New Horizons in Teaching

Shimpa (Chaim) Moch

MTEI’s Professional Development Programme at work at Herzlia

Herzlia teacher Shimpa (Chaim) Moch recently completed the two-year programme offered by the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute (MTEI) in the United States. Not only is he the first South African to graduate from this course, he was also the only foreign student in his cohort. 

“There is so much I will now be able to bring to teaching and learning within the Jewish day school system in South Africa after this course,” Shimpa says, enthusing about the opportunity he has had to expand his approach to professional development among educators here. In essence, the MTEI approach aims to deeply honour the professionals that teachers are while insisting that teaching improvements are both necessary and attainable. It does this through a series of professional development practices that are broadly termed ‘relational pedagogies’. In each of these practices, attention is given to the way that the interaction can build relationships among teachers in the context of a razor sharp focus on quality teaching and quality learning.

Shimpa explains: “For example, when it comes to observing teachers during a lesson, one of the key changes in my thinking was to move from a ‘fix it’ model to a ‘learning conversation’ model. Rather than a one-way street of feedback after a lesson observation, I learned ways to set up a collaborative inquiry into the teaching so that I can work together with the teacher to investigate the problems that they are working on in their classroom practice. Such an approach discards the usual evaluative tenor of lesson observations in favour of a descriptive approach to observational data. It also favours deep inquiry over conclusions and therefore questions are way more important than assertions of best practice.” Ultimately, the approach is about facilitating the way in which a teacher can improve through his/her own understanding of where enhancements can be made.

A graduate of the Eliot Osrin Leadership Institute, Shimpa, who grew up in Johannesburg, headed up the Jewish Life & Learning department at Highlands Primary School before moving to Herzlia High in April last year. His role there includes implementing the learnings gained from the MTEI course, which included valuable practice-based assignments. “The assignments are geared to assist one to apply the theoretical learning gained during the six sessions held in Chicago in the USA to one’s own context. I thus used the assignments as opportunities to roll out a different way of thinking about teaching and about how to improve the quality of teaching within the Herzlia environment,” he explains.  

The interaction with others in the education field – almost all of whom work at educational institutions in America – brought many benefits. “When I first heard about this course,” Shimpa explains, “I had hoped to be able to take part in it virtually via Zoom sessions but the organisers of the course would not accept me for the course on this basis. They believe – rightly so – that face-to-face interaction with others is a crucial element of the learning experience. So, it was quite a commitment for me to travel to America three times a year during 2022 and 2023 for about a week each time. But, ultimately, the effort paid off since I gained so much from each of these visits,” he says.

Since his move to Herzlia High School, Shimpa has begun implementing a programme that he calls TRAIN (Teaching, Reflecting, Analysis, Integration and INnovation) which is geared to enhance professional development among teachers at the school. In addition to the practical implementation of the programme, he hopes to see more leaders within the school system take part in the course so that he will not be the lone voice regarding the MTEI approach to professional development.

Shimpa’s personal enthusiasm for professional development reflects in his enthusiasm for ongoing learning. He is currently studying towards a PhD in Education at the University of Cape Town’s School of Education, and focuses on the sociology of education.

No doubt, Herzlia will benefit from the knowledge that Shimpa has gained from the MTEI – which, by the way, has yet another Cape Town connection: the Programme Director is former Cape Town resident and past Principal of Weizmann Primary School, Seymour Kopelowitz.

• Published in the February 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.

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