Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New Year, New Thinking?

Sunday's NY Times Business Section had an article about the way companies approach their work. Welcoming the New, Improving the Old describes two very different ways to get better at what we do. One approach - Six Sigma - involves precise measurement and adjustment to reach the desired results. The other - Design Thinking - promotes "outside the box" creativity, in which everything is deemed possible.

At first, when I read this article, I thought about the implications for education. After all, we all want to improve, don't we? Which of these two ideas would work for us? What combination of the two would get us where we want to be?

And yet as I read further it became obvious to me that some of the assumptions that are made in the business world just don't work in the world of education, and certainly not in the world of Jewish education.

The business world can deal in absolutes. Problems are measurable. Solutions can be neat. An item you manufacture either works or doesn't. Procedures can be put in place to resolve problems. Money is available in the hopes that the product will increase the bottom line.

Education is fundamentally different. Some outcomes are measurable but others are not. The "product", which is what I will call the learner, can be a moving target - reacting one way on Monday and another on Tuesday.

So how do we improve our outcomes in Jewish education?
First we need to decide what we want our outcomes to be. Not so easy. Content knowledge? Group identity? Behaviors? Theological perspective? All these are parts of the outcome, and no one segment is sufficient.

When we think about our challenges we need to accept the fact that perfection is not an option. Teaching is not neat. Learning is not neat. Even Jewish thought is not neat.

As we begin the school year, and the Jewish year, I urge you to be open to new ideas, to be ready to try something you never tried before, to reflect on what you are doing, and to continue to approach Jewish education with the passion it deserves.

Here are some websites that may help you think about the upcoming year:
Teachers' New Years Resolutions - written for the general New Year, but certainly applicable for Rosh HaShanah
The Art of Teaching - by a science teacher, with a wonderful lesson for all of us
Inspiring Teachers Blog - appears to be inactive, but the posts available are valuable
Teaching Resources - provides a link to a number of Educational Resources and Videos for Rosh HaShanah
BJENY has a number of lesson plans on its website

Oprah Winfrey may not have had Rosh HaShanah in mind, but I like her attitude:
"Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right."

1 comment:

  1. are educators and mba's in separate universes?