Like most English teachers, I entered the profession in the hope I could inspire others to love words on paper as much as I do. Once I entered the classroom, however, I discovered that there were other significantly more achievable goals. You could get students to care about learning how to write—they knew this skill was valuable. You could teach students how to analyze texts and parse language. You could even make them appreciate the beauty of certain Shakespearean plays. But you could not make them love books.
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
The articles in this issue represent the balance between the old and the new, sacred and profane embodied in Jewish history. The issue tells the story of the drive for innovation in modern education that has gained strength in recent decades. It features efforts to learn from, adopt and adapt innovative programs and pedagogies from the larger educational universe, even as authors advise caution, patience and planning around such changes.
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We Jews are a people committed to listening, as evidenced by our public declaration at Mount Sinai of Na’aseh Venishma, We will do and we will listen, our shared commitment to God. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks further illuminates: “[The word shema] is fundamentally untranslatable into English since it means so many things: to hear, to listen, to pay attention, to understand, to internalise, to respond, to obey… Judaism is a religion of listening. This is one of its most original contributions to civilisation.”
At the inauguration of its 60th anniversary, Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit conducted a comprehensive curriculum audit of its Judaic studies program. At Hillel, the audit marked the necessary bridge between the school’s existing curricular challenges and our next chapter of innovation. It fueled the flames of innovation, linking that which exists with the aspirations of what could be.
Innovation has become the 614th commandment for Jewish day schools, a central part of their promotional lexicon and a key component in their educational planning. Schools are adopting innovative initiatives and approaches for two reasons. First, and most importantly, innovation enhances the educational experience, allowing schools to better prepare students for their futures while fulfilling organizational mission and vision.
Tell us your personal journey that led you to create your school.
Visionary programs of inclusion can be found in all kinds of Jewish schools. HaYidion asked the developer of one such program at the Beth Jacob Institute of Jerusalem, among the “Ivy League” schools of the chareidi world, to contribute this description of their pioneering work in the field.
The old will be renewed, and the new will be sanctified. - Avraham Kook, Igrot HaRa’ayah 164
Havruta,“two scholars sharpening one another” (Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 7a), is arguably the richest way to study Jewish texts. Yet until recently, it was a minority pedagogical style; it took change within the yeshiva education system to become the norm. According to Israeli historian Shaul Stampfer, havruta-style learning (pairs of study partners learning text together), although practiced since ancient times, became the predominant form of Jewish study only after World War I, when yeshivot opened their doors more widely.
Dear Prizmah Coach,
I can deny it no longer: My staff hates faculty meetings.
What can I do?
Dear Well-Meaning Principal,
I hear you. We have all inherited systems that no longer serve us, but they remain ingrained in the school schedule, so we use them because:
Something I have been focusing on quite a bit as of late is the idea of innovation in education being more focused on depth rather than being something new. For example, a lot of organizations (including education) are always touting being on the “cutting edge” as they are embracing the “latest and greatest” technologies or perhaps strategies. The problem with this focus is that if you are too focused on doing the “new” thing, you probably never had a chance to get good at the last item or initiative. It is a cycle that continues over and over again in too many spaces.
One of the most frequently asked questions we hear from heads of school is, How can I find and retain top talent in my school? In order to support our schools in ensuring they are great places to work and to create conditions to attract top talent to the field, Prizmah partnered with Leading Edge, the Alliance for Excellence in Jewish Leadership, to offer their Employee Experience Survey to day schools. This initiative was offered at no cost to schools through the support of generous federations and foundations.
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business
By Patrick Lencioni
If you could do one thing this year that would dramatically improve your school, what would it be? Lencioni asserts that focusing on organizational health is the key. Lencioni, well known for his clear and simple style of writing, untangles the complexities of leadership and offers concrete ideas and practical steps to shift the way we work as he tackles our fundamental assumptions about what matters most.
Melbourne, Australia, is a long way from anywhere. Our nearest Western neighbor, New Zealand aside, is a 14-hour flight away. Consequently, a determined internationalist outlook, an investment in development, and a focus on excellence through teaching and learning are musts in order to provide a gold standard of education that persuades our community to buy into the Jewish schooling model.
Can a Jewish day school partner with a world-class research university to accelerate student learning and drive innovation? What does it look like when university faculty teach elementary school faculty on a day school campus? How might a Jewish day school develop a unique and cutting-edge approach to teaching Judaic studies?
Before surveying educators about whether or not they view themselves as creative, I challenge them to define the word “creativity.” Most define the term as meaning being artistic, musical or gifted in some other act of making something. While these are without question forms of creative expression, they do not define or even represent the essence of what creativity is and by extension could be. This narrow scope associated with creativity pushes many young people away from trying to figure out what creativity is for them and how they can impact the world around them.
A quest for new models that address the evolving needs and priorities among Jews, especially millennials, is a challenge for established institutions like day schools. The Lippman School, a K-8 Jewish day school in Akron, Ohio, offers a compelling approach that addresses education and recruitment. Called Kvod Habriyot, respect for all people as God’s creation, the model has enabled the school to admit students from a variety of religious, ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.
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