Thursday, February 14, 2008

Being a full-time teacher, from a teacher's perspective

Amy Deutsch, one of the full-time teachers at Central Synagogue in NYC, writes:

"I have a picture that sits on my desk at work. It is of me and two of my coworkers wearing togas and talking animatedly about the Hasmonean revolt. You may wonder what I do for a living. I am a teacher.

"I work in an innovative educational program in New York City that employs religious school teachers on a full-time basis. Before I began my graduate studies, I was one of these teachers. When you are teaching full-time, you have the time to plan and use experiential educational techniques. In fact, we had the time to create a reenactment of the Hasmonean revolt—more often known as the story of Chanukah.

"The day began in the lobby, where we turned each fourth grader’s bedsheet into a toga. Then the “Greeks” attempted to convince the students of the superiority of Greek culture with an intricate slideshow pressuring them to assimilate. After the Greeks left the room, Judah Maccabee and his warriors arrived and helped the students fight assimilation. At the end of the day, Judah Maccabee and the Greek ruler got in a swordfight (somehow reminiscent of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader) and it seemed desperate, but ultimately Judah won, as he was strengthened by the students who started chanting the words of the Sh’ma.

"Though I was supposed to stay in character, I found myself incredulous at this moment. 120 fourth grade students were chanting the Sh’ma. Some of them had even added the hand motions we had taught them the year before. They were on their feet, filled with pride and passion for their Judaism. I realized then how blessed I was to help foster the development of Jewish identity in my students. It is a gift to be a teacher—and especially to be a teacher who gets to wear a toga."

Amy Deutsch is a current Wexner Fellow/Davidson Scholar. She is studying for a Master’s Degree in Jewish Education at the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Monday, February 11, 2008

My favorite quotes: Parker J. Palmer

This is, of course, from The Courage to Teach:

"We are now engaged in a crucial public conversation about educational reform, but a conversation is only as good as the questions it entertains . . .
  • The question we most commonly ask is the 'what' question - what subjects shall we teach?

  • When the conversation goes a bit deeper, we ask the 'how' question - what methods and techniques are required to teach well?

  • Occasionally, when it goes deeper still, we ask the 'why' question - for what purpose and to what ends do we teach?

  • But seldom, if ever, do we ask the 'who' question - who is the self that teaches? How does the quality of my selfhood form - or deform - the way I relate to my students, my subject, my colleague, my world? How can educational institutions sustain and deepen the selfhood from which good teaching comes?
"I have no quarrel with the what or how or why questions - except when they are posed as the only questions worth asking. All of them can yield important insights into teaching and learning. But none of them opens up the territory I want to explore . . . the inner landscape of the teaching self."

Many thanks to Jo Kay for reminding me of this quote.

I'd only add three points. First, that Larry Hoffman asks this "who" question differently: "What would make you true to your calling?"

Second, that institutional transformation is ultimately about the transformation of individuals and their relationships with one another. Or another way - we can only change the world by changing our own behaviors.

And finally, that all this is predicated on the notion that people are not, in fact, interchangeable. Individual people actually make a difference.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Job Posting: Kesher Director and/or Director of Jewish Life

You have probably already heard that the Kesher model is being imported from Boston and Cambridge to NYC this coming year. Two institutions are giving it a try: The JCC of the Upper West Side and Jewish Community Project Downtown. Here's the job posting from JCP:

Jewish Community Project Downtown (JCP), a young, vibrant and rapidly growing organization in lower Manhattan, is looking for the right person to join our team as the Founding Director of our new after-school initiative and/or become our Director of Jewish Life. JCP is located in Lower Manhattan, NY.

Responsibilities of the Kesher Director (Part-time):
  • Hire, mentor and supervise teachers
  • Oversee and implement the PR and marketing for Kesher
  • Participate in leading and teaching classes and activities
  • Work in partnership with classroom teachers to adapt the Kesher curricula to JCP
  • Create lasting bonds with students and all families at JCP

Responsibilities of the Director of Jewish Life (Full-time):
    In addition to running the Kesher program, the Director of Jewish Life will:
  • Set a vision for Jewish life for JCP and the larger Jewish community of Lower Manhattan
  • Organize all family holiday programs – Hannukah, Purim, Passover, High Holy Days
  • Represent JCP and its Kesher program with pride and articulate its mission in the larger Jewish community
  • Work in partnership with JCP’s administrator to shape and oversee the budget and fiscal records
  • Create, design, and implement family education program

Qualifications of an ideal candidate
  • A Jewish educator with a drive for excellence and comfort working in an informal, dynamic, team setting
  • Strong organizational skills and excellent interpersonal skills
  • Has vision, confidence and a desire to grow professionally
  • Conversational and/or fluent in Modern, spoken Hebrew
  • Advanced Judaic knowledge
  • Advanced degree in Jewish Education, Education, Early Childhood Education or strong related field experience, perhaps even a current student looking for a long-term job opportunity
  • Enthusiasm for working in a non-denominational setting that welcomes diverse families
  • Minimum 2-5 years in the field with strong references

Contact: Rabbi Erica Gerson: 212-334-3522

Saturday, February 02, 2008

There is No "X" in Thanks

Well, it's the beginning of hiring season for the 2008-09 academic year. Last year, based upon my own experiences in conducting a job search, I posted a "few words of advice for those applying for an entry level position."

Rachel Brumberg, in her former capacity as Associate Director of Professional Development and Advancement at JESNA, developed this list of helpful hints for those who are ready to take on the challenge of applying for a, shall we say, "real job."

  1. When e-mailing a prospective employer, capitalize and use punctuation, at least to indicate that you know what proper grammar is.
  2. If you're thinking of using a word that can be substituted for tushie or is tushie-related, DON'T.
  3. Clearly identify the job for which you're applying, and be sure to read the job description fully.
  4. Use an e-mail name that makes sense to other people ( rather than using your nickname, a pet's name, or any kind of indication of your hobbies or sex life.
  5. Don't submit a multiple page resume if you're just graduating from college.
  6. Remember to spell check and grammar check.
  7. Please don't tell me you're a Friend of Jonny's (or Avraham's or Joy's or Howard's, or any Exec) if you're not.
  8. If you're going to contact an employer for a second time, please don't chastise them for not getting back to you; no one likes a whiner or someone who yells at them.
  9. Even if you're interviewing with a "casual" organization or company, maintain your own formality.
  10. Spell out abbreviations.
  11. Send only what the employer asks for - if they only want three references, please send only three. "The fatter your file, the slimmer your chance."
  12. Visit your Career Center and get their help - they're there for a reason!
  13. Research the organization and the position (if possible) before you interview.
  14. If you’re given a choice of text color in your e-mail program, use black.