Since Chanukah is the Festival of Lights, we wanted to shine a light on some bright spots we are seeing in the Jewish day school field. It is our hope that each day of Chanukah will grow even brighter as you learn about these bright spots and consider your work in a new light.
Shine a Light on: Applying Learning from Outside the Jewish Context
Sometimes it can feel like the Jewish day school environment is completely one-of-a-kind – and it is, in many ways! But it turns out that lessons learned and ideas developed outside of the Jewish context can still be leveraged for the benefit of the Jewish day school system. Let’s learn about two bright spots in the field where this has occurred.
“The Jewish Community Can Benefit from That”: Jewish New Teacher Project
That’s Nina Bruder – she’s the head of the Jewish New Teacher Project (JNTP). JNTP is the Jewish day school branch of a national secular nonprofit organization that works with teachers in the early stages of their careers in the nation’s public schools. Using a mentoring methodology, the New Teacher Center works to improve new teacher effectiveness and retention. As Nina explains in the video, “JNTP is unique because of the partnership between the Jewish community funder and the secular provider to create this interplay between the expertise of a much larger, $40 million national organization with a very strong R&D department and research department, and the Jewish community can benefit from that… It really has been very special to be part of a national gold star organization in the secular realm, and to bring the best of their work into the Jewish community.”
This is a clear example of taking a development from outside the Jewish world and bringing that expertise into the day school context – and new teachers who are sticking with careers in their schools due to the mentorship support they are gaining through JNTP are strengthening the field because of it.
The Principals’ Center – Harvard University
Who doesn’t want a Harvard pedigree? In the summer, the Principals’ Center at Harvard offers two one-week institutes for principals and aspiring principals to enhance their ability to improve the quality of their schools. AVI CHAI saw the opportunity to take Jewish day school leaders to benefit from these resources external to our community, but absolutely applicable to improve our schools as well. For 18 years, AVI CHAI has funded Jewish day school leaders to attend these Harvard institutes.
Over time, in addition to simply funding attendance at the institutes, AVI CHAI has developed a year-long program structured around them. This program helps day school leaders work to improve their students’ learning and Jewish experiences and prioritize their own professional growth year-round. It includes some pre-institute work; additional evening sessions during the Institute to apply the day’s learning to the day school context; and follow-up during the following academic year, including executing a significant Jewish mission/vision project at school. Additional sessions and project management support is provided by Educannon Consulting.