By Dr. Gloria Becker, Director, Learning Initiatives in Jewish Education

Gloroa Becker

Curriculum. Everyone talks about it. Very few people actually know what it is or how it actually works. To me and to the Education Directors who gathered last week for the first of a series of curriculum “clinics,” curriculum is everything, intended or unintended, that happens in the learning environment. It is at the nexus of what we learn, how we learn, who is learning, and where we learn. It is HUGE and it is NEVER finished – it always needs to evolve to take the changing needs of the what, who, how, and where of learning. Everyone in the learning community takes part in the curriculum, not just the teachers and students, but everyone in the community.

Our first clinic centered around the Jewish Studies part of the curriculum. The lively discussion was not about textbooks, but about what is important in the curriculum and why it is important. We talked about the difference between just-in-case learning (like teaching 5th graders the Mourners’ Kaddish because, at some point, they will need to know it) and just-in-time learning (like seizing on a current news event or community issue) and how to blend these two important areas into a learning program that is relevant to our learners. And how to cram about 3000 years of learning into four-five hours per week in a developmentally appropriate way! We were all deeply engaged for the full two-hour session.

Our next meeting will be Wednesday, April 6 and we will be discussing the Hebrew Studies part of the curriculum. Education Directors are welcome to participate, even if they were not at the first session. Education Directors are also welcome to bring a “lead” teacher who either is or will become a partner in curriculum development.

What do you, personally, contribute to your community’s curriculum?