Recently, 50 educators gathered from all over the Bay Area for our annual INCLUDE Day of Learning, a day focused on the inclusion of people with special needs in Early Childhood and K-8 Jewish educational programs.
The experience affords an opportunity to reflect on our methodologies – not WHAT we teach, but HOW we aim to impact Jewish learning.
In our work, we often face a dilemma.
Teachers most often seek practical help – tools, techniques, resources – specific tools that they can use to improve their practice. In the world of leadership development, one might call these “technical solutions.”
However, we are not satisfied by technical solutions, because technical solutions are a band-aid. Instead, we seek to address these technical challenges by pursuing, promoting and training toward higher-level thinking to effect deeper changes – in day-to-day practice AND in the way we think.
Addressing these higher-level challenges might be called “adaptive thinking" and have a better chance of resulting in "adaptive solutions.” One method by which we help influence these adaptive approaches is to provide “educational thought leadership” - helping educators think differently about important aspects of their practice.
But we don't stop there. We pour tremendous energy into deepening our efforts to expand beyond thought leadership. We work to equip educators with knowledge, skills and tools that they are prepared to use in their classrooms.
Yesterday, we brought Meredith Englander Polsky, Covenant Educator Award winner and founder of a sister inclusion organization, Matan, and her colleague, Eve Margol, founder of Linked Education Resources from New York to our community to partner with our own Dr. David Neufeld. Together, the three thought leaders engaged with 50 educators representing a huge cross section of our community on this very subject.
I'm thrilled to report that participant reactions indicate shifts in deeper thinking, one educator reported "really understanding that every child is made in the image of G-d and remembering and honoring that even in the hardest moments." And, every single educator was able to report concrete actions they plan to bring to their classrooms.
Other evaluations similarly referred to both modes of learning – “Eve’s workshop…was a dream because it contained a lot of concrete tools and strategies…” and “I loved David’s workshop on integrating sensory tools…eye-opening and really helpful,” and “I loved how you addressed the emotions and concerns that we educators have about ourselves…” Though these comments were cherry-picked, the evaluations were uniformly and enthusiastically positive.
If you would like to know more about what was covered during the Day of Learning or if you are interested in supporting this important work in some way, please be in touch with David Neufeld - firstname.lastname@example.org