|Posted by Danny on April 16, 2013 at 11:25 AM|
Our Faculty Focus series continues with an installment on Associate Professor Dr. Jeffrey Kress.
What do you find most exciting about the way in which Jewish Education has been evolving in recent years?
A growing number of people seem to be embracing Jewish Education as a real and serious topic area, one where excellent practice means more that winging-it-with-one's-good instincts (though that is a helpful tool to have in one's kit when needed...), and one that is generating its own important body of research. Of course, these things have been present beyond the "recent years" but I am excited by the expansion, as evidenced by the number of people seeking serious training in MA and EdD programs as well as other pre-service and in-service training programs. Also, the field is, to a growing degree, embracing the idea that principles of excellent Jewish education can apply to a variety settings - schools, camps, community programs, environmental, social action, etc. - and more people representing diverse settings are joining the conversation.
What is your greatest challenge as a professor of Jewish Education?
Aside from the challenge of constantly refreshing my repertoire of bad puns and jokes? I find the greatest challenge to be balancing the various parts of my job that I value and really love to do. I like to teach; I feel that as our students learn and grow, I am learning and growing along with them. I also have had wonderful opportunities to spend significant time doing fieldwork, to learn from educators doing cutting-edge work in a wide range of settings. I try to do both of these, but it does pose a challenge to my time-management skills!
What do you enjoy most about working with the JTS student population?
The students bring such a high level of passion, motivation, insight and creativity to their work here. It is inspiring and, as I said, I learn at least as much as I teach. Students also juggle a wide array of commitments, even beyond the classes and fieldwork. They get involved in the JTS and the broader NYC communities, as well as keeping their ties to their camps, youth groups etc. I am inspired by the efforts students put into their learning.
What is your current area of research?
I am working on a few projects in an area that I would describe as the intersection of "Jewish Leadership" and "Social and Emotional Learning." We often use the term "Jewish leadership" (or "leadership informed by Jewish values" or the like), and I am trying to learn more about different manifestations and models of this. Also, as a field we have done a lot of important work describing the types of conditions, or "active ingredients" of experiences or settings, that lead to participants' Jewish growth. I am interested in learning about how organizations can best move toward actualizing those active ingredients. Having a vision for Jewish learning in one's setting is important but not sufficient; I am very interested in the processes involved in organizing around such a vision.
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