One of the most amazing parts of this week was a class I took entitled "Teaching as a Spiritual Practice." I really appreciated the group of educators who met and discussed how and why they do what they do. We had representatives from K-12 education, higher ed, Hebrew schools, and more, all discussing the decisions we've made to affect the next generation.
There were two particular passages I would like to emphasize here, both from traditional Jewish texts. I will do my best to cite my sources but please correct me if I make a mistake in translation.
"The Torah teaches you: if you are a man of learning, do not be so arrogant as to say something in front of an assembly
before you had made the matter clear to yourself by going over it two or three times." - Tanhuma Yitro 15.
As I have mentioned on this blog before, experience matters. Apparently the Rabbis from centuries past agreed with that statement. The only way to truly master something is to practice over and over again. A recent post on Dianve Ravitch's blog cited an article by Rachel Levy on Teach For America and focused on the misplaced rhetoric on experience versus enthusiasm. If the data shows that regularly-certified teachers and TFA teachers are gaining skill by years 2 and 3 in the classroom, but TFA teachers are leaving in droves at that point, perhaps we should put funding elsewhere.
"A man does not fully understand the words of the Torah until he has stumbled over them." - Talmud Bavli Gittin 43a
This passage is referring to making mistakes and being corrected. Many teachers understand that making a mistake is a part of the learning process. Unfortunately, the testing mindset of society emphasizes the "right answer" over the process. As a high school math teacher I try to train my students to recognize mistakes, learn from them, and build a knowledge base to recognize them in the future. I get very upset when I see students throw away tests/homework/assignments they did not feel were up to snuff. I think we need to do a better job at educating students on the real life procedures of fixing your work.
Overall this past week has been illuminating to me in regards to my own practice of Judaism and teaching and I hope to share more anecdotes as the weeks pass by.