Return to Education Newsletter main page!
Peer to Peer Learning: Strength Through Shared Experiences
By Elias Chajet, ISJL Education Fellow
As educators, we (hopefully) always try to improve our teaching methods and skills. We participate in teacher trainings and webinars for professional development when we are able. While these professional development sessions continue to shape our teaching style, rarely do they happen on a daily or even weekly basis. We do, however, see our co-workers and peers on a regular and recurring basis. Our peers have a plethora of knowledge just waiting to be tapped.
Poet C.J. Heck explains it best, “We are all products of our environment; every person we meet, every new experience or adventure, every book we read, touches and changes us, making us the unique being we are.”  Whether we have been teaching for thirty years or this is our first time in a classroom, we all bring something new to our religious schools. When we stay within our comfort zone and our own little bubble our classes can become stagnant. We may use the same games and methodologies until us, and our students, become lethargic. But, if there aren’t always professional development sessions, how can we learn new tricks of the trade? It is as simple as walking up to the teacher in the classroom next to you and asking how they would deal with a given situation. Whether you need new classroom management tactics or a new way to teach Lag ba’Omer, our peers can always provide us with new insight. Unless we take the initiative to get beyond our own borders, our peers’ experiences and tactics will stay hidden. Given the right circumstances, we could learn more from our peers than we ever could from a webinar.
At this year’s Education Conference, the Education Team is providing Jewish professionals with the opportunity to learn from their peers in a new way. After countless requests for more inter-community connectivity, we are turning our Tuesday morning closing program, called Connecting Communities at Conference, over to our partner communities. Educators from all over the ISJL’s 13 state region will have the opportunity to share their experiences and specialties with each other. During our closing program, ISJL partners will share their best practices and knowledge in areas such as all school programming, parent engagement, and Torah Lish’mah (learning for the sake of learning) with the entire region. Learning from our peers has never been easier. While our team is providing an environment for peer learning, it will be the congregational members taking charge. C.J. Heck was correct; we are all a product of our experiences. So let’s share our experiences with one another while creating new ones. By learning from our peers, we will be able to bring new and relevant skills back to our classrooms and religious schools.
 Heck, C.J,. "A Quote by C.J. Heck." Goodreads. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.