Education is one of the few professions where people are promoted into managerial positions and expected to pick up the necessary skills on the job. Fortunately for teachers in the World ORT network, there is the LEAD (Leadership in Education, Administration and Development) Program.
Teachers from 12 countries have spent the week in London exploring and acquiring techniques in coaching, change management, motivation and teamwork with the help of facilitators from University College London’s Institute of Education, the UK’s premier institution for education in both research and teaching.
The impact has been immediate and promises to be long lasting.
“I did a course like this in Israel which lasted two years and thought I knew it all,” said Kobi Hayon, Junior High School Manager at the Kfar Hasidim Religious Youth Village in Israel. “But here, the knowledge which has been shared is gold. You realise that there are a lot of tools you haven’t tried. The trainers are so experienced – I learned more in two days here than I did in two years in Israel.”
Mr Hayon is unusual in that he had actually received some training. Most teachers in his situation do not, said the Head of World ORT’s Education Department, Daniel Tysman.
“World ORT has identified a real need and the LEAD Program, which we instituted last year with the support of the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation, has shown itself to be absolutely the right response,” Mr Tysman said.
“We found 20 teachers for last year’s course, easily found another 20 for this year and, no doubt, will find another 20 next year – there’s a widespread need; teachers are promoted into managerial positions without any preparation. There are few other professions where you’d be expected to manage a team – with such huge consequences – without any training at all,” he added.
The impact of the LEAD Program will ripple through the generations, said Mr Hayon.
“Our students will benefit from what I’ve learned here and they are the ones to whom, in 20 or 30 years, we’re going to give the keys to the country.”
It is this kind of impact which has drawn new sponsors to the programme from Chicago. Award-winning educator Dr Louanne Smolin and her husband, business consultant David Eaton, have joined the HH Wingate Foundation with a three-year funding commitment.
“We need leaders who are creative, inventive discoverers and critical thinkers in every endeavour, including business, academia and government. Education is the fountain of these qualities,” they said. “Through our involvement in ORT we have seen these qualities instilled in individuals and linked to their families, communities and beyond to the world… We believe that ORT is an important catalyst for nurturing these future leaders.”
Hossain Salame, World ORT Kadima Mada representative and computer science teacher at Horfeish High School in the Upper Galilee, said he liked the idea that all together programme participants were changing the world.
A recent study by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel found that the gap between the Arab and Hebrew education systems in Israel was closing – but that the Druze sector, of which Horfeish is a part, was outshining both. Mr Salame modestly attributed his school’s part in this overall success story to World ORT.
“World ORT has helped us make many changes for the better, particularly conceptual changes. Being on this course is part of the process which started in 2007, when World ORT came to us,” he said.
Nevena Peteva, an English teacher at the Lauder-ORT Dimcho Debelianov Jewish School in Sofia, Bulgaria, said the LEAD Program had been very rewarding.
“I’ve come across ideas that I’ve never thought of before in leading, managing and connecting with people,” she said.
Physics teacher Alejandro Leiro, from Colegio Isaac Rabin in Panama City, said the most important aspect of the course had been enabling him to assess himself better.
“Now I can see where I’m failing and where I’m succeeding so I can go ahead and face it. There’s nothing more important than that. While my weaknesses have been exposed I’ve also been given tools to help me improve,” he said.
Maths teacher and World ORT representative at the Jewish Community School in Milan, Italy, Dany Maknouz, said she was looking forward to sharing what she had learned with her teaching and administrative colleagues.
“Leadership is not only about relationships, it’s also about vision, mission and dynamic innovation,” she said. “We’re killed by routine. To have the opportunity to stop and think about what we’re doing and where we’re going is something I would recommend to anyone.”
By bringing together educators from 12 countries, the LEAD Program also serves to develop the international ORT network.
The Director of the ORT Gesher Secondary School in Samara, Russia, Dr Yulia Gengut, said: “Meeting here we realise we have face similar challenges and have a similar vision for the future. We understand that we’re a network and can use this to learn from and work with each other.”