Photo of Sara Smith
Dr. Sara Smith

Dr. Sara Smith is the Assistant Dean of the Graduate Center for Jewish Education. She earned her PhD from New York University and M.A. and B.A. degrees from Brandeis University.

As the semester comes to a close, I am looking forward to reviewing our students’ final projects for Reflective Practice 3. In this project, students create a professional portfolio that they can use to present themselves to potential future employers. Though the project focuses on the final product, the process of assembling this portfolio is equally important. The portfolio project is an opportunity for our students to think deeply about the question-- Who am I as a Jewish educator?

At our first meeting, students shared their top three belief statements about education.

Photo of chalkboard with belief statementsOver the course of the semester, they continued to consider who they are as they curated artifacts for their portfolios. They thought about what they could showcase to a potential future employer that would not only emphasize their strengths as educators but reflect who they are. Students chose to include various lessons that speak to their beliefs about child-centered learning, or integration, or differentiated instruction. They include letters of thanks from former students, as well as letters from mentors highlighting their improvement throughout their time in our program. For some, it can be challenging to assemble the artifacts and explain why they were chosen for the portfolio.

The portfolio also includes a personal philosophy statement wherein students talk about who they are as educators, who they are as Jewish educators, what beliefs underlie their practice, and how they arrived at their beliefs. It has been fascinating to watch our students throughout this process as they questioned, challenged, and pushed themselves and each other to articulate their values and think about the next steps in their careers. I wish them much luck as they continue the process without the formal structure of our class.