Okay, I am burying the lead here a little but bear with me…
Deborah Fishman believes the most vexing nut to crack in Jewish education is personnel. Channeling John Lennon, she waxes blue-sky about the revolutionary potential of finding and retaining capable and passionate Jewish educators:
Imagine if day schools could reach multitudes of aspiring teachers passionate about education and young Jews passionate about disseminating Jewish identity and knowledge – and deploy their talents and energies to solve the burning problems such as those listed above. Imagine if these aspiring teachers could not only solve these existing problems – but also impact generations of young Jews to be knowledgeable ambassadors of and contributors to the Jewish people. In doing so, they might even revolutionize day school education in ways we can’t even conceive of yet.
I believe that this all can happen – through connecting day school educators with their fellow day school educators and enabling them to dream and grow together into new opportunities. Just as importantly, they can provide an invaluable support network for one another during the challenging times, and help each other toward potential solutions.
Though networks might help retain the dedicated, what she does not address and researchers do not dig too deep into the numbers to tease out is why about 12% of teachers leave the profession within the first three years. (You can download the piece with that statistic here.) As discussed in an earlier blogpost, teachers (and other non-profit types) chafe at the profession for reasons that generally have little to do with money.
Perhaps 12% seems like acceptable collateral damage… especially when one considers that the numbers in the public system are so much higher…?
Then again, there’s all this talk and infrastructure dedicated now to mentoring so perhaps that 12% number might have declined since 2004. And with Fishman’s call for networks, perhaps this problem might be small enough to drown in a pickle jar.
A problem that is somewhat bigger than a pickle jar is the first on her list of crises – the “A” word. (Hint: It’s not ‘Apartheid’, silly.) But even after a third re-read, I am still trying to figure out how happy teachers will remedy or even tangentially address the vexing problem of AFFORDABILITY.
And I wonder how happy these teachers will continue to be when they consider sending their kids to the schools in which they teach and, realize, suddenly, that money (which was not such an issue before) will be determine if their children can benefit from all the years of schooling, training and effort they now dedicate to the education of children of those others who chose not to pursue educating the Jewish future but something more lucrative instead…