At the conclusion of a recent education staff meeting one attendee said to me, “Shari, you forgot to say your closing line when we were done today.” I looked confused and she said, “Go team!  You always end these meetings  by saying ‘Go Team’ and I’m kinda used to it.  I like the reminder to see myself as part of a team.”

It is no secret that both schools and teachers benefit in a variety of ways when teachers work together. Research suggests that teacher collaboration, especially across grades and disciplines, fosters a deep sense of shared responsibility and engages all teachers in not only their own professional growth but also the growth of everyone around them.  Recently there was also an interesting article in the New York Times about teacher training which speaks to this topic.  Teacher collaboration is also a wonderful way to creatively spread scarce resources, which is critical in our diverse, inclusive preschool and religious school classrooms.

Since the inception of each of our schools, our visionary leaders and school directors have insisted that it is our duty and responsibility to educate EVERY member of our community. Our staff and children are supported by an Inclusion Specialist, Curriculum Coordinator and a Learning Specialist who systematically work with all of the teachers to build teachers’ own capacities to reach a wider range of learners. Currently more than 25% of our children come to us with a diverse constellation of social, emotional and learning needs. Fundamentally we understand that all children benefit from classroom structures and accommodations for unique learners and we are proud of our integrated and inclusive education model, where we are able to offer an appropriate Jewish education for all children in our congregation preschool through high school.

I want to share some new collaborative curriculum projects which will benefit all of the children of Temple Ohabei Shalom.  Thanks to our skilled educators, deep relationships with strategic community partners such as the Brookline Early Education Program (BEEP),  Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, Inc., and now as a Ruderman Family Foundation Synagogue Inclusion Partner, we are able to provide a positive and productive Jewish education for each and every child at the Trust Center for Early Education (TCEE) and Ansin Religious School (ARS).

This summer, ten of our Temple Ohabei Shalom educators will work in teams with the staff from Gateways:  Access to Jewish Education to develop a Jewish Holidays curriculum that can be used in the Trust Center (TCEE) and Ansin School (ARS) Classrooms.  This curriculum, based on work from Temple Shalom in Newton is embedded with Social Thinking© as it is our goal to strengthen all children’s social and emotional skills.   We will use this new curriculum in the TCEE prekindergarten classroom, with additional support of our new Inclusion Specialist, Meg Kennedy, and Gateways staff, as well as in the ARS for a weekly social pragmatics group, Holiday Detectives, for children in the Brookline community on Thursday afternoons.

At our first curriculum development meeting last week, it was clear that we were putting this collaborative approach into action. Each team is working on a different aspect of the curriculum and next month we hope to put many of the pieces together sharing the work load and leveraging the more than 120 years of collective teaching experience.  You can be sure that I will say “Go Team” when we finish this important work!