Are you a Jewish day school educator or funder interested in improving instructional practice in day schools? You may want to participate in the BetterLesson Showcases happening at Ramaz in New York City on June 24 and at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, MD on August 12. Teachers, coaches, and administrators from Jewish day schools across the country will share their journeys with personalized learning – including their experiences with BetterLesson coaching.
In 2018-19, 365 day schools teachers enrolled in a BetterLesson program and received one-on-one, personalized coaching from blended learning experts that enabled them to innovate and incorporate new personalized learning strategies in the classroom. BetterLesson offers a national program funded by AVI CHAI and regional programs in Miami, Boston and Seattle. Here are two examples of projects that emerged from the coaching:
Meirav Kravetz, who will be presenting at the Showcase in Maryland, is a Department Head at the Hebrew Academy (RASG) in Miami Beach, Florida, working in middle and high school. For the past two years, she met with her coach through BetterLesson every two weeks for a half hour each time. One outcome of the work was an interdisciplinary effort in the school to transform a local landfill site into a park, based on the model of Park Ariel Sharon in Tel Aviv. In Miami, everyone knows to avoid a hill that is a garbage landfill covered in grass. Could that landfill be transformed? Meirav worked with science and math teachers, and soon students were engaged in a project that entailed visits to the landfill and recycling plant, emailing in Hebrew with the park in Israel, and ultimately presenting a short film presentation with a business plan. All along the way, Meirav’s coach was supporting her to move from vision into practice, to measure the project’s potential outcomes and to present them, to capture the project’s development in pictures and film, and more. The project went on to win the Kohelet Prize.
“I feel that without having someone as my right hand supporting me in this process, it wouldn’t have happened,” said Meirav. “Having a BetterLesson coach is having someone who works together with you hand-in-hand, being a sounding board for your ideas and making them better and pushing you forward. It opened my eyes as a department head to look at things a different way, to try something and learn from what you’re doing for the future.”
Meirav is now working with BetterLesson as a coach for other teachers. She is grateful for the support and encouragement of Rabbi Avi Bossewitch, Dean of Academics and Innovation at Hebrew Academy (RASG), and Andrea Lucero, Principal of the middle school, and for the fact that professional development is a priority for the faculty at the school.
A Presenter for the New York Showcase, David Saltzman, also began receiving BetterLesson mentorship and is now part of the BetterLesson team of mentors for other teachers. He was mentored last year as Principal at the Maimonides School in Boston. He developed a personalized and blended learning experience for a tefillah class, a web-based program using google sites. One of the strategies employed was student self-assessment, where students could learn the art of knowing if they are ready to go on to the next lesson.
“My coach Romain Bertrand suggested I should frame the introduction of the class with the idea that the control of the learning is in the students’ hands. Empowering them with agency was not just a classroom lesson, but a life lesson. This impacted how kids experienced class.”
Next year, David will go on to be the Director of Teaching and Learning at the Lower School of the Yeshiva of Flatbush and Assistant Principal of General Studies. He hopes to enhance the school’s work with data collection, its use of new pedagogical techniques, and the personalization offered in the classroom – all of which dovetails with his upcoming work with BetterLesson.
“One-on-one mentoring is extremely powerful. My coach was someone outside the school who could bring a new perspective and offer pure, unadulterated help without another agenda. My coach understood what I needed and helped me get there step by step. I’m excited to be part of the team and work with teachers the same way Romain worked with me last year.”
For more information about BetterLesson and to register for the Showcases, see: https://bit.ly/31mQaNA