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DeLeT rests on a vision of Jewish day schools as learning communities where students can form integrated identities as they study and experience their dual heritage and responsibilities as Americans and as Jews. Such a vision depends on teachers who can connect general and Jewish studies in meaningful and appropriate ways, create democratic classrooms infused with Jewish values, and model Jewish learning and living.
Teaching is both intellectual and practical work. It requires weaving together different kinds of knowledge as well as generating knowledge in practice. Teaching is not what teachers do but what teachers do with students around particular content in a particular context. Good teaching is content-rich, learner-centered, inquiry-oriented.
Teachers are the key to building effective Jewish day schools. They shape the minds and touch the hearts of children. They help young people develop their Jewish identities and teach them the values and customs that give meaning to being Jewish. They help build the day school community and create a rich future for the Jewish people.
Learning to Teach
Teachers need to know many things. They need deep and flexible subject matter knowledge. They need knowledge of students. They need to know about good curricular materials and how to adapt them to their purposes and situation. They need a repertoire of instructional strategies and approaches to assessment. They need to know how to create a classroom learning community and how to work productively with families and colleagues.
Some of what teachers need to learn can be acquired through reading, study and professional conversation. Much of what teachers need to know can only be learned by doing. Still, there is a big difference between “having” experiences as a teacher and learning from them. In order to learn from experience, teachers need regular opportunities to analyze and make sense of their teaching and their students’ learning. One goal of DeLeT is to develop teachers’ capacity to learn well from experience.
Learning to teach in the company of others helps teachers develop the habit of collaboration and a sense of comfort with teaching as a public (not private) practice. If novices learn to teach under the guidance of experienced teachers who are studying and refining their own teaching, they are more likely to develop the disposition to continue learning as teachers.
Curricular integration is a stance that encourages teachers and students to look for opportunities, both planned and spontaneous, to make meaningful connections within and between different areas of study. Curricular integration respects the integrity of separate subjects and regards them as complementary resources for examining questions, issues and problems, and for creating new knowledge and understandings. In Jewish day schools, curricular integration helps students explore and embrace their dual heritage as Americans and Jews. DeLeT is committed to exploring the possibilities and limitations of curricular integration.
The Elementary MAT (DeLeT) is preparing beginning day school teachers who
- take students and their ideas seriously
- create classroom learning communities infused with Jewish values
- make meaningful connections between general and Jewish studies
- welcome families as partners in children’s education
- value text study as a core Jewish activity
- learn well from experience