CAJE Called National Model (Part Two)

Posted on 03/19/2021 @ 08:00 AM

Tags: Jewish Schools & Educational Services

Photo courtesy of kqed.org

This article was originally given as an address to the CAJE/Federation Day School Committee meeting by Rabbi Marc Wolf, Vice President for Program Strategy and Impact at the national organization Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day SchoolsMarc is responsible for overall program development and evaluation, knowledge, management, internal program learning, and relationship building with the field leaders. Marc previously served as vice president East Coast at Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and held several major leadership roles at the Jewish Theological Seminary including Vice Chancellor, Director of Community Engagement, and Chief Development Officer. Marc is a day school parent and passionate advocate for day schools. He has dedicated his career to the importance of Jewish education.

The last one [aspects that need improvement in the day school system] that I'll talk about is the pipeline of educators for Jewish Day schools. There is clearly pandemic fatigue across the board. I'm sure that we all feel it. I know it's difficult to come to another Zoom. The pandemic fatigue is very real and it has raised the conversation about mental health and wellness in schools, now even more important than it had been before. Mental health and wellness was a topic of conversation before the pandemic; and now, we have heard more conversations about anxiety among students particularly in the high school level.
 
Across the field, we have heard more conversations about social-emotional learning pre-pandemic, but everything that has happened over the course of last year has accelerated that conversation in Jewish day schools and communities.
 
At Prizmah, we have a school counselors cohort where we work with school counselors from a number of schools in North America. They problem-solve and learn together. In a recent survey of teachers and administrators we learned what many of us know - it has been very difficult to maintain work-life balance. Of course, our lives are creeping all over the place and the separation between school and home is something that has become increasingly difficult to discern.
 
While most teachers plan to return to the schools in the fall, there are going to be some who do not return. Either they were planning on retiring already, or this has been a really difficult year. It's something that is heightening our concern about the pipeline of educators in the Jewish day school system. 
 
There is a broader anxiety around the pipeline of Jewish educators in Jewish day schools in North America with people aging out of the system and with the question of how many people are coming into the system. I think that there are five things that we need to do collectively as a community in order to advance the pipeline of Jewish educators.

1)   We need to elevate the profile of Jewish educators in our community. We need people to understand that this is a career choice; this is something that you can do, and it’s a valuable and meaningful contribution to the Jewish community and to education. We need to start heralding and championing our Jewish educators… which can include launching a Jewish day school teacher appreciation campaign. We need the community to understand that we believe in this profession and that this is something that people can go into, that we respect it, and that Jewish educators are important to us. I think that we all believe that the education of our children is important to us and the people who do that even more so. So, number one, is elevating the profile of Jewish educators in our communities.
 
2)   The second is pre-service programs, graduate programs, creating an investment in pre-service training, so that we are recruiting and training qualified educators into the system. We need to invest in programs that will train in pedagogy and content, for both Jewish and secular studies teachers. We want great educators in our schools because educational excellence is what people are expecting when they choose Jewish day schools.
 
3)   Creating the environment in schools where teachers can succeed. The number of teachers who burn out after 1, 2, 3 years early in their career is too high. It's hard to be a classroom teacher. We need to invest in the environment in schools where teachers can “fail forward,” and where schools are welcoming new teachers and nurturing them, bringing them to a point where they can be successful in their craft and become excellent teachers.
 
4)   Ongoing mentoring and coaching of new teachers and teachers already in schools. They need to be working on their craft in an ongoing way, and to see how they're coming into a classroom, and to rely on their peers to be able to help them to become better educators. Under the careful guidance of master teachers and coaches [such as with CAJE’s Jewish New Teacher Project] is the best way to create excellent teachers.
 
5)   Investment in the arc of the career of an educator. This includes ongoing professional development and leadership development [such as with CAJE’s Professional Development offerings like #JBlendMiami]. We should create broader systems to support ongoing development in both content and pedagogy. When someone is interested in school leadership we should support that, and we should also be investing in department heads, deans, principals, and classroom teachers across the board and throughout their careers.

These five areas are the key to a robust pipeline of Jewish educators and working on them concurrently will lead us to an influx of teachers. While there is anxiety throughout the field about the pipeline, we can address it on the North American and communal level.
 
This is a positive moment for the value proposition of Jewish day schools - and we have an opportunity to advance each of these areas and lean into the trends. Focusing on financial stability of schools, the enrollment bump that we've seen, accelerating collaboration and coordination locally, addressing the mental health and wellness of our faculty, administration, and students and taking a meaningful step to address the pipeline of educators in Jewish day schools are all opportunities in front of us. At Prizmah, we look forward to working with you on them. 

CAJE would like to thank Marc Wolf for recognizing the outstanding work we do for our day schools in the area of professional development, especially in the areas noted above by helping schools create the environments where teachers can succeed through a CAJE-sponsored program like JNTP—the Jewish New Teacher Project, which trains veteran teachers to be mentors and coaches for new teachers. We’d like to recognize the great work of Valerie Mitrani, our Director of the Day School Department for her role and that of Julie Lambert, Senior Educational Consultant, in bringing the highest quality of training to our schools.
 
CAJE would also like to thank the Greater Miami Jewish Federation for its support of Jewish education and its vital role in helping network and financially support our funded day schools though yearly allocations and with a special $2 MILLION SUPPLEMENTAL ALLOCATION to help mitigate the financial effects of the pandemic.