Our next finalist for the Head of School role will be on campus in just one week, on Wednesday, October 2. Get ready to meet Jed Silverstein! Jed’s biography, video introduction, and statement of educational philosophy are below.
As a reminder, after Jed’s visit, our remaining candidate will visit us on Thursday, October 10.
We are thrilled for you to meet Jed, who will be on campus for a full day, starting with greeting families at morning drop-off.
In joyful anticipation, Tom Pinneo and Hilary Sims Co-Clerks of the PFS Head of School Search Committee
Jed Silverstein is thrilled to come meet the PFS community. He is currently in his 12th year teaching and leading in independent schools. Jed earned his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in the comparative study of religion at Harvard College, a master’s degree in philosophy at Tufts, and a master’s and Ph.D. in philosophy at Brown University. As a scholar, Jed’s areas of interest are ethics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of education. His dissertation investigated the foundations and limits of parental authority over children.
As a teacher, Jed has taught philosophy, English, history, theater, and study skills to students in 4th through 12th grades at the Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island, and at the Riverdale Country School in the Bronx, New York. He is currently serving as the Director of Studies and Professional Development at the Latin School of Chicago, where he stewards curriculum and pedagogy for junior kindergarten to 12th grade and designs various learning experiences for faculty, board members, and parents.
Jed and his wife, Lilli, have a two-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son, and a standard poodle named Rufus. They enjoy hiking, reading, and finding new swimming holes in Vermont. To learn more about Jed, visit www.jedsilverstein.com.
For a video introduction to Jed Silverstein, click here.
Statement of Educational Philosophy
Forgetfulness. That’s my chief enemy now that I’ve become a teacher. I don’t want all the hard work I put into assessing a paper, or planning a poetry unit to end up as some student’s hazy reminiscence that I was a nice guy, or seemed to care a lot. I think forgetfulness should haunt all teachers, especially if we really believe that what we teach is important -- not just for today but forever.
My own forgetfulness originates in how I was taught when I was a kid. My education in an affluent and competitive high school generally involved a highly educated man or woman standing up at the front of the room, telling us what we would be asked to reproduce later on an exam or paper. I paid attention, took notes, and did well. Once the exam was over or the paper turned in, I would take a deep breath and seemingly exhale all the knowledge that I had only grasped in the most tenuous and superficial way.
My central goal as a teacher is to teach in a way that requires my students to do more than reproduce my understanding. The only reason I’ve become a reasonably educated person today is because I’ve managed to learn how to read a text with curiosity and discipline. I want my students to have the same opportunity to build their own understanding as I’ve had to build mine. I have come to believe that the best way to make my students’ knowledge and skills deep and permanent is to create a classroom in which my own understanding is not the central focus. Of course, it can be very pleasurable to display one’s erudition, and I remain interested in my own ideas and arguments, but I ultimately left the academic world because I found that I’m at least as interested in other people’s minds as my own.
To contest the role of the teacher as the most important mind in the room I’ve had to upend the usual cognitive division of labor. The conventional task of the teacher is to read with an eye towards developing a line of interpretation, and a series of questions – almost like bread crumbs -- that will lead students to discover a path already laid out in the teacher’s mind. The students prepare for class knowing that the teacher will be doing the heavy lifting, so all they need to do is follow his or her lead.
There’s no better way to learn something than to have to teach it. So I ask my students to act more like a teacher than a student. For example, I require my students to prepare for class the way that I do. We all read the text with an eye towards developing a line of interpretation, and a series of questions that could start to unravel our understanding of the text. Before class, everyone is expected to post online – me included – textually based, open-ended questions. Then in class we take turns leading discussion on the basis of our own discussion questions. Because we are now all doing the same preparation before class, my role as teacher is transformed from “chief brain” to one among many brains working hard. I still have a distinctive role to play in the classroom, but it is now more exemplar than dictator.
Thinking of education as a cooperative endeavor in which everyone has a say and everyone understands the importance of what is at stake has allowed me to strike a balance between two pedagogical extremes. On the one hand, the cooperative, reciprocal classroom environment I value eschews the notion that teaching is a mere form of entertainment, and students nothing but passive spectators. On the other hand, it avoids the opposite threat that comes when we imagine education as a commodity, entirely subjecting our pedagogy to the whims and preferences of our students. At its best, my teaching aims to challenge students to do their best possible work, knowing that what and how they learn will affect their lives far beyond the walls of the classroom.