The Most Important Interview Question You MUST Ask

The Most Important Interview Question You Must Ask; Removing the Stumbling Block

When the topic of conversation is teaching, many are quick to discuss student engagement, critical thinking, student achievement and curricular content. With good reason. These are important aspects of education.

But none of them, in my opinion, really get to the heart of what it means to teach.

Those of us in school leadership positions seek out teachers who can excel in those areas and who have a toolbox full of ways to bring these elements to life. And when asked what is in their “toolbox”, most teachers will be prepared to answer with such things as dynamic lessons, use of technology, differentiated instruction and project-based learning experiences (I hope!).

In addition, many teachers are prepared to speak of the importance of character development and the social-emotional well-being of their students. Most will also be prepared to explain the ways that they will go about building positive and trusting relationships with and among their students.

But as I said, I don’t think we have really gotten to the heart of what it means to teach.

That is why I believe that the most important interview question a teacher can ever be asked is this: “What will you do to bring joy to your classroom?”

Joy - a feeling of great pleasure and happiness with synonyms such as: delight, bliss, glee, elation, euphoria, rejoicing, exultation, happiness and exhilaration.

We need teachers who are thinking about joy.

Content can be taught. I can provide a teacher with the resources needed to grow more in any given subject area.

Lesson planning is a skill that can be developed. I can mentor a teacher to create more dynamic lessons.

I can support a teacher who is seeking new ways to engage students and promote their critical thinking skills.

But you can’t teach joy. And if a teacher isn’t prepared to think about what it means to help students find and experience joy in his/her class EVERY DAY, then that might not be the teacher I want to hire.

Start asking, “What will you do to bring joy to your classroom?” You will know quickly if you have found a teacher who confuses joy with fun. And you will know immediately if this is a teacher who truly knows what it means to help students find joy.

I think this question can be a game changer. It was for me.

Inclusion is a Funny Thing

Welcome, we are building an inclusive community; Removing the Stumbling Block

Inclusion is a funny thing. When it is “done right”, it’s not something to talk about. It just is. Being inclusive means accepting all people for who they are regardless of their abilities or race or religion or gender or…or…or…. 

When a community is inclusive, anyone who wants to participate can, to whatever extent he or she desires. Period. And there’s no need for fanfare, no self-congratulatory pats on the back and no reason to advertise your accomplishments because you are just a community doing what a community should do, welcoming everyone.

But inclusion, particularly inclusion of people with disabilities, is not always happening in the Jewish world; at least not naturally, comfortably and universally. So that is a part of what Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) is all about; an opportunity for those who are “doing it well” to share so that those who are not there yet can learn and hopefully take those first steps.

I am fortunate, and proud, to be part of a community thatis “doing it well”. We are not perfect, and there are always ways to grow, but we are proud to honestly and truthfully call ourselves an inclusive community.

Here are just a few of the things that Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, New Jersey offers to all of its members:
  • A fully inclusive religious school program. No child is turned away and we work with families individually to determine appropriate and effective learning goals and strategies. We offer multiple program options for students of varying abilities, along with support and training for our faculty and madrichim (teen assistants). 
  • We individualize bar/bat mitzvah expectations and experiences to meet each student’s unique needs.
  • Fully inclusive school and youth programs for post b’nei mitzvah students; including social events, leadership opportunities, overnight retreats and NFTY participation. 
  • Our worship is accessible. We can provide large print and Braille siddurim, augmented sound capabilities and a “quiet room” for those who may feel over stimulated.
  • Our building and sanctuary are accessible, including an elevator in our school wing, a ramp to our bimah and a recently re-graded parking lot that moved accessible parking closer to our front door.  
  • We offer informal “matching services” for adult members of our community who have varying needs and abilities with other congregants willing to provide rides and/or unique support.  
Someday (hopefully) lists like this will be obsolete. Someday (hopefully) JDAIM will be obsolete. Someday (hopefully) inclusion will just be.  

Until then....

Welcome to #JDAIMblogs - A Blogging Effort for Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month

#JDAIMblogs 2016; Removing the Stumbling Block

Today marks the first day of February and the official start of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. JDAIM is designed to be a unified initiative to raise disability awareness and support efforts to foster inclusion in Jewish communities worldwide.

It is the JDAIM tagline - FROM Awareness to Inclusion - that has always resonated with me most deeply, so I am really pleased to see the shift in the title to now include inclusion (see what I did there?)

The true value of this month lies in raising the awareness that there is so much more we can and should be doing to include those with disabilities in our Jewish communities. 
True value lies in raising awareness that there is so much more we can and should be doing to include those with disabilities; Removing the Stumbling Block

I am once again taking the lead on an effort called #JDAIMblogs. You can read more here about this initiative. I will do my best to blog often during the month of February in honor of JDAIM. I hope you will add your voice.

At the bottom of this post is a place to link up your blog posts and articles. This will allow readers to find one another’s posts, spread the word about their own and generally serve as an online gathering space for JDAIM blogging efforts. Feel free to come back often and link each of your #JDAIMblogs posts.

Tag every post with #JDAIMblogs on social media so we can find and share one another’s posts. I encourage you to tweet me and tag me on Facebook so that I can share your content. (#JDAIM16 is the other hashtag being used for general JDAIM information, resources and events.)

As a Jewish Educator and Inclusion Expert I realize that the vague nature of “join me in blogging” could be overwhelming for some. While you are free to blog on anything that relates to disability, accessibility, inclusion, etc., this image provides prompts for those who appreciate that in order to get their creative juices flowing.

And if writing is “not your thing”, share a photo or artwork or a quote or a video. Honor your own expressive style and do what is most comfortable and most accessible for you. 

Don’t shy away from sharing your voice!

10 Tips to Make Your Classroom More Joyful

10 Tips to Make Your Classroom More Joyful; Removing the Stumbling Block

You can’t teach joy. It’s true. I can’t give you the magic lesson or the simple trick that will make your classroom a wonderfully joyful place.

I can, however, share what I think every teacher needs to do to create a joyful learning environment for their students. (It's worth noting that these same elements will help you to create a more inclusive classroom.) Embracing these ways of thinking, teaching and living can help you to build the kinds of lessons and experiences that can help your students (and you!) find joy.

Be mindful.

Be flexible.

Be realistic.

Focus on relationships.

Pay attention to details.

Laugh often.

Forgive others.

Don’t give up in the face of adversity.

Forgive yourself.

Allow yourself to experience joy.

Is there anything you would add? 

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