AVI CHAI concluded its general grant making on December 31, 2019.

Rabbi Steven Brown Has the Answers!

Posted by: StevenBrown

June 29, 2012

Following on the interview of Program Officer Rabbi Steven Brown this week, some readers took the opportunity to ask him questions of their own. Read answers here – and if you have a question of your own, please keep them coming!
“In an educational context, adults often do become role models for kids by virtue of the situation and the adults’ dedication to the work. How do we strategically approach training these adults to become role models, rather than depend on ad hoc approaches? How do we build the mentorship culture into Jewish institutions?” –Aimee Weiss
Aimee asks the most important question. We need to provide a safe space and time for faculty to grow as adults, particularly in the areas of religious purposefulness and serving as role models for our students – no matter what subject they teach. Schools work hard to schedule all kinds of prep time and other teacher responsibilities, but I think that among the most important times that need to be carved out is time for faculty to grow as adults in their approach to Jewish religion, culture, values, and identity. An exemplary approach to adult development in our schools is the work of Rabbi Marc Baker of Gann Academy in Boston in providing time and space for his senior leadership, faculty, as well as some students to bring Mussar values into the everyday life of the school. We must also remember that the adults who work with our students are in all different stages of growth themselves rather than monolithic in their understanding of themselves and the world. To have a learning culture, a school needs to give faculty a safe, comfortable space to learn what they need to learn, what they want to learn, and in a way that enables them to grow, take risks, and try on for size new ways of approaching their important work as exemplars and role models.
“What are the top five indicators of success for an educational leader? Values, attributes, behavior?” – Cheryl Magen
Cheryl, I wish I had the singular answer to your question. I have immersed myself in a wide range of research and literature in the field of leadership development, and have read many paradigms for what makes the ideal, successful leader. In a recent issue of Hayidion, our own program officer, Dr. Michael Berger, wrote a wonderful article on AVI CHAI’s understanding of the necessary components of leadership for day school heads. This can be generalized to camp leaders and leaders of other Jewish nonprofit organizations as well. I’m also taken with the paradigm developed by Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge (Fourth Edition) where they list five exemplary practices of leadership: Model the Way, Inspire Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart. However, all of these schema and models have one major problem: They don’t always lend themselves easily to assessing leadership and evaluating performance for improved results. I have become enamored of the work of Dr. Douglas Reeves. The new second edition of his book Assessing Educational Leaders incorporates 10 dimensions of leadership along with best practices in effective evaluation closely linked to student achievement, equity, and staff morale. He emphasizes the role of both personal predispositions and acquired knowledge skills on effectiveness and proposes a system of how evaluation can be used to “improve performance instead merely rendering an assessment.” So much of what passes for rubrics designed to frame excellent leadership approaches are hard to measure and difficult to assess. Reeves’ research-based approach, having looked at hundreds upon hundreds of leadership evaluation assessment instruments, seems to make a great deal of sense to me. If I could answer your question succinctly and easily, I would write the best-selling book!

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