Questions Lead Way in One Jewish School's Teacher Training

Oct. 24, 2012,

Source: WNYC SchoolBook


In the third article in a series on professional development, Sarah Garland writes about Tiferes Bnos, an all-girls school located on the first floor of an apartment building near the border of the Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant sections of Brooklyn. The vast majority of the school's students, come from poor Yiddish speaking homes, yet for the past decade Principal Miriam Amsel, has coaxed excellence out of both students and teachers.


The vast majority of the school's 430 students are extremely poor. So are the teachers: the base teacher salary at the Orthodox Jewish school is just $6,000 dollars a year. The students spend less than half of the week studying math, reading, science and social studies; most of their class time is spent on religious instruction. Yet Tiferes Bnos' students' performance on statewide standardized tests is excellent with most of them demonstrating extremely high proficiency levels in English and math.


Amsel’s secret, is in-depth and constant on-the-job training for her teachers, which begins six months before they step foot into one of her classrooms.


Teachers at Tiferes Bnos use Socratic techniques to draw their students into heated discussions about the roles of power and money in history. Questions are the basis of education at Tiferes Bnos, Amsel says, for students and teachers alike. Many of her recruits are teenagers — young women not much older than the students they teach — who live at home with their parents. Amsel turns away applicants who fail to ask any questions during the initial interview.


The hallmark of Amsel’s on-the-job training program is the monthly evaluation meeting. The focus on questioning that Amsel emphasizes in her teacher training is mirrored in the school’s classrooms.


Read the entire article at WNYC SchoolBook.

Updated: Dec. 03, 2012