Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why Are You a Judaic Studies Educator?

On a recent #Jedchat discussion educators were discussing whether grades hinder a students love of Judaism. Some educators questioned the purpose for grades altogether while others felt there still needed to be a win-win where grades were truly earned but didn't hinder a student's ultimate growth for love of Judaism. While I do believe in summative assessment grades of students demonstrating their mastery of skills or content learned, I was firm (and perhaps a tad too firm on #Jedchat!) in my view that we need to teach all students with an inspirational long term Jewish lens. You can educate students on skills and/or content on a particular Judaic subject but ultimately the goal is to instill a life-long love of Judaism. I went so far as to say perhaps on their report cards students should be graded on "Life-long love of Judaism."

As I was engaging in our #Jedchat discussion I started reflecting on a number of conversations I have had over the years from acquaintances to very close friends on their Judaic studies experiences (both positive and negative) as well as my own experiences as a student in Jewish schools. Those with positive experiences felt they connected well their teachers and were inspired to either further their Judaic learning or to play an active role in the Jewish community. A healthy chunk of those who had negative experiences expressed their disappointment on never having been shown the spirit or love of Judaism. Instead they felt their Judaic classes were simply taught either as any other academic subject or as Judaic material taught because "that's the way it's been done"without allowing a forum for students to question their learning or engage in deeper discussions. As someone who attended two different Jewish high schools and had polar opposite experiences I could appreciate both sides of the coin; The school I attended the last half of high school had a very positive impact on me because its' educators inspired me 'Jewishly' first and taught me second. The high school I attended in my early high school years simply taught me.

Whether you are fresh in your Judaic education field or you have been in the field for decades, I implore you- prior to creating your phenomenal lesson plans and units,  developing ways to differentiate your instruction, and before you work on assessments- first ask yourself these questions- "why am I in Jewish education? Why did I choose to devote my time, resources and energy to educating? Am I here to connect students to Judaic knowledge or skills? Or am I here to educate and connect through the knowledge and skills to inspire students to be lifelong Judaic learners and contributors to the Jewish community and Jewish world?" I ascribe to the latter view.

So what do you think? Why did you choose to be a Judaic Studies Educator?

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