Over the past week in Seattle, fundraising galas, dinners and luncheons have been cancelled at a dizzying rate due to the state mandate against gathering in large groups in the hope of curtailing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Purim services were held online or outdoors, Shabbat kiddushim were canceled, congregants were told to practice “social distancing.” Schools prepared for distance learning. All this came about while we were contemplating two of our local Jewish schools’ efforts to eliminate their fundraising galas.
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
This issue looks at ways that school stakeholders experiment to use their time more effectively or in service of particular goals. Time is considered one of the “commonplaces” of education, something assumed to be as unchanging as the classroom walls and the sports field. There are the daily schedule, weekly schedules, and annual calendars; calendars for development, admissions, sports, assemblies, and more. And then COVID-19 burst into our lives, ripping up all of those calendars, throwing our best-laid plans out the window and challenging us to recreate them as best we can, in the eye of an ongoing storm.
Want your own hard copy of the issue? Print one out at Blurb.com.
The Sfat Emet has a beautiful teaching, in which he compares Shabbat to Noah’s Ark. While during the week we are preoccupied with worldly business, on Shabbat we can find the space to let go of this worldly business, and can take shelter in God’s sukkat shalom (shelter of peace), just as Noah took shelter in the ark. And within Shabbat’s shelter, we can connect to the root of our vitality and “receive new vital force from the Source of life.” (Noach , Rosh Chodesh Marcheshvan)
I write this article about time as we are all on coronavirus lockdown, when time has come to be something weird and strange. Jokes abound about canceling the days of the week, since it’s starting to feel as if each week is one long day.
In all my years of work in Jewish education, the one thing I never heard anyone complain about is having too much time. Education is a field deeply enmeshed in time. We study in semesters, prepare for class periods and schedule countless meetings. But even as time defines the framework of our professional lives, every administrator I know struggles with finding enough of it to accomplish everything we need to do.
The most accurate predictor of long-term student achievement is not socioeconomic status, innate ability or even attendance at a prestigious school. The best predictor of student success is the extent to which parents are engaged in encouraging their child’s learning and the extent to which they involve themselves in their child’s education.
Based on the recent volume that they edited, Beyond Jewish Identity: Rethinking Concepts and Imagining Alternatives.
Remind people why Jewish identity became the mantra in 1990, and why Jewish day schools were seen as the solution.
.לכל זמן ועת לכל־חפץ תחת השמים
A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven.
Magazines, like schools, undergo planning a year in advance. When we planned for this issue on the theme of Time, we naturally had no inclination that the world would be plunged in the middle of a pandemic at the time of publication. Perhaps we should have renamed the issue Timing, according to the old expression: Timing is everything. With no other issue has that been more true!
Schools are virtual time machines, and Jewish day schools are a model possessing the most sophisticated settings. In one classroom we immerse our students in the past, train them in ancient languages like Aramaic, and introduce them to legal texts from the Roman period, while in the next one over, students are coding robots to solve 21st century problems. Jewish day school students, on a regular basis, visit each era of the past and find lessons, values and wisdom.
It is important that Prizmah practices what it preaches. We expend great effort in developing and supporting leaders, arguing that they must be capable of pivoting quickly in response to changing circumstances, while maintaining Jewish day schools as relevant, resilient and dynamic organizations. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown Jewish day schools at their best in this regard, providing education that is, for all its limitations, world leading, and nurturing a much-needed sense of community at a time of isolation.
Dear Prizmah Coach,
How can I engage prospective applicants when I don't have the ability to meet them and their families in person or access the campus to give them a tour?
A worried admission director
Consider this parallel to our own work: firefighters figured out that it's far better—for everyone, not just themselves—to prevent fires, rather than wait until they break out. And countless lives have been saved as a result.
To accomplish this feat, firefighters had to set aside any fear that they’d be seen as lazy or self-interested by promoting prevention. They had to set aside any pretensions of heroic martyrdom.
In effect, they had to become professionals, demand professional respect, and advocate for policies that would achieve the best possible results.
The Biblical Hero: Portraits in Nobility and Fallibility
By Elliott Rabin
“You gotta make it a priority to make your priorities a priority,” author and international speaker Richie Norton noted. It’s easy for school to become bogged down with relentless to-do lists, fires that need to be put out and many constituency groups.
When we plant a tree, we don’t expect to wake up the next morning, or even the next week, month or year, and see a strong trunk, with high branches, beautiful leaves and delicious fruit. When we plant a tree, we are counting on time and optimal conditions to grow and nurture it, so that it can bear fruit for generations to come. We just need to be patient.
Given the amount of student learning that must happen during a school year, you might think that every minute of a teacher’s time is best spent tending to the immediate needs of students and that every minute of an administrator’s time is best spent tending to the immediate needs of teachers, parents, students and boards.
Educational systems operate on a timed schedule, and curriculum, especially at Jewish schools, is often a reflection of the holidays and events of the season. While the themes of the calendar year provide easy content and predictable timing for Jewish studies curricula, there can be equal advantages to leveraging the calendar for the development of curricula in other domains—in particular, STEAM.
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