Sunday, September 6, 2009

Get Set....

Wow: two weeks plus since I posted last. The time has flown by, with some wonderful experiences between "then" and "now."

Two of the most energizing involve my work with madrichim/teen aides.

The first (on August 27th) was a new leadership training module I developed and used in working with a group of teens whose assignments are different from our typical "classroom aides." Typically, most of the training I do is with teens who work under the direction of a teacher or group leader. The adult is present to give direction, refer things back to, and adapt the daily plan to what actually occurs.

This particular group of teens, however, has the responsibility for Shabbat morning programming for students. The plans are developed by the director or his assistant, but the teens run the program from start to finish.

Clearly, my standard workshop focusing on "teacher-in-the-room, watch-for-cues, be-responsive-and-anticipate-teacher/student-needs" wasn't going to cut it.

Fortunately, the University of Florida has a wonderful series on youth leadership developed for their 4-H teen leaders. It has some fantastic material on leadership focus, and styles of leadership. Combining that material with some of the Jewish values material I've developed and used over the years gave us a wonderful program. The students were engaged, asked great questions and were able to apply the content to examples in their own lives -- and see how it could be relevant for their work this coming year. We ended the session with a work period in which they were able to "block out" their first session of the school year.

This was a new area of focus for me -- and I'm thrilled it worked out as well as it did!


August 30th was the date of the "1st Annual NoVa Madrichim Training Course" - a five-hour program designed to provide classroom madrichim with some basic skills in

  • clarifying their roles and identifying their responsibilities
  • teaching to different learning styles
  • respectful classroom management

In addition to the "general" program, we offered a simultaneous program for more advanced madrichim who wanted to increase their knowledge and skills in working with students with special needs. The SNAP (Special Needs Assistance Program) component was led by a colleague from the Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning.

As the first program of this nature, we had high hopes, but no track record to guide us in planning.

The end result was fantastic: we had 85 teens from nine congregations participate in our day's training. In addition to the SNAP Program Facilitator, we had eight facilitators who led small groups of 8-10 teens in three 50-minute workshops. We had bagels and cream cheese... and pizza for lunch: 35 pizzas, to be exact. We sang some songs, did some text study, and guided students through the reflective practice that we hope will be part of their professional lives.

But the best part? (Other than the 85 kids!) They filled out evaluations! I'd worked with a specialist at the Partnership to devise an evaluation that would both provide quantifiable data and be open-ended enough to "take a pulse" of what the madrichim were thinking.

The results were stupendous: 75% said they'd recommend the training for new madrichim; and 75% said they'd return next year, if we expanded upon existing content or added additional content. Additionally, they provided such suggestions as "break us into groups according to the age student we'll be working with," and "all madrichim should have some knowledge of working with kids with special needs," and "can we do 'a life in the day of a madrich'?" It'll take a while to organize all the information we received. I'm really glad that I got help with the evaluatation form - the info I received was more complete than I would have gotten otherwise.

One more critical piece of information to share with you: this program was funded in part by a grant from our local Federation, which provides cluster grants for "Innovations in Congregational Education." Thanks, Federation!


So, school's drawing nearer - the pace is accelerating.... Are you ready?

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