This week we had a wonderful half day of learning for our staff. If you recall, last week in the Kibitzer I wrote about an example ofindividualization in the classroom and how we are guided by the principle that we teach children, not subjects. I was so pleased to see that that guiding principle encapsulates everything we do, including how our teachers learn together. At Akiba, we teach teachers, not topics.

Many educators, myself included, have sat in many hours ofprofessional development in our lives. Often, and much to our frustration, the learning that occurs is in the form of a lecture and if lucky, slightly interactive with a somewhat dynamic presenter. However, two complaints that are often voiced by educators experiencing this format is that they are not engaged in the learning and, even if they learned something, the experience was a one-off opportunity. It does not get followed up on nor supported for application in the classroom. This is not always the case, and an excellent one-time presentation can inspire more learning in a particular area, but thinking how to provide more personalized education for teachers is one way to increase motivation for such training. This is what guides our staff learning.

The learning that occurred on Monday was a continuation of the staff development that began in the summer. It was not a one-off experience in the summer, nor on Monday as the learning continues throughout the year. In the summer, teachers opted in to one of three book groups: Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant; Lost in School by Ross Greene; and Drive by Daniel Pink. These books were selected to offer opportunities to learn about three distinct and important issues for us as human beings and as educators: building resilience, challenging behaviors, and motivation. Monday afternoon afforded us time to meet in our book groups and reflect on how we understand the research in the books and how it can be applied to our classrooms. Plus, we had one session as an entire group, building listening skills through improv, that was highly interactive, and helped our teachers from both the preschool and the grade school to laugh and learn together. Another session was made up of different opt-in working groups that began this summer focused on topics specific to school enhancement: Jewish life, homework and community building within the school.

It was a fantastic day and I want to thank Ms. Miriam Kass for being the leader of this design. I am grateful for the hard work she put in to ensure meaningful learning occurred among the staff and that our students had unique learning experiences available to them during this time. The excellent and individualized education we provide at Akiba-Schechter is in no small way a reflection of her hard work and the guiding principles of our school that she embodies.


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