A Non-Judgmental Space for Teachers to Grow
by Tamara Beliak Neumeier
Jewish education is now enjoying a renaissance that it has not experienced since Germany in the 1930s. There are many different models of education open to students, from chavurot to supplementary schools to yeshivot. The opportunities for men and women to study have opened up, with new Internet technologies that allow people to communicate across continents. Many schools are focusing on expanding opportunities for their students to learn through different modalities and focus on the Jewish text and technology skills that will prepare them for an ever-changing world. I believe that this is an exciting time to be a child in a Jewish day school, because teachers and schools are focused on the individual student and his needs.
However, the world of Jewish education is not perfect. Sometimes in the pursuit to create a better learning environment for students a school forgets that teachers also have an ability to learn and grow. Professional development for teachers has not kept pace with the requirements schools have for teachers. Most of the teachers I encounter are in a constant quest to continue as learners and find the best ways to reach their students. They do not always feel comfortable sharing that they perceive their teaching as less than perfect. Teachers in Jewish schools who have finished their formal instruction and training often turn to schools’ in-service programs to continue their education. As a teacher, I have heard many of my colleagues complain about these in-service programs. The most common criticism is that the programs are in lecture format and teachers are treated as a monolithic group, without regard to individual needs.