Is the Time Right to Consider a Vision Change for Your Learning Program?
The 2020-21 school year was marked by resourcefulness, experimentation, and creativity, among other things. It was different by necessity.
As we emerge from the pandemic and look ahead to next year, when things will be different yet again, consider whether to step back and take stock of the big picture. Not the tachlis of what's working and what's not. But the overall vision of your learning program - what's the point of Jewish education and are you and the stakeholders in your community in alignment?
"The answer to this question lies at the very heart of the approach we take in our educational spaces," writes Batsheva Frankel in The Jewish Educator's Companion. "We are always striving to be our best, wanting our programs to grow and improve. The process of considering change ... can feel challenging. But open, meaningful conversations are the key to discovering whether change is necessary and if so, how to go about it."
Here are some questions to consider as you assess how your program might grow and change post-pandemic. These are questions designed for conversation with the various groups in your school community - students, teachers, board of directors, clergy.
1. What do we, as a school or congregation, stand for? What values do we most identify with? What are the principles and values you would like your program and institution to reflect and convey? How do people from outside your congregation or school view you? Is that accurate? Is it positive?
2. What values and behavior do we want our ideal alumni to reflect? Imagine that your current students are twenty years older. Ideally, what would they be like? How do they express their Judaism? How are they connected to the community? How are they expressing the values on your list?
3. What areas of Jewish practice are important to us? This practical question will inform much of what will be taught and modeled in your curriculum.
4. What are our Jewish "greatest hits"? What are the most importatn aspects of Judaism that you want to convey to students? This question should generate a sold list of about a dozen of the most important concepts, ideas, practices, skills, and values you want students to have.
5. What skills and knowledge do we need to impart to fulfill our goals? For each goal, greatest hit, value, etc., what are the practical skills students must acquire? What texts will need to be learned? What history needs to be taught? What experiences are paramount?
6. Are we mostly satisifed with the status quo? Why or why not? If stakeholders are fairly comfortable that the goals and values you listed above are accurately reflected in the current program, then perhaps only a few modifications are required for growth and improvement. But if many agree that there is work to be done in matching mission with its execution, then it's time to make bigger changes.
7. If there were no obstacles, what would our fantasy program look like? This is an opportunity to dream big, imagining that financial obstacles, time, and space needs were not an issue. Consider what parts of that fantasy program might be helpful and possible.
These questions are available in a template format for easy download and use with various groups. Click here for the vision planning template from The Jewish Educator's Companion, a valuable resource that also makes a great welcome-to-school gift for teachers.
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