HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Developmental Ladder for Students and Teachers in a Jewish Day School

by Dr. Richard Solomon Issue: Teacher Retention & Development

There is abundant empirical and documented evidence that we need more highly competent Jewish educators in both Judaics and Judaic-specific pedagogy for our day and supplemental schools. To this point in time, the Jewish community has not created a comprehensive, longitudinal and institutionalized structure for recruiting, developing and retaining Jewish educators. However, there is an obvious and elegant solution to this challenge: the implementation of an eight stage career development ladder for students and teachers in our Jewish day schools. This developmental ladder would begin in kindergarten, continue through middle and high school, extend through college and graduate school, and be fully implemented in our Jewish day schools.

In an age with a multitude of choices, this model offers teenagers and young adults an opportunity to remain affiliated with the Jewish community during a critical period in their personal and professional development.

Before explaining the career development ladder, here are some relevant research findings on the efficacy of cross-age mentoring where older students tutor and teach their younger classmates.

Research Findings on the Effects of Cross-Age Tutoring on Academic Performance

In his analysis of school-based cross-age mentoring programs, Michael Karchner explains that there is increasing evidence that these programs have positive effects on both mentors and mentees (the students being mentored). More specifically his study indicates that when older students are trained and supervised to tutor and teach younger schoolmates both the mentor and the mentee achieve significant results including: improvement in school academic performance; higher personal aspirations; improved self-confidence and self-control; enhanced cooperation within both the school and the family and increased trust and respect for adults.

These results are best realized when the following conditions exist: (a) mentoring has an academic or instructional focus; (b) the mentor and the mentee are properly matched, not randomly formed. The mentor is highly motivated, knowledgeable in the content area needed by the mentee and be at least two years older than the mentee; (c) the mentor is trained and supervised by a seasoned teacher or supervisor who knows the strengths of the mentor and the instructional needs of the mentee; (d) the mentor-mentee relationship is carefully and regularly monitored and evaluated and (e) scheduled time for instructional mentoring is provided by the school.

Accordingly, beginning in kindergarten students who require additional support would be tutored by trained upper elementary, middle and high school students. While in the eighth grade, selected students would be trained to serve as madrichim or teaching assistants and role models in the classroom. During high school a cadre of highly motivated and academically strong eleventh graders would receive instruction in Judaics and Judaic-specific pedagogy. They would then become student and co-teachers in their senior year. A more elaborate explanation of the eight stage career development ladder follows.

The Eight Stage Career Development Ladder for Students and Teachers

The Jewish community has not created a comprehensive structure for recruiting, developing and retaining Jewish educators.

Stage One: The tutor stage: The student tutor assists younger students who need additional assistance. High performing, knowledgeable, motivated, upper elementary school students with good interpersonal skills work with younger students to strengthen their general and Judaic academic skills (i.e. reciting the Hebrew alphabet, saying the prayers, practicing conversational Hebrew, etc.). These student tutors are trained and regularly monitored by the classroom teacher (moreh or morah) or supervisor to assess the performance and progress of the tutor and the student being served.

Stage Two: The madrich or madricha stage: The madrich or madricha is an 8th, 9th or 10th grader who is invited by a classroom teacher (i.e., the madrich teacher; refer to stage six) to serve as a teaching assistant and role model in the madrich teacher’s classroom. The madrich teacher is expected to have received enhanced training on how to utilize the services of the madrich/madricha in order to maximize learning in the classroom.

During stage two the madrich/madricha will be mentored to perform these kinds of administrative responsibilities: Setting up the classroom, taking attendance, collecting tzedaka; distributing supplies, books, and other materials, preparing snacks, correcting students’ work; managing progress charts, preparing materials for upcoming activities, reorganizing the classroom at the end of the day; temporarily taking charge of the class if the teacher is indisposed, teaching a five minute mini-lesson to a small group or the entire class and participating in and leading portions of a prayer service.

As madrichim these teaching assistants and role models would assume these types of interactive responsibilities: Greeting students as they enter the classroom, helping students with art projects and assisting students with class work, leading students in small-group activities, explaining transitions between activities; reading stories to the class, and mentoring students who have difficulty focusing during instruction.

The madrichim would also perform these examples of creative responsibilities: Creating bulletin boards, making samples for upcoming art projects; developing costumes, scenery or puppets for class performances; editing student-centered newspapers and providing musical accompaniment to prayer services.

During the 11th grade selected madrichim would receive coursework in Judaics (i.e., Tanakh, Jewish History, Tefillah, Chagim, Israel, Hebrew, Middot, etc.) and Judaic-specific pedagogy (e.g. lesson planning, models of teaching, classroom management, student behavioral management, traditional and performance assessment, learning styles, multiple intelligences and reaching all students, etc.). This coursework could be taken within the regular school schedule as a service learning or mitzvah project, or be a component of a mentoring or independent study program. Alternatively, madrichim could receive this specialized instruction after school and earn college credit. For example, seniors at Barrack Hebrew Academy can earn college credit through Gratz College for receiving coursework in Judaics and Judaic instruction.

At the end of the 11th grade, a select group of madrichim who have successfully passed the coursework in Judaics and Judaic pedagogy are invited to become student teachers during the twelfth grade.

Stage Three: The student teacher stage: At the end of the 11th grade, a select group of madrichim who have successfully passed the coursework in Judaics and Judaic pedagogy are invited to become student teachers during the twelfth grade. During the first semester of their high school senior year, in addition to performing the duties of the madrich/madricha, each student teacher will have an enhanced responsibility. He or she will now be observing, reflecting and doing some small group teaching in the classroom of a trained mentor teacher (see stage seven). This first semester student teaching experience is designed to prepare the teacher candidate to become a co-teacher during the second semester. Accordingly, the student teacher is beginning to acquire the knowledge base and skills to perform these kinds of teaching responsibilities: planning lessons, determining content and curriculum (i.e. what should be taught); creating a positive classroom environment, developing multiple ways of delivering instruction and using traditional and performance assessments to determine what students have learned; managing student behavior, and collaborating with other members of the instructional staff (i.e., madrichim, co-teachers, teachers, and administrators).

Once again this student teaching experience can be folded within the service learning, independent study, career exploration or mentoring programs all ready present at certain day schools.

Stage Four: The co-teacher stage: During the second semester of the 12th grade, if deemed successful, the student teacher is invited to take on the role of a co-teacher. The co-teacher is a teaching intern who will now gradually assume many of the responsibilities of the classroom teacher. Accordingly, at the beginning of the second semester, the co-teacher and his/her mentor teacher will be engaged in co-planning, co-instructing, and co-reflecting upon their learning activities. They may be engaged in team teaching where they alternate instructing the whole class, or may divide the class into small learning groups which each one directs. Upon successful completion of this stage, the co-teacher should receive a teaching certificate from the sponsoring institution indicating that he or she has met the requirements to teach at a supplemental school while attending college.

Again, this co-teaching experience can be included within the service learning, independent study, career exploration, or mentoring programs already existing at certain day schools.

Stage Five: The beginning teacher stage: The undergraduate student is now serving as a moreh or morah at a supplemental school located near his or her college. Ideally he or she is being coached by a mentor teacher during this critical novice teaching period.

Stage Six: The madrich teacher stage: A skilled and seasoned moreh or morah with at least three years of superior performance evaluations is additionally compensated for inviting the madrich/madricha to serve as a teaching assistant, student leader and role model in his/her classroom. It is expected that the madrich teacher has received staff development training or coursework in how to mentor the madrich or madricha.

Stage Seven: The mentor teacher stage: A madrich teacher with at least five years of superior teaching performance evaluations will be compensated additionally to invite and train the student and co-teacher to learn the art and science of being a Jewish educator. The mentor teacher should have received training in the core knowledge base of Judaics and Judaic instruction. In addition, the mentor teacher needs to acquire the knowledge base and repertoire in mentoring pre-service and in-service teachers (i.e., interpersonal communication, observational techniques, clinical supervision, professional reflection, the developmental stages of pre-service and in-service teachers, adult learning principles, etc.).

Stage Eight: The expert teacher stage: The expert teacher is a paid professional who trains the moreh or morah to become a madrich teacher and mentor teacher and coordinates a committee of madrich and mentor teachers in the day school. The expert teacher should have extensive experience as a teacher, administrator and/or staff developer with expertise in Judaics, and the theory, research and best practices in instruction, curriculum development, supervision and staff development for Jewish educators.

What are the potential benefits of this eight stage developmental ladder?

The eight stage development ladder described in this article is a transformational construct that requires vision, creative thinking, an openness to change, a willingness to see beyond conventional and institutional thinking, leadership, training, and the financial resources for implementation.

With the implementation of this transformational model, there are several potential beneficial outcomes that can be realized.

In competition with high performing public schools, the Jewish day school must not only provide an excellent academic and Judaic studies program, but also offer other initiatives not generally available in the public schools. Accordingly, this model offers day school students an opportunity to serve as peer tutors, peer mentors, teaching assistants, and student teachers.

In an age with a multitude of choices, this model offers teenagers and young adults an opportunity to remain affiliated with the Jewish community during a critical period in their personal and professional development. Talented, knowledgeable, and motivated eleventh-grade high school students in a Jewish day school will be trained in Judaics and Judaic-specific pedagogy. These teaching candidates who successfully complete student teaching in their senior year can be certified to teach at a supplemental school while attending college. Moreover, this additional training can only enhance their credentials when applying to college.

This model provides a new differentiated staff development track for Jewish educators who wish to be trained as madrich teachers, mentor teachers, and expert teachers. With increased responsibility, these educators can expect to receive additional compensation.

At a time where there is a shortage of well trained and knowledgeable Jewish educators, this eight-stage career development model provides a comprehensive, longitudinal, and institutionalized vehicle to recruit, develop, and retain excellent teachers and administrators for our day schools.


For some time, parents, school administrators, educators, researchers, and related Jewish institutional representatives have been searching for a vehicle to keep our students connected to the Jewish community. Concomitantly, there is a compelling need to find, nurture, promote and retain more highly competent teachers trained in Judaics and Judaic-specific pedagogy in our day and supplemental schools. This article suggests that we can meet these challenges through implementing an eight stage developmental ladder. ♦

Retired clinical professor at the College of Education, University of Maryland, Richard D. Solomon, PhD, serves as an adjunct professor at Baltimore Hebrew University and Gratz College, teaching graduate courses in supervision and staff development, instruction, and classroom management. He can be reached at rds@umd.edu.

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Teacher Retention & Development

Teachers are the most precious resource of any school. The measure of a great school is its ability to recruit and retain great teachers who know their subject and craft, care deeply about all their students, and are passionately committed to their own development and the school as a community. Here, find guidance for finding, preparing and evaluating teachers, and keeping them happy and productive stakeholders.

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