Thursday, October 15, 2009

Book Review: Toolbox for Teachers and Mentors

Earlier this summer, a colleague sent me a link to a new book that he thought might be of interest to me. I scanned the review, ordered it, and added it to my pile of "books I really should read sooner rather than later." It's a great stack of books and currently includes the following:
  • Isa Aron's The Self-Renewing Congregation: Organizational Strategies for Revitalizing Congregational Life
  • Olitzky & Sabath's Striving Toward Virtue: A Contemporary Guide for Jewish Ethical Behavior
  • Rabbi Levi Meier's Seven Heavens: Inspirational Stories to Elevate Your Soul
  • Sedlar & Miners' Don't Retire, REWIRE!
  • Just ASK's Strategies in Action
  • Paula Rutherford's The 21st Century Mentor's Handbook

Given the fact that much of my work so far this academic year has been focusing on working with madrichim and their supervising teachers, I bumped Richard and Elaine Solomon's Toolbox for Teachers and Mentors to the top of my list.

I'm glad I did!

It's a fairly easy read, since much of the "teaching" is done in the form of a dialogue between madrichah (about to become co-teacher on her way to being a novice teacher) and mentor. Educationalese is translated into English (I'm not as well versed in educationalese as I might be); pragmatic examples for a Jewish educational setting are provided (either day school or supplemental school); there are charts and forms to use in helping to categorize or plan out specific strategies.

As I was reading, and thinking.... and then reading and thinking some more.... the thought occured that this could well be a handbook or source text if we ever were able to get our Midrashah L'Morim program going again. There are also huge segments that we could use in our regional training programs for beginning/novice teachers. The only area I think gets a little short-shrift is the area of learning disabilities - although they do a good job of presenting learning differences and multiple intelligences.

The challenge for me, now, is to go back and engage in some of the exercises the Solomons suggest for their teachers-in-training in order to see if I can plug what I'm doing into the format they suggest. If I can do that, it will make it easier for me to teach others to do so.

My specific challenge? I get stuck on the words "enduring understanding" and "essential questions." I know why I think what I'm teaching is important, but have trouble articulating that importance in that specific terminology. HELP!

The book is excellent. I highly recommend it for schools looking to start a mentoring program for older madrichim; for those that have frequent staff turnover and want to provide novice teachers with a solid foundation; and for teachers who have agreed to mentor others. And it's available through Amazon.

Addendum: After writing this piece, I happened to mention to my daughter that I was struggling to articulate an enduring understanding for the madrichim course. She looked at me quizzically and said, "That's easy."

"Huh?" I responded.

She paused a moment and said, " 'All students learn differently.' That's your enduring understanding."

"Doesn't it have to include something about teaching or Jewish Ed?" I asked.

"No," she responded firmly. "All students learn differently. That's why you teach what you teach."

"Oh," I answered humbly. And then demanded: "How do you know thus stuff?"

"I took an ed course in college. Even though it was taught horrendously, I did learn stuff."

In the words of Yehuda haLevi: Much I have learned from my teachers, more from my colleagues, but most from my students. Substitute "daughter" from "students" and that describes it perfectly!

1 comment: said...

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Erin Hirsh, just sent us your review. How sweet it was to read. Thank you for your kind words. Kol Tuv,

Richard D Solomon, PhD