About the Program
MTEI participants are a remarkably diverse group of Jewish educators who work in varied settings, with similar goals. As educational leaders, MTEI participants want to support the teachers they work with to keep learning and growing as Jewish educators. At MTEI, we take the time over two years to create a community of colleagues, learning together and supporting one another. When the program is over, many MTEI participants stay in touch with one another, continuing the professional friendships they have developed.
MTEI Principles for Professional Development
Jewish learning at the core.
We value Jewish literacy, broadly conceived, and the exploration of central themes and concepts of Judaism and Jewish history. In particular, we consider interpreting and dialoguing with traditional texts, while interpreting and dialoguing with fellow learners, to be an essential component of Jewish education. We see this learning as having the capacity to foster habits of mind, hand, and heart in both educators and students. Thus, we also believe that deepening fluency in dialoguing with Jewish texts is one of the core aims of professional development for Jewish educators.
Learning rooted in collaborative inquiry.
We highlight both “inquiry” and “collaboration.” Inquiry is at the core of studying texts, investigating teaching practices, learning about learning, and learning from each other in community. Adopting an “inquiry stance” includes, among other things, engaging in an open-minded search for evidence upon which to build ideas and to explore multiple interpretations. We believe that collaborative learning has a variety of strengths that individual learning does not; that learning with colleagues deepens understanding, builds community, adds meaning and purpose, and improves practice. We take our place in the lineage of Jewish learning across time, which values a moral and practical commitment to our colleagues’ learning, through practices such as supporting and challenging each other’s ideas with sensitivity and intellectual honesty.
Intentional creation of community.
Creating a community of collaborative inquiry is on-going, intentional work that supports and is supported by the relational environment we create. To “create a community,” we consciously set up structures aimed at helping participants have time to learn together, feel comfortable taking risks, being vulnerable, and developing trusting relationships. This kind of community environment — what we call a “relational learning community”— fosters learning. As a sense of community fosters learning, so, too, learning together fosters the creation of community. Thus, building a professional and relational collaborative learning community is both how we do our work as well as an outcome of our work.
How we talk matters.
Normal discourse patterns often impede learning. Some of these habits include speaking more than listening or listening without speaking; leaping to judgment of a person or of the meaning of a text or a practice; or falling into predictable power dynamics (e.g. where some people are seen as having the “right” answers). Actively developing and practicing skills of deep listening, encouraging everyone to find his/her voice, and honoring multiple perspectives strengthens trust, creates a culture of productive challenge, and promotes learning.
Teacher, learner, and content, in a context.
These four interrelated elements exist in all learning situations, and the connections between them are fruitful objects of collaborative inquiry. While all four of these elements are inextricably and dynamically linked, we focus on the four with an explicit intention to support MTEI participants in bringing more depth of learning of Jewish content into their settings. One of the crucial aspects of “context” in the realm of professional development is that schools need structures for teachers to continue learning through collaboration with colleagues and through their work with children.
Teachers learn and learners teach.
For the MTEI faculty, part of the value of teaching at MTEI has been our own sense of growth, as we have planned and taught together and learned from our students. In other words, we learn as we teach. And because we all, faculty and participants, share our diverse perspectives and interpretations with each other, we all teach as we learn. We celebrate this blending of teaching and learning, teacher and learner.
Leading for change and empowering new leaders.
For educational communities to embody the principles above, they need inspired leaders. When communities do succeed in embodying these principles, they empower new leaders. Both parts matter. Initiating and sustaining changes in culture implied by the principles articulated above requires a particular kind of leadership. It is a leadership that brings clarity of vision, an ability to inspire and connect with others; a robust understanding of teaching and learning; knowledge of how to help others grown in their capacity as teachers; skills in conflict-resolution and creative problem-solving; keeping one’s own flame alive through on-going personal and professional development, and more. But this is not all. An essential feature of this kind of leadership is that it also nurtures others into their own capacity for leadership. This is a leadership whose essential feature, in fact, is empowering others, helping to hone the vision, skills, and capacity of each community member. Indeed, an underlying virtue of “intentional communities of collaborative inquiry” is that such communities —because of the connected, creative intellectual work that the leader facilitates — give rise to many new leaders.
There is moral meaning in the work we do.
We believe that Jewish education is ultimately about creating a more just, equitable way of being in the world (among other things). We try to model this in the work we do and to support Jewish education’s capacity to contribute to justice in the world more broadly.
Senior Family Educator at The Kitchen
“MTEI has given me a safe, productive, and generative space to deeply think through who I am as a learner, a teacher, and a teacher of teachers. I’ve added to and developed my toolkit of teaching and learning tools with colleagues from across the country and developed professional and personal relationships that have helped make me a better practitioner, educator, and person.”
Director of Education, Central Synagogue NYC
“MTEI is an incredible professional development opportunity with thoughtful and engaged colleagues and responsive and committed teachers. For anyone who thinks they don’t have enough time to help their teachers improve their instruction, MTEI gives you the space and the support to do it.”