Rachel is Prizmah's Director of Educational Innovation. Learn more about her here.

Reflections on School Visits

M’at Or Docheh Harbeh Choshech –– מעט אור דוחה הרבה חושך
A bit of light can displace a lot of darkness 
Tanya, Chapter 12.published 1797, by R’ Shnuer Zalman of Liadi

Over the course of the past few months, since I started working at Prizmah, I have had the blessing to visit over 30 schools. In each school, I am inspired by the passion and dedication of our leaders, and I find myself amazed at the creativity and drive to learn, grow, explore and connect that I have witnessed in each school. There are certain questions I try to ask at each school visit and one that I am always excited to hear about: “What are the areas where your school shines? Tell me about the light, inspiration, and sources of pride?”  What amazes me is how varied the answers are even within each school. 

I often hear from the administration about their pride in their teachers. And the teachers will often share that they are most proud of their students. Sometimes I hear about a specific project or approach, but it always boils down to the same root. We delight in the growth of others– from the growth of our students and their families, to the growth of our teaching communities and teams– we are so inspired by that lightbulb going on, the AHA! The wow, the wonder. It only takes a little bit of light to dispel the darkness and keep us going. In this season when open houses are wrapping up, we get a chance to reflect on what keeps us inspired, and we are gifted with the holiday of Chanukah as a visual and tactile reminder of what we are meant to look for in our lives– look for the light, look for the good, highlight it, raise it and build upon it. I have seen lessons where each student was so engaged, they did not move when the bell rang. I have witnessed teachers meeting after hours to help design an innovative program which went way beyond their basic curriculum. I saw teachers attend after school games to support their students and principals arrange for extra training for promising assistant teachers who sought to expand their skills and take on more… I have seen what the “shemen”, the “extra”, looks like and it is so pure!

Some great ideas I saw:

Gann Academy, MA

The Rashi School, MA 

Ben Porat Yosef, NJ

Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy, CT

Striar Hebrew Academy, MA

Yavneh Academy, NJ

Hebrew Academy of the 5 Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR), NY

The Frisch School, NJ

I am honored to have witnessed so much light in my first few months working at Prizmah and I invite you to please share your moments of light and pride with us so we can spread great ideas and build upon the creative powerful energy of inspiration. Please send us your pictures and write short descriptions of your projects. Tell us about your goals, the process used to achieve them, and what you learned along the way.  Let’s share the light, celebrate when we witness the “shemen”- the “going beyond”- and look for it from each other.