Summer Reflections

Last week the Prizmah staff participated in that near universal of summer rituals—our staff retreat. As we have built an organization embracing staff spread across 10 cities in North America, we have gotten very good at socializing around the virtual water cooler and collaborating in productive Zoom calls, but there is no replacing the value of being together in-person. Together in Rockland County, NY, we engaged in conversations about how we as a team serve the day school field, we listened intently to heads of school sharing their vision for what a 

Jewish day school network can be, and we opened our eyes, ears, and minds to new possibilities for our work. To say it was time well-spent would be an understatement.

Even as school bells and homework have quieted for the summer, for many day school professionals, this is an extremely productive time. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know key stakeholders from more than 15 different schools at the development convenings we held in Detroit last month and we were thrilled by the overwhelming turnout and vibrant conversations at the Prizmah New Admission Professionals Institute earlier this month. Just this week, seasoned development professionals are gathering in Baltimore to continue what has become an annual tradition of learning from their peers and experts in the field. Prizmah’s pilot Learning Hubs are taking off in August with small groups focusing on important and relevant topics such as positive discipline and school culture. Earlier this summer, Prizmah partnered with Jewish Interactive to host the Jewish Day School Educational Innovator Summit at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, an add-on day of customized learning for Jewish day school professionals attending the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference.

Learning that takes place during the summer does not end there. Our staff retreat yielded ideas and innovations that we are already putting into practice. The technology professionals who gathered in Philadelphia have already launched a Prizmah Reshet to make their learning ongoing.

One of the significant culture shifts I experienced in moving to the United States from England is the different school calendar. Whereas I grew up with longer and more frequent breaks during the school year and a shorter summer vacation, my children who have grown up here revel in their nearly 10 week summer vacation. There is much debate over the advantages of one calendar over the other. Deeply ingrained cultural practices—like the long American summer—are not easily shifted (though I note with interest some experiments with shortening summer vacations).

We are now deep into that other summer ritual for many Jewish parents—seeing our students at a wide range of Jewish summer camps. Observing the transition of children I have known for years from happy campers to thoughtful counselors, frequently applying their learning from day school, has to be one of the most fantastic experiences. There are some types of learning and growth that can perhaps only happen—or perhaps are most notably observed—outside the classroom. Retreats, professional development workshops, or even the enjoyment of a stretch of time to read a good book uninterrupted….these are some of the blessings of a long summer break.

In these long summer days and warm summer nights, before the return to school routines and lunchboxes, I wish you time to reflect and time to learn in new ways. Prizmah is here with and for you to seize on just these unique learning moments.