The “From the Desk Of” series is my regular email to the Valley Torah High School community.
Last week I spoke at length (as many pointed out) about great teaching. One hallmark of great teaching that I mentioned was being a lifelong learner. A true teacher is always a student and to inspire learning in others we must first model it. As Rabbi Chanina remarked in the Talmud (Ta’anis 7a), “I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and the most from my students,” expressing the value of learning throughout your life. What does that look like in the day to day life of a teacher? More importantly, what should a school do to support and encourage learning amongst its staff? What is VTHS doing?
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks astutely points out at the start of his book, Celebrating Life, that “[o]ur world is moving at breakneck speed, but we are not quite sure where we are going. We are living in a transitional age, and continuous change is among the hardest things for human beings to bear.” This was written in 2000 and his point is only more apropos today. John Dewey, the great American philosopher and educational reformer, made a similar statement over 70 years ago saying that, “[t]he world is moving at a tremendous rate. Going no one knows where. We must prepare our children, not for the world of the past. Not for our world. But for their world. The world of the future.”
So, if the world was moving at a “tremendous rate” 70 years ago and at a “breakneck speed” fourteen years ago, we must be moving close to light speed today and I don’t see signs of things slowing down. How can we possibly prepare our students under these circumstance and for a future unknown?
In the months ahead, you will hear much from me about the skills our students will require to be successful in their future and the models of teaching that will instill them. However, before we can prepare our students for this unknown future we must prepare our teachers. You see, while great teachers are lifelong learners and strive to stay on top of best practices, great schools recognize that even the best teachers may find it challenging today to sift through the “light speed” changes of our world. They recognize, like they always have, that supporting the growth of their teachers is the key to the success of their students.
I am proud to say Valley Torah High School clearly understands that great teaching requires the constant sharpening of the saw (an inside staff reference that will become clearer in future posts). This year we have a wonderful amount of support for our teachers professional development in the areas of 21st century learning and the building of 21st Century leadership skills in our students. Here is a summary of our current professional plan for this year.
- Three day pre-school staff training to kick off the year (click here for the flyer)
- Five more in-school staff trainings throughout the year
- Weekly planning and learning meetings
- Online certificate course in educational leadership custom made for our school
- Membership for all our teachers in the I.D.E.A. Schools Network
- Support for teachers to attend conferences
I look forward to learning this year with all of our teachers, administrators and staff to ensure the success of our amazing students!