It’s about teachers


As a Jewish educator in the D.C. area for the last 40 years, I read with interest the opinion “Jewish education, is it really Jewish?” (WJW, Aug. 29). During many years, I have had the privilege of working as a teacher, administrator, school counselor and mentor as well as visiting most of the Jewish Day Schools and Yeshivot in the Baltimore/Washington area and have found them to be warm, caring places where they take their missions quite seriously.

What I do wonder, though, is whether removing grades from Judaic classes, as was suggested in the article, will create a more impassioned environment? From everything I have seen, the presence or absence of grades has little or nothing to do with student performance. Instead, it is all about great teaching. How do we produce great teachers? Most are not just born that way. It is rather through training and support in the classrooms, for the teachers, that will have a greater impact on the students’ learning. When a teacher brings his or her passion for a subject, any subject, and can engage all students in the learning process, student motivation increases, not for the grades, but for the learning.

Should we not create classroom environments, whether secular or Judaic, that address the needs of varying learning styles with teachers who are open to trying new and different strategies in the classroom and will ultimately lead to greater student success?

What will it take for a student to say, “This is alive! This is challenging! I love this stuff?” Whether it’s math or Chumash, English or davening. It should all be inviting. And, it should all be reinforced with the parents in the home.

They say, “It takes a village!” Well, it does. It takes the schools, the parents and the teachers partnering together for the benefit of all. We all have the same goal in mind–student success and love of learning. Investing in the teachers to create greater professionalism is one step in the right direction. Providing greater support in the classroom, perhaps through mentoring, reflection and honest evaluation is another. Together, we can continue to improve the quality of Jewish education in the B/W area.


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