In the Issue: Remodeling

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

There is no gainsaying the challenges that schools have faced this year. Illness, tuition, expenses, technology, mental health… Each word conjures a thousand pictures of heroic efforts made across the school to support, adapt, persevere. No one has gone unscathed, and no scathe has gone unnoticed and unattended by school professionals.

Nevertheless, this issue of HaYidion provides ample testimony that Jewish day schools are not merely surviving and adjusting to difficult circumstances. Instead, over and over, we see schools overflowing with thoughtfulness and creativity. Like Picasso, schools are constantly drawing plans, changing shapes, inventing new plans over them, and living in the flow that this shifting situation requires. New teams—medical professionals, architects and engineers, tech specialists—suddenly arise to take a prominent place in the constellation of school stakeholders.

Heads are communicating with humor and transparency, reaching out regularly to hundreds in the community to let them know that they care. They admit to having a million answers and none at the same time. Teachers, at times daunted but unbowed, are proving again to be the true miracle-makers, having modified curricula, embraced myriad tech platforms, taught live and remote at once, zeroed in on each student’s strengths and needs, while infusing their classrooms whether in-person or remote with the passion and intelligence they bring to their subjects.

The articles in this issue demonstrate that, remarkably, day school stakeholders are continuing to dream about their schools, their community, and their craft—and doing so with more intensity and vibrancy than ever before. All of the training, the regular preparation, the professional development and investment in change that schools made before Covid are showing their value now palpably, “in the sight of all the people” (Exodus 19:11). Even as they work to create solutions to the challenges of today, they have an eye to the future, trying to anticipate which changes will bear fruit—which “castles in the air” may acquire a “foundation”— in a post-Covid world.

The first group of articles explores ways that our school leadership has shifted and seized opportunities. Adler and Perla present the new landscape of tuition plans that are changing the way that many schools are doing business. Falchuk describes new admissions strategies that her school has undertaken. Lorch examines whether prominent leadership theories have held up under Covid, while Grebenau relates how his work now has been guided by the theory of adaptive leadership. Maayan and Rubin share the lessons they drew from a previous crisis to succeed in this one, and Hartman and Friedman show how educational leaders can support teachers through techniques of reflective supervision.

Our school spread presents creative means that schools used to promote student collaboration despite remote learning. The second section discusses unprecedented forms of collaboration, both internally within school communities and externally with other schools. A series of short articles by Gold, Shulkind, and Feifel Mosbacher showcase new partnerships among heads in different cities. Freundel introduces a partnership among day school consultants organized by JEIC, and Hindin speaks to ways that federations can operate to keep schools strong and healthy. Michaelson and Lidsky demonstrate how the communities within schools have adapted and collaborated to achieve resilience, provide succor and forge unity.

The final section looks at ways in which the “new normal” is impacting teaching and learning, school and home life. Hyman offers techniques for teachers to partner with parents in support of diverse learners through remote learning. Cohen provides recommendations for supporting parents, students, teachers and administrators to manage the enormous stresses on our lives today. Wolf gleans what we’ve learned about educational technology over the pandemic, and anticipates what could guide us toward the future. Rutner explores alternative assessment strategies that teachers can use, and Levingston presents how moral education looks radically different given current social upheavals. Taking a step back, Pomson and Aharon share research findings that contrast the purposes that day schools serve in their students’ lives, in North America versus other regions, and how that contrast is manifested during Covid.

May all the hard work that you and your colleagues are doing during this time both enable you to thrive now and establish foundations for success in years to come.

Elliott Rabin, Editor
Knowledge Topics
School Policies and Procedures
Published: Fall 2020