Teaching in today’s modern classrooms

by | Jan 10, 2014 | Other News

Every year Hebrew Academy and the Strelitz Early Childhood Center administration join hundreds of other educators in Richmond at the Annual Conference of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools.

“Continuing education programs like these,” says Rabbi Mordechai Wecker, head of school, “allow us the opportunity to learn from current research and trends and to share tools and best practices for teaching in today’s modern classrooms, especially where the use of technology and updates change almost daily.”

Building upon the theme of the symposium— IG NITE ! Education for Creativity and Character— was keynote speaker Paul Tough, best-selling author and journalist. Tough, whose latest book, How Children Succeed, talked about how today’s society bases the success of students on their ability to score high on standardized tests from preschool all the way to SATs. “He emphasized,” says Rabbi Wecker, “that a new generation of researchers and educators believe that better indicators for lifelong success come from evaluation of the ‘non-cognitive’—personality traits. For example, factors such as a child’s ability to handle stress, natural curiosity, or self-control play a more important role in the cognitive development of a child. Tough offered that teachers who build an affective learning environment can help students make significant connections and develop valuable problem solving strategies that will serve them well throughout education and later with careers. He stressed the use of brain-based lessons, which connect students with positive emotional and personal experiences.”

HAT and the Strelitz preschool have employed brain-based learning for several years. The concept involves helping students with ‘how to learn’ and not just ‘what to learn.’ “For example,” says Rabbi Wecker, “the technique of setting languages or literature to music helps students learn more easily, connecting them with a positive emotional learning experience.”

Brain-based learning also allows for using games in teaching. “Math fact and phonemic awareness games,” says Janet Jenkins, HAT director of general studies, “teach children by making them master certain levels of play before they can advance to the next level. Trial and error teaches us that failure is something to embrace as part of the learning process, not something of which to feel ashamed.

“Today’s digital classrooms,” says Jenkins, “which employ everything from the internet and computers to tablets and active boards add so much more to the learning experience than that of just five years ago. There are also web based communities, where teachers establish links to educational games and other informative websites which support and enhance the topics they are teaching in class.”

“Continuing education programs like the VAIS conference inspire us,” says Rabbi Wecker. “What better way to teach students than ones in which they are having fun—and in that process they become more passionate about learning.”

by Dee Dee Becker