson being taught.

The most successful iteration of this concept was the Hebrew in America project, which mandated regular COL sessions in which teachers shared what worked and what didn’t in the curriculum they were given to teach. Not only was this sharing mutually beneficial to all participants, but the simple bringing together of teachers from very different backgrounds and varying amounts of classroom experience was in itself very beneficial.

We want our teachers to be the best they can be. Learning best practices from one another is more effective than any Ed. 101 methods course. This applies to general studies as well as to limudei kodesh. We have some very successful and creative teachers in our schools. We have some very technically proficient and computer savvy teachers as well. We have some veteran and some novice teachers. We even have some veteran teachers who may not be so current with the new technology available for classroom use.

Everyone benefits when teachers are encouraged to share their successes with other teachers. It’s not a new idea but it’s time has come for our community. Gone are the days when a teacher could just stare at her students and they would immediately sit upright in their seats with their hands folded on their desks. Gone too in most schools is chalk dust. Teachers need to be the best they can be to engage our current student population weaned on MTV and X-boxes. As I have stated here before, my sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Ostreicher, always said: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until the good is better and the better is best.”

By Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene


Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene directed the central agencies of Jewish education for the Jewish federations of MetroWest as well as Northern New Jersey.

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