Teacher Appreciation 2010
So what is it that we expect from our teachers? Lee Shulman a leader in the secular education community gives the following minimal list of expectations (quoted in Educational leadership Feb 2010 Vol 67 Number 5):
1. Cognitive understanding of how students learn.
2. Emotional sensitivity to relate to many students whose varied needs are not always evident.
3. Content knowledge from which to draw different ways to present a concept.
4. The ability to make teaching decisions quickly and to act on them
Sound easy? Not so much. And that is just the beginning. That is secular education.
Now let’s talk about Jewish education. Here at NSCI Goodman Center for Jewish Education our vision is clear: We are in the business of creating active involved committed Jews – Jews who will engage in life-long Jewish learning, who will continue to grow spiritually, seeking a relationship with God, and who will function Jewishly through their deeds, deeds of tzedakah, chesed and justice. Who are the role models that we put before our children in our pursuit of this vision? Our teachers. Our rabbis and cantor, of course, are included in our list of teachers, but please know that for most of our kids, it is the regular engagement with their classroom teacher that lights their way. They look to the teachers to see what it means to be an active, involved committed Jew in our community. So let us add these qualities to our growing list of attributes:
A Jewish teacher must be:
5. Dedicated to life long learning
6. Moving forward on an evolving spiritual journey
7. Actively doing Jewish things in this world, whether through Tikkun Olam or through other forms of worship.
Seven critical attributes for an effective Jewish teacher. All of them hard to come by and all of them reflected in our religious school faculty whom we honor here tonight.
Tomorrow when we read from the Torah we will read about a pivotal moment in the life of our greatest Jewish teacher, Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses our teacher. When Moses descends from Mt. Sinai after receiving the first ten commandments he finds the people in open rebellion, dancing around the Golden Calf and denying God. It is not Moses’ finest moment, as he breaks the tablets in anger at his rebellious students. (Perhaps this would be a good moment to add
to our growing list of teacher attributes) But in time Moses recovers from his anger and turns to God to advocate for his people, his students. He convinces God to give the people a second chance, and again goes up the mountain to receive a second set of commandments. And so we can add
To our list.
In the end, Moses asks God for reassurance that God’s relationship with the People of Israel is still intact. He asks that God reveal Godself to Moses as a form of commitment to a renewed covenant between God and the Jewish people. “Show me, I pray, your glory” God , explaining that no one can truly see God’s face and live, offers to pass His goodness before Moses. Moses is positioned in a cleft in the rock and God passes before him. We have here a true moment of experiential learning. Moses the teacher is, in this moment, now Moses the student. Moses had asked to see God’s glory. What he sees is a cloud from which God proclaims God’s attributes:”merciful, gracious long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forming chesed, for generations” (There is more, but probably not attributes we would want to add to our teacher list.) The point is that here we see God as the teacher’s teacher, Moses’ teacher. God’s attributes become the standard by which Moses and by inference, all teachers, measure themselves. So let’s add them now to our list of expectations of a Jewish teacher:
12. long suffering
13. Abundant in goodness and truth
14, Forming Chesed (kindness or loyalty) for generations
We could keep going but I think you get the point. Our expectations of our teachers are enormous. And our teachers, more often than we know, exceed even these expectations. So tonight we are here to share Shabbat with the teachers who serve this community, and, in the name of our children and our synagogue to thank them for what is, far too often, a difficult, thankless but nevertheless a profoundly holy job. Thank you teachers.