Source: JESNA's Snapshots & Insights
The first issue of JESNA's Snapshots & Insights, a publication series designed to disseminate emergent data and understandings on various aspects of Jewish education based on research, assessment and practical experience, examines the history and current state of resource centers for Jewish educators, alternative models, and lessons learned about best practices.
Teacher Resource Centers, which were first established in the 1960's and became popular within Jewish communities beginning in the 1980's, were initially founded to serve as clearinghouses for materials (paper, audio and video) that classroom teachers could access, but soon evolved to provide other needed resources (e.g., machines to create games and other projects), and to coordinate professional development opportunities.
Today more than 30 Jewish Educator Resource Centers exist in North American communities, varying in staffing, services provided, usage and costs and other variables. In order to provide answers to many queries received over the last few years, JESNA has chosen to focus its inaugural issue of Snapshots & Insights on these important facilities.
After surveying the history of Jewish Educator Resource Centers and some of the research done on them, the publication makes some suggestions, among them:
- For the most part, teachers are interested in materials that can assist them immediately… Resource Center staff should view each interaction as an opportunity to offer concrete suggestions to respond to teachers’ immediate needs while building on existing plans, thus “raising the bar”. While many or most teachers may be unlikely to seek this extra insight on their own, they are likely to accept and appreciate it, thereby enriching the experience for the teacher, and in-turn for his/her students.
- All Resource Centers should develop and maintain user-friendly and highly functional web sites to showcase and provide links to available resources. Resource Centers should also train local educators (particularly those not familiar or comfortable with commonly used technology) to utilize these tools efficiently.
- Individual Resource Centers should adjust their hours of operation so that they are open during the days and times when most teachers seek services, not necessarily during regular workdays.
- To realize further efficiencies vis-à-vis financial and human resources, a continent-wide Virtual Resource Center could be launched, partnering with, and creating an effective system of, existing Resource Centers.
- Providing ongoing opportunities for the professional development of educators is critical, and the coordination/facilitation of these sessions is often the responsibility of the Resource Center staff. Such sessions are most effective when they are planned with the leadership of, customized to meet identified needs of and provided within each educational setting.