Following rules, seeking approval, and mastering specific content are far less important in the classroom than collaboration and creative thinking. To succeed in contemporary society, today’s students need a skill set different from the ones in traditional classrooms, which are inspired by the needs of the industrial age, according to Mike Anderson, keynote speaker at the 2019 Quest for Teaching Excellence Conference for Greater MetroWest day school educators on Nov. 5.
The event was organized by Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ’s Day School Initiative. Over 450 teachers from all four area day schools — Golda Och Academy in West Orange, Gottesman RTW Academy in Randolph, Jewish Educational Center schools in Elizabeth, and the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston — gathered for the fourth biannual day of learning.
Educators attended workshops on a wide range of topics, from managing anxiety in the classroom, being a good Jewish digital citizen, and finding creative ways to connect to prayer, to teaching about anti-Semitism and wrestling with Israel.
Anderson, an education consultant and former classroom teacher, is the author of several books about teaching and learning, including “What We Say and How We Say It Matter,” “The First Six Weeks of School,” and “The Well-Balanced Teacher.”
In his opening address, Anderson offered strategies for adjusting curricula to be more creative and collaborative. He pointed out that working together is a skill that needs to be taught, and demonstrated a sample lesson through a video presentation from a Florida classroom where students share ideas about how to have a “really nice conversation.” The students suggest: make eye contact, have good posture, and use a light tone of voice. Anderson accepts their ideas, then elaborates on how each suggestion would be useful.
In this simple way, he shows the students critical social emotional skills and enables them to figure out how to work together.
In the end, as he said, “Good teaching is good teaching is good teaching.” Still, a little collaborative creative professional development can go a long way.
The conference also featured an ELI talks story slam, and several teachers were honored with a Quest award, including Susan Allie of Golda Och Academy, Kate Rubenstein of Gottesman RTW Academy, Margueya Poupko of the Jewish Educational Center, and Shira Stein of Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School.