Source: HaYidion – Fall, 2017
Jewish day schools want every child to succeed in their learning and social-emotional development. How can schools accomplish those lofty goals while teaching many students in the same classroom? This issue of Hayidion explores that conundrum and showcases various ways that learning can be differentiated to meet the needs, capacities, and interests of different students. Articles address differentiation within the classroom, and supporting teachers to learn, transition to, and apply methods of differentiation. Authors discuss the "how-to" as well as the larger goals and vision.
The articles in this issue explore the practice of differentiation both inside and out of the student classroom. Daniel begins the issue with a cri-de-coeur on differentiation as the heart of our Jewish educational mission. By contrast, Eis issues a warning about the potential pitfalls of differentiated instruction, as largely conceived and practiced. Barg introduces the concept and techniques of coaching, borrowed from professional sports and cultivated in charter schools. Gamliel discusses the educational pathway of creative students, and the tensions they may feel with religious instruction. Heyman and Ruderman argue for the educational benefits and moral imperative of an inclusive classroom, while Englander and Micley explain some of the ways that online instruction can strengthen differentiation in a Judaics classroom. The last two pieces in this section consider the relationships that teachers build with students as critical for this work: Ross exploring ways that the Montessori method enables teachers to work one-on-one, and Levine proposing the quality of kindness as an enveloping principle that entails numerous implications for educational instruction and classroom culture.
Our spread of pieces from schools presents a wide assortment of strategies and programs that teachers and administrators employ to support and inspire students in their unique learning paths. The next articles look at ways that differentiation challenges teachers and changes the nature of their work. Novick, Solomon and Turetsky respond to several ways that teachers may object to the premises of differentiation on the grounds of fairness. Price and Skolnick Einhorn offer the concept of neurodiversity as a lever for effecting a paradigm shift in teachers’ methods of engagement with student challenges. Exler and Leider describe their approach to training Judaics teachers in differentiated instruction, and Liberty discusses some of the main obstacles that teachers encounter as they transition to personalized instruction. The final articles explore the theme from other angles. Schiffman shows ways that schools of different size and orientation may approach their capital campaigns, and Lindner and Malkus confront the “mah nishtanah” question: What makes a Jewish day school different? In a guest column, Matt Williams, a rising scholar of Jewish education, approaches the issue theme informed by wisdom culled from scholarly research and personal experience.