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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Case for an 8 Stage Career Development Ladder for Jewish Educators Beginning in Elementary School




This is a graphic organizer depicting an eight stage career development ladder for Jewish educators in day and supplemental schools.

Based on research and empirical evidence, we need to increase the number of highly competent Jewish educators in our day and supplemental schools. See, for example the study of Flexner, Paul A. & Gold, Sandra O. (2003).  Providing For the Jewish Future: Report on the Task Force on Professional Recruitment, Development, Retention, and Placement. NY: Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA).  To address this need, we have created the above eight stage career development ladder.

We begin the eight stage ladder in elementary school with selected and trained older upper elementary students tutoring/mentoring their younger classmates  because of the increasing evidence suggesting that cross-age tutoring programs have positive effects on both mentors and mentees (the students being mentored). Accordingly, in his meta-analysis of school-based cross-age mentoring programs  Karchner(2007)  study  found that when older students are trained and supervised to tutor and teach younger schoolmates both the mentor and the mentee achieve significant results including: improvement in school academic performance; higher personal aspirations; improved self-confidence and  self-control; enhanced cooperation within both the school and the family and increased trust and respect for adults.

These results are best realized when the following conditions exist: (a) mentoring has an academic or instructional focus; (b) the mentor and the mentee are properly matched, not randomly formed. The mentor is highly motivated, knowledgeable in the content area needed by the mentee and be at least two years older than the mentee; (c) the mentor is trained and supervised by a seasoned teacher or supervisor who knows the strengths of the mentor and the instructional needs of the mentee; (d) the mentor-mentee relationship is carefully and regularly monitored and evaluated and (e) scheduled time for instructional mentoring is provided by the school.

What are some of the benefits for training selected post b'nai mizvah students to become  madrichim, student and co-teachers? This experience can:

·      Provide post bar and bat mitzvah students with a new option to continue participating in congregational, and supplemental programs.

·      Introduce youngsters to a career in Jewish education or Jewish communal service while they are exploring their future career options.

·      Offer teenagers a new opportunity to remain affiliated with the Jewish community.

·      Provide post-bar and bat mitzvah students with an opportunity to be remunerated for being a madrich or madricha, a student teacher, and co-teacher.

·      Offer day schools another channel to do service learning or independent study.

·      Enhance the credentials of high school students who are applying for college.

 Lastly, assuming a supplemental or  day school, and a university with a Judaic Studies program have developed a collaborative relationship or partnership, high school students who successfully complete a two-year teaching internship program can earn college credit. This partnership between supplemental and day schools, and a university has been established at Gratz College, Melrose Park, PA for many years (Goldberg & Schapira, 2008:,HaYidion/ ) and (Solomon, 2008:,HaYidion/)

 This model would also encourage other candidates interested in a career in Jewish education to climb onto this professional development ladder including:

·      undergraduate Jewish Studies majors and Hillel students who have no formal training in teaching

·      teaching aides who want to strengthen their knowledge base in Judaics and Judaic-specific pedagogy

·      second career professionals

·      retired secular educators



The eight stage development ladder described here is a transformational construct that requires creative thinking, an openness to change, a willingness to see beyond conventional and institutional thinking, visionary leadership, and the financial resources for implementation.

In sum, with the implementation of this transformational model, there are several potential positive outcomes that can be realized.

As a Jewish people  we value the importance of studying in order to perform mitzvot, "Lomed al Manat La’asot". This model invites upper elementary students to tutor,  befriend and support their younger classmates.

In an age with a multitude of choices, this model offers teenagers and young adults an opportunity to remain affiliated with the Jewish community during a critical period in their personal and professional development. In particular, talented, knowledgeable, and motivated eleventh and twelfth graders in Jewish supplemental and day schools, and undergraduate Hillel students and Jewish Study majors can be trained and certified to teach Judaics at a supplemental school while attending college.

This model also provides a new differentiated staff development track for Jewish educators who wish to become madrich teachers, mentor teachers, and expert teachers. With increased responsibility, these educators can expect to receive additional compensation.

At a time when there is a shortage of well trained and knowledgable  Jewish educators, this eight stage career development model provides a  comprehensive, longitudinal, and institutionalized vehicle to recruit, develop, and retain excellent teachers and administrators for our day and supplemental schools for the 21st century.

* The lists of exemplary administrative, interactive and creative responsibilities are taken from, Howard, Lisa Bob (2006), The madrichim manual: Six steps to becoming a Jewish role model, Springfield, NJ: Behrman House, Inc, 8-11.


**For specific details on the set of teaching skills and knowledge base required of the student teacher,  co-teacher and madrich teacher see Solomon, Richard. (April, 2008) Assessment instruments to measure the professional development of the  pre-service and in-service Jewish teacher. Lookjed Electronic Professional Learning Community, The Lookstein Center, Bar-Ilan, University;

Karchner, Michael (2007). Cross-age peer mentoring. Research In Action. Alexandria, VA: MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership.

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