The very first idea that comes to mind when I think about Jewish Education is that it is the right of every Jewish child, regardless of his or her background, to receive an intensive and content-rich Jewish education. Every Jewish child is a precious gift from the Almighty with unique talents and abilities. I believe that it is the Jewish educator’s mission to help nurture all students in such a manner as to develop these gifts, so that they can ultimately become life-long learners in all areas of intellectual endeavor. Dr. Art Costa, a contemporary and widely followed cutting-edge educator, summed up this idea in a clear and cogent manner: “Learning how to learn today fosters the continuance of learning throughout a lifetime. The fullest development of the intellect today makes it possible for them [i.e. students] to continue developing visions of ever more remarkable human beings.” (“Educating the Global Intellect”)
I am a powerful advocate of the “Guide on the Side,” rather than the “Sage on the Stage” approach, to teaching and learning. Concomitantly, I strongly believe today’s students are digital citizens. We need to be constantly aware that they communicate through instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, wikis, and text messaging. In a word, they live on Web 2.0. Many are also totally at home in the world of digital movie creation, podcasts, PowerPoint, and multimedia photo-presentations. As such, most of them are not just content consumers - they are content creators. Therefore, I believe we need to “speak their language” if we are going to truly educate them to be 21st century life-long learners. Practically speaking, we need to encourage collaborative learning, discovery learning, and critical thinking, and create classrooms where it is OK to be wrong. This enables students to be “inventors of the mind” and to be cognitively engaged in, and take ownership of, the learning process. As facilitators rather than founts of wisdom, today’s technology-adept educators can work as class leaders, who help their students grow and explore all aspects of the world of knowledge, in both Judaic and General Studies curricula.
Affectively, we need to create school environments that nurture the self-respect and confidence of all of our students, and enable them to feel that they are uniquely precious -since each one of them is created in G-d’s ineffable image. By fostering and actively nurturing such safe learning havens, our students will grow in self-awareness and self-esteem – two of the most important qualities that we all need to be, and to become, successful adults.