2/25 Class Notes

Visions of Jewish Education : read Chapter 1, skim Ch. 2-3, read Ch. 9 and supplement
Tanit Ester: the Fast of Esther. Do the students know about this? It's part of the traditions around Purim. In pluralistic schools, is there any connection to this tradition?
The Visions of Jewish Education project perceives a vision to be a reason behind something, without which we are merely going through the motions, or falling back on what's been done without thinking about why we are doing it.

What are the core concepts of Scheffler's educational visions?
  • creating an educated person means that the education is:
  • interconnected: the educated person knows the connection between things;
  • transformative: the person not only knows information, but understands its place and importance, and cares about it
  • education is a real-life, live event, where the "conversation" takes it course and continually readjusts based on what happens

Writing assignment: think about the class: Summer, Intersession and Spring
  • What have I learned? What questions has it raised? This class a lot of time pushed me to think: why Jewish education? What is different about Jewish education? Where does the Jewish part come into play? From the reading about Beit Rabban and Power of their Ideas, and then contrasting that to the panels where we heard from parents, teachers, and about pluralism, it was interesting to see the discrepancies between the intended guiding vision and how that vision is enacted. It makes me wonder: Is there only a metaphoric place for a guiding vision, and then when it comes to implementing it, the day-to-day grind of school, and the nature of children makes it implausible? For example, pluralism seems like a great and lofty goal, but requires that the students care and are engaged and want to contribute to the goal of pluralism. I wish there were more information and studying on the middle ground: how to implement various visions in real-life schools.
  • What would an assessment of this course look like? I think an appropriate assessment of the learning for this class might be a writing assignment to help the students flesh out what they perceive to be the purpose of Jewish education, what they see as a worthy vision for Jewish education, and what their own personal animating ideas behind teaching are. This might include what teachings from the various readings we draw from, and what a guiding vision in action can be seen (in one of our schools? in a school we have visited?)

2/11 Class Notes

Pluralism: panel on pluralism
Joel (JCDS): Generative pluralism:
  • tolerance, questioning, exploration.
  • a place for students to find their place in the Jewish community
  • Presenters (accessible role models) come to do a Q&A to relay that there are many ways for them to be Jewish, their questions to the presenters are really questions about themselves
  • Families and students have to care, the open-endedness doesn't help when the participants don't feel passionate, must be "serious Jews" to avoid facilitating indifference
  • How to cultivate pluralism in younger children? How to teach little kids commitment? (Pluralism is teaching commitment)
  • Pluralism isn't just about the various forms and ranges of religious observances; it's more about Jewish identity
  • The school has to make a compelling case for different ways of being Jewish
  • The Jewish world isn't pluralistic and shouldn't be, whereas pluralistic organizations are carefully crafted and voluntary: through the encounter with the "other" we can refine ourselves
Tamar (JCC)
  • Worked at Heschel for 8 years, where she heard about their idea of pluralism, previously worked/participated in Orthodox settings; didn't know what to make of these different Jews
  • She didn't explicitly say she was Orthodox until a discussion with 9th graders; 3 responses as to why she can't be Orthodox: you dress modern, you have a TV, you're "too nice"
  • Orthodox versus non-Orthodox have no framework for understanding one another
  • Purposeful pluralism: taking a diverse group of Jews for the purpose of challenging, expanding our knowledge, thinking about our beliefs, our stubborn beliefs
Jacob (PhD student here, Program Director at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin)
  • taught at Heschel for 3 years
  • Jewish studies faculty diverse and talented
  • two major challenges: what are the limits of pluralism? Observance spectrum (headmaster wouldn't allow for a reform minyan, there was Ortho, egal, traditional)
  • men required to wear tefillin (women were encouraged to do so as well). Students asked why they had to wear tefillin. (Didn't make sense with the other guiding visions of the school)
  • What's the difference between a pluralistic day school and a Conservative day school (which often includes modern orthodox and reform and secular)
  • Is there any concern of degradation the "brand" of conservative?
  • Pluralism: fallacy that a more serious Jew "does more." Pluralism is meant to create passionate Jews, and not through one single way. Pluralism judges its success on passion or committed Judaism. (Coincides with conservative Judaism: a good Jew really cares)
  • Orthodox: not interested in pluralism?
My questions:
  • Is pluralism just throwing in a bunch of various streams of Jews and having them share? Or is the goal giving them a space to explore their own Jewish identity? Specifically, what is pluralism in a day school (K-5)?
Pluralism: Pros and Cons
  • Pros: allows for honest discussion, honors that one can be Jewish/Jewishly involved in many ways,
  • Cons: confusing? Excludes Orthodox? Could allow for the "easiest" way, could fail if students aren't passionate and committed (and how can elementary school students feel a passion and commitment?)
How do I think of myself:
  • denominational? secular? pluralistic?

2/4 Class Notes

Marla: Jewish day schools allow for people to be Jews, you don't have to take off Jewish holidays. The ability to try things on, if you have an idea you can go with it.
  • Managing parents: expectations and responses. The stronger communication you have with the parents, the less problems you have with parents.
  • They find a way to be trouble; parents are especially hard on new teachers.
  • Use the school's protocol and the support of the staff
  • Share good things with parents; share anecdotes about the kid
  • If there's something you make that works, keep it so you don't have to start over every year
Samara: Able to use her professional self and Jewish self and use that to an advantage.
Meg: Jewish day school is where Jewish studies is taken seriously, it's natural for the kids to study Jewish things. It's not just an extracurricular activity.

Questions for the guests:
  • How has your view of Jewish day schools and teaching changed over the years?

Animating ideas of Jewish day schools:
  • Personal aspect: teachers give of themselves, teachers use their personal life as a strong point for their professional life
  • Able to be a Jew in a Jewish day school, both for kids and adults
  • Supportive and community feel
  • Space to be creative, both for teachers and kids

  • Hospitality: teaching is not about making learning pleasant and smoothing over the learning, but making the uncomfortable things possible

1/28 Class Notes

There is a perception issue that math and science is compromised in day schools.
Parent concerns: being constantly bombarded for fundraising.

What surprised you?
  • Parents voiced their concern that their children don't receive a strong math education in Jewish day schools. Even though studies show that day school students are on par in math (and science). Where does this perception come from? Maybe middle class families think math and science are more important, more marketable skills? Maybe because they themselves aren't strong in math and science? Maybe because parents know that literacy and critical thinking will be reinforced in Jewish studies?
  • Why might Jewish schools be preferred over public schools? What is happening in public schools that could affect Jewish day school enrollment?
  • Two levels of day schools: Whether to send them to Jewish day schools? And if so, which one? Finding the right fit. Some families even send each child to a different day school.
  • All of the decisions that go into sending their children to a Jewish day school. What kind of sacrifices do parents make? Are they jeopardizing other expenses in the future by sending their kids to private school now?
  • Why are they afraid that their children will become more religious than them?
  • Do parents feel entitled to more? (Laliv's puppet show example--they put on a puppet show and the parents came, but didn't really show appreciation) Do they just expect more?
What animating ideas did you hear?
  • Community: based on the interwoveness of the teachers and parents.
  • Trust: the parents have a lot of trust in the teachers.

1/22 Class Notes

Freud on religion: do we have to ascribe to everything in religion to believe in its goodness?
צריך שאנחנו מאמינים הכל על דת בשביל להיות חלק הדת? אולי פרויד אמרה: אולי פרויד אמר: אם אנחנו באמת מאמינים על שבת, לדוגמה, מה זות אומרת? שיש משמעות אמיתי בזה? או אפשר לעשות את זה ולא לאמין ששבת מאלוהים

Yishai Isiah Leibowitz: says that there are no reasons for the mitzvot, only to serve G-d.
טעמי המצוות meaning for the mitzvot. (Rationalist/Maimonides)

Arnold Eisen: Head of JTS
Mitzvah assumes a mitzaveh (commander) and mitzavim (those commanded)
What do we feel commanded to do? (applicable and eternal)
  • I feel commanded to have good relations with the people around me, especially my family. I feel commanded to take care of myself. I feel commanded to do more good than harm in the world.
What are our obligations? (products of specific environments and circumstances)
  • I think my obligations correspond with what I feel commanded to do. More specifically to my life, I feel obligated to be a good sister, daughter, teacher, student
What are we responsible for?

It's not upon you to finish the work, but you are not free from desisting.

Eisen article: (a who's who of Jewish education philosophy)
What are the animating ideas of this thinker?
What would it look like if we were to take these ideas seriously in Jewish education?
  1. Moses Mendelssohn Jerusalem (1783) Judaism should be voluntary, we should rely more on personal connections, inquiry, reflection, modeling, rather than on texts and being so dependent on texts. If we only have texts, we don't even need the people.
  2. Martin Buber: wholeness and integrity of Jewish selves, authenticity means addressing real differences, doubts. Jewish education isn't teaching about Judaism, but is about right and wrong, living Judaism, choosing right from wrong
  3. Mordechai Kaplan: Reconstructionism, Jews are obligated in engaging in the political future of America, we should bring our Jewish selves into the public sphere, primary Jewish activity in Israel, but not obligated for all Jews to live there, we American Jews draw on the evolving Jewish civilization
  4. Abraham Heschel: Individual spiritual needs, Torah as a resource, Judaism needs the individuals' uniquenesses to make up the whole
  5. Franz Rosenzweig
  6. Joseph Soloveitchik "The Lonely Man of Faith" (1965) We Jews need to be thoughtful and aware of existential loneliness, educating for difference, Jewish education needs to prepare Jews for our "otherness" but also their own otherness. This lends to an appreciation of pluralism
What do these animating ideas mean for Jewish Education? Things that you do in the classroom? Things that you want to do in the classroom?
  • Acknowledgement of different levels of involvement, talking about our ideas, what we believe (writing about G-d), exploring different traditions, exploring our identities as Jews/Americans, and other identities. Engaging in Jewish culture: not sure how this pans out exactly. Torah is an approachable, kid-friendly resource and source.

1/21 Class Notes

How does the Rosenzweig passage relate to my decision to become a Jewish educator?
  • What really spoke to me was the idea that there's no plan or recipe that can prepare Jewish adults. It's more of an attitude (readiness) that enables us to be in the frame of mind that we can be a part of the Jewish people at any point (simply by saying "we Jews") and that nothing is unattainable or unexplorable (Torah, kashrut, Zohar, Israel, etc). This attitude--that you are Jewish at any level, and that anything is achievable--really drove me to pursue being a Jewish educator. (The confidence of "I can do this, I want to do this, so what's stopping me?)
  • Path versus pathlessness: Halachah is more of a path, guidance, until you get to the point of pathlessness. You forge your own Jewish path.
  • Rosenzweig, when asked if he puts on tefiilin every morning, answers "not yet."
  • Judaism does not work on a vertical linear scale. There's no such thing as going up or down. It is not a hierarchy.

1/14 Class Notes

Seymour Fox's picture of vision
  • Practice is informed by a set of animating ideas
  • Integration is one of those animating ideas
Questions about integration
  • I think integration is most achievable when the Jewish and General Studies teacher is one in the same. I feel like it's unreasonable to ask a general studies teacher or specials teacher to coordinate their teaching with others' teaching. Why do I think this? For example, there are several non-Jewish teachers in our school--art, gen. studies, music--and the school asks these teachers to "know" Jewish things, which leaves them feeling uncomfortable in their teaching.
  • There are a lot of thoughts about what integration isn't, but it's nearly impossible to put our thumb on what it is.
  • My school's stance on integration is unspoken.
  • Concerns about integration: scheduling, talents of integration. jeopardizing content and material
  • Instance of integration at JCDSRI: Biblical narrative: Language arts and Chumash: LA: metaphors, similes, alliterations and personifications being used to illustrate a Biblical narrative about being enslaved in Egypt
Michael Zeldin: Judaism and modernity
  • Judaism and modernity: focus on where they differ, rather than saying how well Judaism fits, because people might not find use for Judaism
  • Example: I can care about global warming without caring about what Beresheit says about stewardship of the land
Ponson: Connections
  • text-to-text, subject-to-subject connections, making a web of connections as a way to make meaning

Problem areas:
  • we want students become integrated, and we think that teaching magically makes them integrated. How do we get from here to there?
New model: Pedagogy of integrity
  • Structural integrity: when all the parts of a bridge work together and bear the weight they are supposed to bear
  • Moral integrity: allowing for this to trump other things, goals
  • Intellectual integrity: able to admit that you are wrong
  • Creating people of integrity: morally, intellectually
  • by focusing on integrity, we identify the goals
  • we should all have skepticism about the claims of integration, keep a critical eye
  • be diagnostic before we offer the prescription

Class Notes 6/15

Animating ideas: the ideas that motivate, energize, or animate the work; the core beliefs (“philosophy”); what the institution cares about; a mission statement of sorts; what drives an institution/person/group.
  • Ideas about:
    • Who belongs
    • Institutional goals for individuals
    • Institutional goals for the community
    • Why do they choose these goals; what is important to us (healthy, rich human life)
  • Considerations: Assessment towards progress; Jewish commitments/obligations (if we adhere to a certain stream, that will be core to policies); the importance of “Jewish choices”
  • Questions:
    • Educational institution with a set time frame versus one with no time boundaries?
    • What are the implications of public vs. private?
    • How would an institution think differently if they are serving a population that can choose to send their children there?
    • Can an institution change if they are ‘the only game in town’?
    • Does an animating idea have to be there from conception?
    • Can an animating idea come from an unintentional characteristic?
  • Common themes among ten example institutions:
    • Community, Respect, Enrichment (through music, through contact with different cultures), Support

Class Notes 6/24

"We should have reasons for the things we believe and do."
  • Generic pedagogic challenges?
    • What is a teacher thinking about when setting up for his/her pedagogy?
    • What are the students' expectations?
    • What etiquette should be displayed?
    • Why did I wear a tie?
  • Specific pedagogic challenges?
    • Reading/homework
    • Responding to all questions?
    • Generalize about issues?
  • Pedagogic characteristics
    • ping-pong: teacher leading the conversation, students talking/responding to the teacher

Vision at Work: responses
  • Read your partner's response
  • Ask questions
  • Describe an idea you want to share with the group (of your partner)
  • How is this different from Beit Midrash?
  • Ideas about Beit Rabban:
  • Ideas about writing Beit Rabban:
    • The book is more about the idealized Beit Rabban, to serve his more philosophical goal than an adherence to reality

Class Notes 6/29

"There should be reasons for the things we say and do."
We shouldn't dichotomize learning and talking.

Three questions:
  1. Surprising: I was surprised to read about the students' discussion on tzedakah that included what seemed to me to be age-inappropriate. I guess that with student autonomy, teachers will let the students take the conversation to any point. I remember when I was in 2nd grade, I had some inkling that sex was a taboo topic, but I still tried to tell someone what it was. I think that kids don't always have the maturity to talk about certain subjects, and that a teacher should be a guide for these conversations.
    • Laliv was surprised that a person could open a school just like that, and she was surprised that Devora opened the school for personal reasons.
  2. Worrisome: If I were a teacher at BR, I would be worried about meeting the high expectations of the school director. I remember one time I was babysitting an 8-month old infant, and he started crying. I immediately comforted him and said, "it's okay, it's okay." The mother heard this and scolded me, saying, "we don't tell him it's okay bacuse he's crying for a reason. He needs to learn to express his needs." I feel like BR is kind of like this--they have strong ideas about how to cultivate autonomous students, but these ideas oftentimes seem counter intuitive. It worries me that a teacher there would not be able to rely on intuition for all situations. It definitely would result in a high level of stress for me.
    • Where do students go from here? What will their experience be like going from BR to high school?
    • Devora wasn't concerned about where the students will end up? Is preparing students necessarily a bad thing?
    • Does having a strong vision make you resilient to input? Does it give you a feeling of "knowing better"
    • Is she impervious to reflection? Does she think she's perfect in her vision?
    • Incorporating general education: Devorah seems to dismiss any concerns
    • Hiring teachers who don't have much experience
  3. Inspiring: Student-centered school
    • Anne was inspired by the centrality of text study, and how the students can come to their own conclusions
    • The apparent success of the method of teaching, based on the students' fluency of Hebrew, text study
    • Confidence in vision is a driving point to actually pulling everything together
    • Guided moral education: Nurit doesn't tell them what to think, but let them try to come to their own conclusions
    • Getting students involved in social justice projects; getting them to break down the barriers of separating those who need help, and getting close (ex. first graders handing out sandwiches to homeless people)
    • Encouraging principled positions about Jewish values, rather than dictating what that position should be

What are the animating ideas behind Beit Rabban?

  • Centrality of Jewish texts as a source for intellectual discourse and thought, and moral development, and strengthening Torah
  • Torah is an intrinsic value of the Jewish people
  • Centrality of students as critical colleagues in learning
  • "There should be reasons for the things we say and do" both with teachers, and cultivate this in students
  • Encouragement of thought process, rather than dictating thought (what you believe in is less important than how how got there)
  • Community created in the classroom is a model for the larger community
  • Encouraging creative thinking in the students
  • Interweaving autonomy, tradition and reflection
  • Distinctiveness/difference
  • Student empowerment: students should have all of the information, the whole picture
  • "Honest inquiry informed by serious study"

What are these ideas about? (at Beit Rabban)
  • concepts of learning
  • concepts of child development
  • concepts of teaching
  • ideal Jewish community
  • ideal learning environment
  • ideal Jew
  • concepts of subjects
  • pictures of human nature, human flourishing, "the good life"

Meier text:
  • concepts of learning
  • concepts of child development
  • concepts of teaching
  • ideal community
  • ideal graduate
  • ideal learning environment
  • concepts of subjects
  • human nature, human flourishing, the GL

Class Notes 7/13

Categories of Animating Ideas:
  1. concepts of community
    • choice: members actively step into the community
    • small: no anonymity, clash of ideas, active engagement
    • authenticity of environment (no artificiality)
    • does this school have some element of "living in a bubble?"
  2. concepts of learning
    • "Habits of mind"
    • community service, apprenticeship
    • teachers are learners, collective learning
  3. concepts of teaching
    • teacher autonomy, collective autonomy/empowerment (compared to traditional teacher autonomy in which no cross teacher feedback occurs)
    • protection from the central office
    • teachers vote democratically on everything
    • teachers are adults, and should be "in the face" of the students
    • expertise/coaching: teachers are supposed to know more than students (have a deeper conception of history, math, etc), but their job is not to stand and tell the students what they know
  4. concepts of human flourishing
    • natural curiosity, enduring attitudes of curiosity (don't squash it!) but avoiding egotism
    • negotiate complexity
    • independence
    • interdependence of norms (curiosity itself is not the right answer)
    • Habits of mind (p51)
  5. concepts of subjects
    • Longer time periods lend to better learning
    • 14 portfolios and 7 major presentations throughout Senior Institute (equivalent of 11/12 grade)
    • math, science, literature, history, the arts, etc
    • It's better to cover less material more deeply (following the five "habits" than cover a lot of material superficially
    • By having the students present their work, Meier believes it better prepares them for success than testing (p. 59, bottom)
    • A deeper investigation (the five habits) leads to a more active role in the subject matter. "Keen sense of ownership" p. 61
    • Sense of ownership over the material can be accomplished by: small school, leisurely pacing, covering less material more deeply (more about quality of investigation)
    • Simple schedules: one and two-hour blocks
    • Interdisciplinary subjects
    • teachers in multiple subjects

Animating Ideas
  • "It's human nature to want purposes, to work toward something"
  • "I care what's best for my children, extend that sense of caring to others' children, the greater community, the world at large"
  • "We want to do what's best, it matters what we do"

Fox's five levels:
  • Philosophy - the biggest questions about human flourishing
  • Philosophy of Education - big questions about education
  • Theory of Practice - applicable philosophy
  • Practice - will flow forth once the bigger questions are tackled
  • Evaluation - only in terms of what we want to achieve

Vision-guided practice: surrounded by the animating ideas (concepts of human flourishing, community, learning, teaching, subjects, Judaism)