This June marks the end of my first year as a consultant. After sixteen years of teaching in Jewish religious schools, directing two very different schools in two very different communities, I decided it was time to branch out on my own, establish my own consulting business (Morah Mary Consulting, LLC), and share what I've learned with others.
As the year comes to an end, I find myself pondering the same questions that arise at the end of every academic year: Did I meet the goals I set forth for my students this year? What "teachable moments" are indelibly captured in my memory? What challenges arose that I didn't anticipate? What new things did I try this year? Did they work? What practices did I hang onto that had outlived their usefulness? What students did I find it challenging to work with? Did I handle those situations the very best I could? In short: What worked and why? What didn't work and why not? What would I do differently next time?
The short version, I learned from Elissa Kaplan, the director of the first school I taught at.
When I began to teach, I was what we call an "avocational" teacher -- someone who teaches in a religious school who has no educational training, but is committed to helping kids learn about Judaism. Elissa has many strengths, but one of her most valuable gifts is the ability to nurture and train avocational teachers.
I learned much of value from Elissa, but perhaps the most important was the need to engage in reflective practice.
If I don't know what worked and why -- I can't replicate the successes we've had.
If I don't know what didn't work and why not -- I'm doomed to repeat my failures.
If I can't articulate what I'd do differently -- I can't mindfully plan for the future and incorporate what I've learned.
Todah rabah, Elissa -- thank you.