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Friday, September 4, 2009

Rabbi Robert Abramson, USCJ Director, Dept of Education Reviews the Toolbox for Teachers and Mentors

Toolbox for Teachers and Mentors: Moving Madrichim to Mentor Teachers and Beyond, A Review by Rabbi Robert Abramson, Director, Department of Education United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

This book can make a difference.

For quite some time, some supplementary schools have engaged teens as teaching assistants in a variety of ways and some material was developed to aid in these endeavors. Now, all of us who care about inspiring a new generation to consider the possibility of becoming a Jewish educator, either full time or part time, have reason to celebrate.

Dr. Richard D. and Elaine Solomon, after many years as teachers of teachers have embraced a new challenge. They have developed a manual, Toolbox for Teachers and Mentors: Moving Madrichim to Mentor Teachers and Beyond, which serves as a guide for 11th and 12th graders who might be attracted to a program that will prepare them to take on more and more responsibilities in their congregational school. Richard and Elaine have spent much time and effort in crafting a manual that will guide novice madrichim – counselor/teacher helpers – step by step until they have both the confidence and the ability to be inspiring classroom teachers. This is the focus of the first part of the Solomons’ book but it does not stop there. The second part to the book provides guidance to teachers on how to become continuously developing professional teacher – mentors.

To nurture the growth of madrichim and madrichot, the Solomons call on a very ancient pedagogy; the Socratic method. What unfolds, for those who come to learn in order to teach, is a dialogue between Dr. Solomon and a 12th grader named Lisa. Lisa wants to succeed as a madrichah and then become a teacher in a congregational school when she goes off to college. As Lisa’s mentor, Dr. Solomon leads her along a path of active learning while she works as a madrichah in a class. They set forth ideas and provide terminology as well as teaching methods. The text is filled with prompts, learning methods, explanations and explorations. Lisa is supported, challenged and engaged

The Socratic method requires the student to ask questions and Lisa does that constantly and very well:

· “You explained to me the five steps involved in backward design…You never explained to me how to find enduring Jewish knowledge.”

· “That’s really helpful, but don’t students have any role in determining what content they should learn and know.”

· “But you never explained to me how to decide what specific information I should be teaching at what grade level.”

· “But you never explained to me something really basic, like how to write a lesson plan.”

Dr. Solomon welcomes such questions, apologizes when he has overlooked something, or when delving deeper is what is called for.

Let us celebrate this new tool for encouraging both novices and experienced teachers to increase their effectiveness as both learners and teachers.

Richard and Elaine deserve our thanks.

Rabbi Robert Abramson, Director

Department of Education

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

820 Second Avenue

New York, NY 10017

212-533-7800 ext 1131

The book is available via Google by entering Toolbox for Teachers and Mentors: Moving Madrichim to Mentor Teachers and Beyond.

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