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7 Habits of Highly Effective Jewish Educators

7 Habits of Highly Effective Jewish Educators

by Hadassah Levy on Oct 05, 2016

Have you ever wondered what makes a Jewish educator great?

We asked some of the most prominent Jewish educators around the world, “What habit has significantly improved your Jewish studies teaching?” and they gladly revealed some of their secrets.

Highly Effective Habits of Jewish Educators

#1 Focus on your students - Rabbi Zach Swigard, Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy

In my opinion, one needs to get into the habit of focusing on "who" you're teaching, not "what" you're teaching. When approaching content and lesson planning, it is crucial to think about the types of learning styles that your students possess and how to best reach them in their own way. Being student-centered starts with them, not you.

#2 Surprise them - Rabbi Dovid Tugendhaft, Hasmonean and Nishmas Yisroel

An element of surprise can give a teacher the edge, enable him or her to keep the students engaged and provide an excellent upbeat atmosphere of learning in the classroom.

Time and time again, Torah Live provides this. For example: when Rabbi Roth rides off on a camel during a presentation on Tevilas Keilim or when we see life through a camera attached to a soaring eagle, as we explain a Mishna in Pirkei Avos.

The students are spellbound... and the message goes in.

#3 Convey eternal lessons - Mrs. Ariella Agatstein, Director of Girls Judaic Studies, Yavneh Hebrew Academy

I always ask myself, "If I were a 6th grade girl, why would this be important to me?" I try to convey to the girls the eternal lessons of the Torah and relate them to their everyday lives. Even when teaching Tanach skills, I try to emphasize the importance of their ability to learn Torah independently for life.

One of the ways in which I connect learning to daily life is by using Torah Live for my annual unit on Hilchot Shabbat.  For each melacha, I use the Torah Live videos to demonstrate an overview of that melacha. The examples of the melachot and toladot are always very useful and are always explained in a clear and concise fashion. My students look forward to these videos.

#4 Foster connections - Rabbi Simcha Dessler, Menahel, Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Our school has recently added the services of a full time elementary school mashgiach and a school-based kollel, benefiting the junior high school and high school students. They, together with our teachers, open their hearts and sometimes their homes to students thereby fostering greater connections, often life altering, which is so important in the era in which we live.

Many of our students require individualized programs, and Torah Live has been helpful to our school especially for these children.

#5 Be empathetic - Rabbi Moshe Yosef Gewirtz, Silver Academy

The most important skill is EMPATHY!! To be empathic or in touch with my own feelings and thoughts, and with those of my students.

Therefore, every presentation must interest me. If it doesn't excite me, I will not be able to excite the student. Each presentation must also fit into the students' pre-lesson set.  Learning takes place only when the students can assimilate the ideas with what they already know, and build on it.

#6 Encourage intellectual and emotional engagement - Mrs. Penina Teitelbaum, Principal, and Rabbi Moshe Heigh, Atara High School

Active Participation supercharges a teacher's ability to check for the students’ grasp of the material and to engage the entire class, instead of relying on a show of hands (usually from the smarter and more highly engaged kids). It challenges you to find ways to check in with everyone - via whiteboards, thumbs up or down, colored sticks, waving a sticky note in the air, etc. It can even be as simple as having everyone read the posuk or commentator and have them all underline the main idea or answer a question from the teacher, as opposed to having one student reading and everyone else zoning out.  

Additionally, students' minds and emotions can be captured extremely effectively with Torah Live.  Even in five to ten minutes per installment, Rabbi Roth and company send us the most intricate messages in halacha and hashkafa, often topics not contained in our actual curriculum. The videos never fail to inspire, provoke, fascinate, and draw laughs from every level of student.  Most of all, sophisticated subjects are broken down into digestible units with exceptional skill, utilizing the very best in modern technology.  

#7 Provide a safe space - Mrs. Megan Rosettenstein, Masada College

I am dedicated to ensuring my classroom is a safe space, where thinking for oneself is valued and encouraged and where education is student-led rather than teacher-dictated. This creates a rich learning environment.

What habit has significantly improved YOUR Jewish studies teaching? We would love to hear from you. Email and we may feature your habit in an upcoming post.

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