I've Been Thinking...

Emily Cook As I spoke about at our Back to School Nights, one of our goals here at Kellman Brown Academy is to enhance communication with families this year. While this is a work in progress, one of my new efforts is to write a blog about education and KBA.  I’d welcome your feedback and comments, and hope this blog becomes the source of new dialogue with the school about education. Please feel free to share your questions or comments.

Here is the first…“I’ve been thinking…”

I am working on my doctorate in Jewish education from the Davidson school at the Jewish Theological Seminary. My research is on teacher collaboration in Jewish middle schools. While collaboration is something we here at KBA practice and believe in, it's not necessarily easy. Any of the research into teacher collaboration (and in the fields of business, medicine, law, etc…) acknowledges both the importance in this work and also the challenges and important steps that groups go through in their formation.

Here are some examples of the types of collaboration that can be seen at KBA on a regular basis:

·      Our Jewish studies teachers meet bi-monthly and during four 2-day workshops to determine the standards for teaching Tanakh (Bible) that they feel are crucial for our students to learn, and have begun developing the benchmarks that we believe all of our KBA graduates need to reach. This is part of the Standards and Benchmarks program that I have shared with you previously.

·      The fourth grade teaching team regularly works collaboratively to connect general and Jewish studies. This is currently highlighted in the play students performed at Lion’s Gate before Chanukah and Thanksgiving in which students will teach the audience about each holiday as well as compare and contrast the two traditions.

·      Middle School teachers meet weekly to discuss students’ strengths and challenges, work out a test and project schedule, and share study skills strategies that are used across the curriculum. These help middle school students have a balanced schedule, ease into the workload, and learn more advanced study and organizational skills.

·      Fifth grade students will participate in Literature Circles. This is not a form of group work in which students work near each other, asking questions if desired. Rather, students are each responsible for parts of the conversation about what they are reading and dependent upon the involvement of each of their peers.

The examples go on and on – and exist in all grade levels and subjects – I’ve only mentioned a few. Some of these may be familiar to you, while others are new. These forms of collaboration (for teachers and students) require common planning time, a flexible curriculum that allows for integration, and a faculty that is open to this type of work. In turn our students benefit from even more clearly articulated curricula, teachers who communicate and understand expectations as learners grow, and a learning environment in which each individual’s contributions is celebrated along with the power of the larger community.

I’m curious to hear from your perspective. How do you collaborate in your own work environments? What have been the benefits and challenges you have faced? I welcome your emails and conversations.