Portland Jewish Academy is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and is proud of our partnership with them in strengthening our local Jewish community as well as the global community.
Portland Jewish Academy and Schnitzer Family Campus partner Mittleman Jewish Community Center are proud partners with the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland to bring the Harold Grinspoon Foundation's PJ Library program to Jewish children in Portland.
The View From the Fishbowl
PJA Principal, Merrill Hendin has the best view of PJA from her office. Here in this blog, she'll share with us what she's seeing at PJA, what she's been thinking about, and, in general, share her thoughts.
We think you'll enjoy the view from the fishbowl too.
It is hard to realize that we are at the end of February already and that more than half of the school year has passed. As we begin to look at the coming school year and plan for classrooms, faculty, professional development, and other important initiatives, I am astounded at all that we have accomplished to date and all that is still to come. Just in the past month we have had the middle school performance of Alice in Wonderland, the 3rd grade performance of the In Portland play, had three of us attend the North American Jewish Day School conference on leadership (more on that below), had a fabulous week of middle school Taglit (more on that below), just finished celebrating Purim with an outstanding 5th grade Purim Shpiel, great carnivals, and costumes and hamentashen galore, and are getting ready to send our 8th graders to Israel for 2 weeks this coming Wednesday morning (we will meet at the airport at 4:15 AM!!). Our faculty, in addition to all of this, has worked diligently on report cards which were sent out last week and which reflect the care and attention our teachers pay to student learning and achievement, in addition to overall social emotional growth. Reading a student progress report written by our faculty is like reading an in depth bio on each of our students. It is remarkable the time and thought that goes into these reports. This week Betsy Bailey will attend the NAIS conference in Philadelphia, and at the start of March Rabbi Chaiton will visit four Jewish Day Schools in the Bay Area. As I write all of this I realize that it is no wonder we feel like time goes by quickly! We are busy with great things every day here at PJA.
The North American Jewish Day School Conference held this year in the Washington, D. C. area, was an opportunity to meet with Jewish Day School educators and leaders from across the continent. There were valuable sessions on board leadership, retention and admission, the mission of Jewish Day Schools in the 21st century, and of course around the dinner table opportunities to talk about what happens every day in our schools. We talk about our successes and our challenges and we are given the opportunity to create connections which, in this digital age, can continue when we return to our home schools. One of the more inspiring sessions I attended was given by Jonathon Cannon, Head of School at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in the D. C. area. Cannon’s topic was Leaders as Shapers of School Culture and the most important take away for me was that Jewish education is excellence in every single area; nothing we do isn’t Jewish education. Anything that goes on in the school should be linked to some area of the mission. I felt so grateful to Jonathon Cannon for summing up what we, at our admin and faculty tables, talk about all of the time, and the pervasive feeling we have that what we are first and foremost, is a Jewish Day School. The principles we stand on, the foundations of our learning every day, are built upon the six middot we display in our lobby and in every classroom: limmud (learning), achrayut (responsibility), kavod (respect), kehillah (community), zehut (identity), and hoda’ah (gratitude). Whether we are teaching math or tefillah, humanities or Jewish Studies, these middot and our mission of positive Jewish engagement, are what we base every day in our classrooms, every program we plan, and every activity in which our students are involved.
And so we come to Taglit, our one-week discovery session which is a departure from academics and focuses on passions and opportunities our students and faculty don’t normally get to experience in their every day learning at PJA. How is Taglit driven by our mission of Jewish engagement? In each of our Taglit experiences students had an opportunity to do community service, to work both within and outside the Jewish community to do good for others. Whether packing lunches for the weekend for underprivileged students, helping to beautify a Jewish cemetery and learn about rituals of Jewish burial, create toys out of recycled goods for animals in shelters, learn about composting and eating sustainably, or learning how to take care of the earth around us, each of these experiences gave students an opportunity to actively learn, as members of the Jewish community, about the importance of these mitzvot. Every one of our middot was actualized in these experiences. We are so proud of the work that was done, and the fun that they had doing it, and see this week of discovery, Taglit, as a perfect example of how our mission of Jewish Engagements guides us.
So, as time goes by, keep checking for my intermittent posts (I know, I need to get to these more often! Sorry!) to find out more about the daily activities that keep us moving every day at PJA and keep us focused on our important mission as a community Jewish Day School.
Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh La’zeh- in other words, we are all here to take care of each other
As we all watch the events of Superstorm Sandy on the east coast and stay in touch with friends and relatives to hear how they are doing, share photos and stories, and do what we can to support them from a distance, we all realize the strength and power of community and how we can care for each other. It is never more evident than in times of crisis and tragedy. We rise to the occasion and help out those in need whether we know them or not. It is our responsibility as Jews, as members of a community, as citizens of the world. Whether we are up front and center, or far away as we are in this case, the desire to help in some way is always present. We cannot, from this distance, always do what we would like to, but we can, in our own way, work to make the world a better place and help those in need.
There are obligations that we have to take care of each other that often times seem more difficult, even daunting. As a Jewish Day School it is always our goal and desire to welcome any Jewish child into our school. But can we? Is this our current reality? We know that it is not, and I would guess, probably not the reality of most Jewish Day Schools, although I am sure that it is the intent.
From the time my children were young students at PJA (in the olden days - they are 24, 22 and 17!), our school always worked to meet the needs of all students. Through differentiation in the classroom, reading specialists, and other support services, we have always done our best to work with our student population to give them the best education possible. While we have done this, we have also realized more and more that our reality is that we cannot possibly work with every family who wants to have their child at PJA. Not yet, that is.
Currently at PJA we have a wonderful and very dedicated support staff which this year increased in size to 1.5 FTE plus our school counselor who also works as our General Studies Director (and in her spare time reads does mosaics, manages her husband’s business, and is a political activist, oh and of course a mom and almost grandma. Yes, Betsy has a very quiet life!). The scope of our support services program has grown over the years. We work with students who have challenges in reading and math, are able to help students with behavior issues, can support students for whom Hebrew language is a challenge or who are new to the language, and of course, work with teachers and parents to help give them the tools that they need in the classroom and at home to support their children. This seems like a lot, and we are certainly very proud of the work that we do here, however we also know that it is just the tip of the iceberg. Our goal is to REALLY, one day, be able to support all students with special needs. Whether we reach this goal in 5 years or 20, is an issue of resources, logistics, space, support, and of course appropriate staffing. While we can certainly support students with a wide range of challenges, we want to be able to support more families and to one day be the place that the community can count on to educate all of our children.
To this end we are beginning a strategic planning process and will work with our families, faculty, community members, and experts in the field, to move this process forward and be the best PJA we can be.
Wishing you all a wonderful week. As we move into the Thankgiving holiday, we count our blessings for all of the gifts we have every day in each and every one of our families and faculty. We are grateful for a supportive and warm community that truly does live by the saying from the Talmud, Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh La’zeh, we are all responsible one for another.
on Monday November 12, 2012 at 09:42AM
Wiki Spaces, Blog, Websites, social media boot camp, the cloud, 21st century learning, tech support, crowd sourcing, ning, twitter….I could fill the page with terminology that is so foreign to me, well sort of, and yet so intriguing. Since when does being ‘in the cloud’ mean collecting information literally up there somewhere, or boot camp mean that we are spending time learning about how social media, that’s facebook and edmodo for those of you, like me, who are not as in the loop as our children. Who knew we'd be using social media effectively in the classroom to communicate with students and educators around the world, let alone in our very own classrooms? This is exciting and overwhelming for sure. It is a BIG learning curve, for this luddite for sure!
Today I participated in the first of what I hope will be many webinars led by Darim Online. A group of faculty members at PJA were accepted into Darim’s Social Media Boot Camp, funded by the Covenant Foundation, which involves other schools across the country, synagogues, educational organizations, even Jewish universities, all looking at different ways that social media can be used effectively for their organizations. It is an exciting, yet daunting time, knowing that there is so much to learn to get up to snuff on the use of all of these tools, and feeling so lucky to be a part of a faculty here at PJA which is so supportive and so engaged in this work for our students, and of course to be working with all of these professionals across the country on this great opportunity.
Our group, comprised of Sarah Blattner (our chief cook and bottle washer), Michael Hyde (her second in command, for sure), Elana C-R, our fabulous 6th grade humanities teacher who is fearless and awesome at being a risk taker when using technology, Shahar Eden, our 5th-8th grade Hebrew teacher who, as the youngest member of our team, uses tech like the rest of us use pen and paper, and Jim Juntunen, our 4th grade general studies teacher, always willing and very eager to take big leaps into the use of tech integration in his classroom and give his students vast opportunities to learn using any and all available tools. What a team, what a lucky person I am to be a part of this endeavor. Together we decided that the best and most important initiative to tackle for us as a school is how social media can help enhance and effect professional development at PJA. Our ‘essential’ question for the project: “How can we leverage social media to enhance student learning and engagement across the curriculum?”
Sarah will lead us through the beginning stages of this project using the design thinking model (see http://designthinkingforeducators.com/ to learn more about this model), and we will continue as a team working under Michael Hyde’s direction on the best and most exciting and beneficial uses of social media for our faculty and students. We look forward to sharing with the other institutions involved in this project, and with you, as we continue to explore and advance our social media and tech integration focus at PJA. Go Darim Online! Thank you for providing us with this great opportunity. GO PJA! We are truly 21st century learners and educators.
on Tuesday October 16, 2012 at 09:17AM
This summer I spent a great deal of time in the MJCC therapy pool trying to heal my newly diagnosed herniated disc. I felt so fortunate that among my many treatments for this new ‘issue’ of mine, was our very own warm and wonderful pool right here at the MJCC. It was easy, it was summer, and I could take the time every morning to work on getting better. I found pools everywhere I went this summer, and was always so glad to ‘come home’ to our pool here. Then the pool closed for maintenance and I was faced with a ‘what do I do now’ decision. I could not imagine going anywhere else and yet I knew that I had to keep up my regimen. By now I had graduated in my physical therapy from using the noodle to keep myself doing dog paddle and moving around the pool, to actually doing laps. So, I took the plunge and went to my neighborhood outdoor pool at 6:00 am every morning for the two weeks that the JCC pool was being cleaned, painted and readied for fall. While my children grew up at the neighborhood pool and I spent many a summer watching them have swim lessons there, taking them for open swim, and going for walks through the park where the pool is, I still felt like a stranger in that pool and so wanted to just come back home to ‘my’ pool! And yesterday I did and it felt wonderful to be back. I have now graduated to doing laps in the main pool and intend to be there early in the morning so that I can continue to rehab my back and stay healthy for another school year.
As I swam in the slightly frigid waters yesterday (remember, I was spoiled by the therapy pool all summer and the pool had been refilled over the weekend and was not quite up to temperature), all I could think of was how much I felt at home. It felt so good to come home to ‘my place’ where the faces were familiar and no one looked at me like I was an intruder in their space. One of the great benefits of swimming is the time it gives me to think, and of course, yesterday I thought about this week, and how much of what I was doing and feeling was a metaphor for what our students, teachers, and families are doing this week. We are all, in essence, taking the plunge back into school life, developing our routines again, getting up early to come to school, see our friends, do great learning, and embrace a new school year. For most of us, while it is a ‘plunge’, it is also coming home. We are back among our community of friends and colleagues, our home away from home.
As we all begin this new school year with new teachers, fresh school supplies, new school outfits, and readiness to take in all that a school year brings, I want to wish you all the sweetest of years. May this school year bring growth, good health, deep learning, fun times on the playground, and the diversity of experience that school can bring. Thank you all for entrusting your children to our care. We don’t take this responsibility lightly and are honored to be your children’s teachers and mentors.
Shana Tova to you all; wishing you a very sweet and healthy new year.
on Tuesday September 4, 2012 at 07:21PM
These last few days I have walked around with songs of summer running through my head. I hear myself humming ‘See you in September’ ,‘School’s Out for Summer’, and other favorites from my youth. Yes, I am dating myself for sure; I am sure this generation has all of their own melodies that, to them, signify that school’s out and summer is here! Today it even feels like summer outside. It is warm bright and sunny in the fishbowl, and people are walking around in shorts and t-shirts.
We all wait for the last day of school with excitement, knowing that there is bitter sweetness to this ending as well. We know that it means goodbyes to some as they graduate from PJA or leave for other places. We know that we have successfully moved through another rich and fruitful school year and there is so much reason to celebrate all of our accomplishments.
So what have we done at PJA in 2011-2012?? Oh so much! This list is only the tip of the iceberg of all of the cool experiences our students had this year. This list includes the smallest steps and the biggest projects and so many things in between. What you cannot ‘see’ or ‘feel’ by reading this list is the joy and intensity of the learning, the fabulous cooking scents wafting through the middle school hall and beyond, the singing voices from our music room, or the clicking of the keyboards creating blogs, videos, newspapers, and so much more, in our tech lab. What you can’t see are our teachers dedicating themselves to the learners in their classroom with every fiber of their being so that every student gets what is best for them, all students feel challenged, and everyone spends their days here entrenched in meaningful work. This is what we see every day and what we already miss as we move into summer. The halls are quiet, the joy of learning echoes in our hearts as we plan for and await the next school year while still looking at all of this year’s accomplishments.
This list is in no particular order. It is a compilation of many people’s lists and brainstorms. Enjoy it all and have a wonderful summer. Read lots, spend time with family, eat ice cream and get dirty! Stay healthy and enjoy every moment.
2011-2012 at PJA
The Lorax with our 8th grade buddies,
having kabbalat shabbat at the robison home,
riding the PJA bus,
the In Portland play,
the bridges of....Portland,
architects in the schools,
science with Joe,
lighting light bulbs,
Junior Great Books,
keyboarding in the lab,
Beverly Cleary awards party with safranit Heidi,
Portland walking tours,
Art with Sam,
CD recording with Josh,
Reading tic tac toe board,
visiting and building synagogues,
multiplication timed tests,
3-d relief maps of Portland,
Mother's Day tea in full day ganon,
record breaking $10,000 raised from the used book sale,
30 students successfully completing the Oregon Reader's Choice award and Beverly Cleary Reader's Choice award programs,
Eric Kimmel visit,
the first year of the Dragon's Den youth afterschol program for PJA and neighborhood PPS 5-7th grade students,
1728 items donated between all 5 PJA afterschool programs in the month of May for our Neighborhood House food drive,
learned how to write upper case letters,
learned how to walk in line,
learned how to kick soccer balls,
learned how to write our names,
learned how to sit nicely in a circle,
learned our carpool numbers,
learned lots and lots of Hebrew,
new computer lab with 26 new work stations,
Hebrew keyboards around the building,
beautiful student led yearbook,
lots of digital projects across the bldg, like comic strips, Hebrew photostories, movies, Pineapple newspaper,
teacher websites, wikis, and blogs
Fiddler on the Roof in the sixties,
middle school end of year party with the best food buffet EVER!!(All made right here in our very own 'kitchen' by our very own head chef and student chefs!),
Peter Rabbit the Musical,
going to see If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,
Kabbalat Shabbat with Morah Kim,
taglit (our middle school discovery week) which included: Haunted Portland, Upcycling, Winter Wonderland, Off the Beaten Trail, Vaudeville and Hoola Hooping, Home Sweet Home,
field school in 6th grade,
Hebrew proficiency exam,
food collections for Pessach,
food collections for Thanksgiving,
winter clothing collections,
school supply collection,
PJA talent show,
4th grade Potlatch,
class and family Seders,
50th Anniversary Spaghetti Dinner
beautiful middot art work in the PJA lobby,
Heirlooms and Artifacts at the Oregon Jewish Museum,
work with Lisa Kagan,
Hershel and the Chanukah Goblins play in kindergarten,
best ever Purim carnival,
matanot l'evyonim for Purim,
sharing mishloach manot on Purim,
baking matzah with the Matzah baker,
preschool spirit days,
middle school spirit days,
jammie read-in days,
Bonneville Dam trip,
Visit to Lelooska,
Books and Bagels,
Passover program at Mount Scott Community Center with PJ library,
Martin Luther King assembly,
2nd grade signing and singing with Richard,
Rice Museum of Rocks and Minerals trip,
Great Kapok Tree performance in 2nd grade,
Yom Hashoa commemoration,
Yom Hazikaron commemoration,
Yom Ha’atzmaut shuk,
Skyping with Shahar’s friends and family in Israel,
Preschool ‘visit’ to Israel,
Pumpkin Patch trip,
Humane Society visits PJA preschool and PJA preschool visits the Humane Society,
collaborative Pre-K programs,
creating menus in Hebrew,
hot air balloons,
mouse trap vehicles,
learning to make fire in 4th grade,
Foundations of everything: cooking, tech, music, drama, art,
new art studio,
bake sale in the preschool,
Africa project with Paige,
Tu B’shvat Seders,
Preschool monthly tzedaka project,
Very Busy Spiders
PPS math workshops,
teachers participating in Oregon Writing Project across the curriculum,
Tal AM training,
JS teachers visit JDS in Seattle,
and end of year celebrations of all of the great learning that took place every day at PJA in 2011-12.
Thank you so much for another wonderful year at PJA. Thank you for entrusting your children to our care every day. They are treasures and we hold them all so dear.
Enjoy summer. Come visit! It is quiet and lonely around here.
on Wednesday June 20, 2012 at 11:02PM
Today is April 1st and my big April fool’s joke was to come to my office and have no access to the internet or my computer, which left me totally dumbfounded, until I realized how much I could actually do without my computer. While cleaning through my files and getting some paper work done I also had time to think - imagine that - without the distraction of my emails and internet. Those thoughts led me to parents at PJA and that is where I want to take us today.
In Jewish day schools parents play a very big role in their child’s education. You volunteer in the classroom, on field trips, at Kabbalat Shabbat, the library, at the school auction, the scrip table, the PTO, the board, parent ambassador group, and any number of other opportunities. Parents are in our hallways all of the time and we come to know our community better by having you around so much. We love it as it helps us realize our vision to see the hard work of our parent body.
We talk a lot at PJA about making mensches. We talk about our students as mensches who work hard, do good things for their PJA community and the community beyond. They are good to each other, to their teachers, to their school. We know, of course, that all of these mensches have parents who stand behind them and you are who I would like to acknowledge today. Just this week I can count a few particularly salient examples of our parents as mensches. I watched our 8th grade parents rally to support one of their fellow 8th grade families during a time of sadness. I watched parents organize to support this family with their children and was once again impressed with the amount of love and support they show to each other. I also know that in other grades parents are working hard to get drivers and snacks for a special Pessach program off campus and helping teachers prepare for model seders. Without all of your efforts and support, we would not be able to do so many of the things that we do here.
PJA parents are always so good at showing teachers and administration appreciation for the work we do here and as Pessach approaches and we get ready to go off and spend some time with our families enjoying seder meals together, I want to express our appreciation to you, our parents, for all that you do every day at PJA; for supporting your children in big and small ways here, we thank you. your hard work here never goes unnoticed. You are valued and greatly appreciated and you are truly living v’shinantem l’vanecha (Sh’ma) and you shall teach it to your children.
Thank you so very much. Have a wonderful Passover, enjoy each other and your time with friends and family.
on Monday April 2, 2012 at 08:35AM
It has been such a busy time with so much to talk about that I am not sure where to begin so I think I will work backwards. I am sitting in my very sunny fishbowl this Sunday afternoon watching families pour into the MJCC for the annual Purim celebration. It is hard to imagine that Purim is upon and as I see the sun shining, crocus’ and daffodils popping up in our gardens, and think about the hamentashen I will be baking this week, I realize how much time has gone by since the start of the school year and how quickly time seems to be flying by!
This morning at 4:45 I was privileged to help send our 8th graders off to Israel. They will be in Israel for 2 weeks, returning on March 19 with two glorious weeks of enriching, educational, fun, and emotional experiences added to their life experiences. It was so exciting to see how exuberant everyone was, how eager everyone seemed to be to finally have reached this day. So much work has gone into planning this trip for everyone. This fantastic group of students and parents spent countless hours raising funds for the trip by creating amazing videos, babysitting both in and out of school, doing yard work, selling candy, Chinook books, fresh berries, and so much more that I am sure I am missing. It has been amazing to be a part of all of this true commitment to the trip. I know that this class will be an example to classes in the future when it comes to really working hard to make the trip happen. In addition, the students designed a fabulous new t-shirt and they couldn’t be missed at the airport in their bright red PJA to Israel shirts! The class agreed on a tzedakah project for the trip and brought with them games and toys to give children at Neve Michael, a community in Israel developed for children who can no longer live in their homes. All of that and so much more went into the planning and now they are on their way. Thanks to the tremendous work of their two chaperones, Tracy and Noah, who are with them to be their ‘parents’ on this journey, and to all of the work of Ramah Institute, who facilitate this wonderful trip with a fantastic itinerary and great leadership and educators on the ground in Israel. It was all summed up for me by one mom who through her tears told me that her son had told her that this was the trip he had been waiting for for 8 years and it was finally here! Amen! Have a great time 8th graders. We are excited to follow you on your journey. Watch for info and photos about the trip on our website throughout the coming weeks.
Last week I was privileged to attend the National Association of Independent Schools conference in Seattle. How lucky Betsy and I were to have had this opportunity in our neighboring state. We sat amongst more than 4000 educators in the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle listening to Bill Gates, the key note speaker, talk about innovation in education and ways to ensure that ALL children get the education they deserve. He spoke at length about how we can be innovators in our own schools, not only with fancy tools, and devices, but with proper education as to how to use these tools, and assurance that we are giving appropriate instruction to all. In addition to the privilege of hearing Bill Gates, there were literally hundreds of sessions going on throughout the two and a half days on everything from board education to advancement and all things in between. We were engaged in conversations about all things education and were inspired to be the best educators we can be. As a principal I walked away knowing that I must commit myself even more to being with our students, in their classrooms, learning with them, being accessible to them, and supporting them in their everyday lives here at PJA.
I returned from Seattle late Thursday night so that I could be a part of a lovely and warm celebration of our beautiful new art pieces proudly hanging in our lobby. These pieces were a gift given by our students to our school in honor of our 50th anniversary. With the guidance and mentoring of our superb artist in residence, Lisa Kagan, grades 2-8 were each asked to depict one of the middot (values) on which our school stands. These depictions were then placed together in a mosaic of sorts, to represent the 6 middot: learning-Limmud, respect-Kavod, responsibility-Achrayut, gratitude-Hoda’ah, identity-Zehut, community-Kehillah. It was a beautiful celebration which gave us all an opportunity to see the joy in every single day at PJA. As we listened to students speak about the project and what it meant to them to work on a certain middah(value) with their class, we were again reminded of the tremendous value of a day school education, where students come together to learn, live, and work for the world in which they live, and where parents and community members are regularly a part of these learning opportunities. It was a wonderful way to usher in Shabbat and gave us all a reason to be so very grateful for our PJA community.
Shavua Tov to all and Chag Purim Sameach. Happy Purim!,
on Monday March 5, 2012 at 09:40AM
Every day brings new and interesting revelations and relevancies to the work we do in education, as in life. Sometimes experiences coincidentally converge in the same period of time, and seem ‘beshert’ (Yiddish for meant to be.)
Earlier this week I had the privilege of attending a workshop put on by PNAIS (Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools) on the Puzzle of Dynamics. We explored issues of interpersonal relationships both in and out of our school, and spoke about how inclusion, control, and openness can be interpreted in different situations and can determine the outcomes of certain situations. The importance of relationships and how we see ourselves in those relationships can influence how we make proposals at a meeting, conversations we have with our peers and parents, and the way students respond in our classrooms. It is essential for us to be open to ideas of others in order to allow for inclusion, even when the decision may not come out completely as one wishes.
Yesterday I heard a lovely d’var Torah (Hebrew for word of Torah) at shul (synagogue) that gave me pause and complemented the work I had done earlier in the week at the PNAIS workshop. It really made me think about what it is to be an open communicator and to develop strong relationships. The drash focused on the word yedid, a Hebrew word for ‘dear one, friend’. One of the interpretations of the word that was given was one that I had not heard before. It looks at the root of the word, in this case YAD (hand) and interprets the root as YAD B’YAD –hand in hand. As we all know, going forth in relationships takes a yedid, dear one, who asks us to go hand in hand with them, whether it is personally or professionally.
As I listened to the drash I was struck by the timely convergence of the day long workshop earlier in the week on the ‘Puzzle of Dynamics’, the very current topic at PJA of what technology and communication look like in our school, and the idea of relationships. What does it mean to have relationships in 2012? It certainly looks different than it did 5, 10, certainly 20 years ago. It is more complicated, has less real face time, and very different communication style than it did years ago. We are often asked how we preserve the depth of relationships in a time when it is much easier to send an email, a text, or simply blog, than to come face to face with a person or situation and have that meaningful conversation. Our children are blogging for school, texting with friends, emailing their teachers. Are they also having those important conversations that offer more depth, time, and emotion? Do they know how to have a ‘face’ in a conversation or is it easier for them (us) to hide behind that device and send an email or text? One of the examples given in the drash I heard yesterday was of how we have come to listen to music of late. We all have our own playlists, listen on our headphones, and thus, do not share with others the music we are listening to. How different this is from sitting together in a room to share the music, sing or dance together, and be able to simply be together. How can we preserve this while also embracing the joys and benefits of technology? This is a question we face every day at PJA, and I would guess, at most schools. The essence of Jewish learning is to talk, to argue, to debate, to be face to face with issues that are important and relevant. As we continue to unfold the direction of technology integration at our school we are constantly examining the issue of appropriate use of technology tools to enhance learning, to help the teacher, and to give the students more opportunities to explore. We are not looking at technology as a replacement for the human interaction and relationships that are so very important to the essence of our lives. in fact, in order to gain a stronger and deeper understanding of what technology can give us and how significant a tool it can be in our classrooms and beyond, we must continue to engage in the face to face dialogue, build our relationships, and see ourselves as yedidim (friends, partners) in the pursuit of appropriate communication with our partners, friends, students, and colleagues. We must remain open to the possibilities and inclusive of the many ideas and presented to us.
May we continue to forge ahead together as we respectfully enter into these conversations as yedidim.
Enjoy the coming week! Shavua Tov!
on Monday February 13, 2012 at 08:28AM
It has been ages since my last post and so much has transpired that I am not sure where to begin. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the North American Jewish Day School Conference held this year in Atlanta, Georgia. The topic for the conference was 21st century learning and we covered things ranging from the day school value proposition to working with children with learning challenges. Keynotes addressed important topics such as the importance of Jewish education, specifically Jewish day school education, and presenters came from all branches of Jewish education. The conference included schools from RAVSAK, the Jewish community day school consortium of which we are proud members, Solomon Schechter schools, the Conservative movement day school, Pardes, the reform Jewish Day school consortium, and Yeshiva University, the Orthodox day school group. It is a wonderful way to meet people, hear about the different things happening at day schools across the country, schmooze over dinner, find quiet places to talk after and in between sessions, daven (pray) together and learn new and exciting approaches to the many aspects of day school education.
I had the great fortune to be invited to participate in an ELI talk, modeled on the TED talks with which we are all so familiar. These talks will be made available to the public very soon and will hopefully be a springboard for many more such talks in the future. Among the people I was privileged to hear at my ELI talk was Rabbi Marc Baker of the Gann Academy in Massachusetts. Earlier in the conference I participated in a critical friends group with Marc as well, dealing with the difficult topic of working with families of students with learning challenges. His talk at the ELI talks focused on self reflection and how one bring the values they believe to be important to the work that they do every day with families, faculty, and of course students. It was a thoughtfuland insightful talk which gave me pause to think about how we at PJA view the middot (foundational values) important to us, and internalize them as individuals.
How do we view Kavod (respect, honor) in our own lives and in the lives of our Jewish Day School? Kavod is one of the central middot on which our school stands. It is a central value for all of us to aspire to ‘get right’. What does it mean to ‘get Kavod Right?’ I have given this a great deal of thought and as an administration we have spent time over the past few weeks talking about Kavod in general, and specific to our school. This will be a topic of our coming inservice and will be something we work harder to enforce in our student and parent body.
As a brainstorming activity I asked myself this question and here is what I came up with.
At PJA Kavod looks like:
RESEPCTING EACH OTHER- our friends, our teachers, our parents, our Rabbis, everyone who walks through these doors.
WHITE SHIRTS on FRIDAYS in honor of SHABBAT
Eating Kosher food
Wearing a Kippah during times of tefillah, meals and Jewish Study (or all the time if you are so inclined)
Abiding by our school’s dress code (to be found in our parent handbook on the website for those who didn’t know we had one)
Speaking respectfully to our teachers and other adults in our building, whether they are the people who teach us every day or make sure our building and classrooms are clean, we honor them and respect them all the same
Communicating appropriately with our friends, colleagues, and community members. Yes, this is a big one and in this day and age can be misused all too easily. Remember that texting and emails are easy to abuse and should be used carefully and with utmost respect. It is easy to say things via email or text that are not as easy to say in person. If you cannot say it face to face, you should probably not say it via text or email either. I try and remind myself of this every day.
Keeping our school clean and neat by picking up after ourselves, not leaving papers, books, back packs, garbage, lying around in the halls or in our classrooms. Everything has a place. If you see garbage lying around, pick it up and either recycle or throw it away. If you see property lying around and you know who it belongs to, give it back to that person or bring it into the office.
In class when speaking with your classmates and teachers remember that we have a certain way we speak appropriately with each other. Not everything is ok to say and there are proper ways to communicate concerns or needs.
This list can and will grow. I have only begun to scratch the surface. I welcome you to add to this list by doing your own brainstorming at home, in your classrooms, on your own at a quiet time or place.
Let us always remember how important KAVODis to our everyday life. It is essential to our relationships and to maintaining our strong moral compass.
Thank you for participating in this conversation with me.
With utmost KAVOD to you all,
on Monday January 30, 2012 at 09:33AM
I hope that the first days of this year have been healthy and happy for you and that it is the start of a year filled with all that we value as individuals and as a community. As we look ahead we know that this month is busy and filled with opportunities for growth. We begin school today and I look forward to welcoming everyone back and hearing about vacation adventures. I know that many of our families traveled near and far this break and hope that your travels brought you closer to family, gave you opportunities for adventure, challenges, fun, and maybe even relaxation! I spent part of the winter break in New Jersey with my children visiting our family there. We celebrated birthdays, Chanukah, and even got to see our nephew play in a varsity hockey game! GO NOAH! We walked the High Line in Manhattan which was very exciting and VERY windy, and braved the unbelievable crowds at both Rockefeller Center and Times Square (not recommended at this time of year!). Most of all we enjoyed good food, friends, and family celebration.
January is a busy month at PJA as we plan for and anticipate a great OPEN HOUSE this coming Sunday, January 8 from 1-3 pm. Please tell your friends to join us at this event which will give them an opportunity to see the school, hear from teachers and parents, and ask questions of our administration. We look forward to meeting many potential families this coming Sunday. If you know of a family who CANNOT make it this Sunday, please have them call and make an appointment with Inge Hoogerhuis, our stellar admissions director, who will set up a time to meet with them and give them a tour of the school.
Also in January we will be having both our kindergarten and middle school step up days. This is a time when our ganon, both full and half day, spend some time in the kindergarten classroom with Morah Celinda, and have a chance to BE PJA KINDERGARTNERS! All of our ganon students will have this opportunity and parents are, of course, welcome. We will let you know when this will take place for your child's class.
During the second week of January (yes that's next week!) our 5th graders will have an opportunity to be buddied up with a 6th or 7th grader and will enjoy a morning in the middle school. They will be a part of regular classes and will move through the halls like middle school students do. They will experience the different teachers and subjects in the middle school. We hope this gives our 5th graders a good sense of what Middle School at PJA is like and gets them excited for the coming year at PJA.
January is also the time of the North American Jewish Day School conference, happening this year in Atlanta, Georgia. This year at least 3 of us will be attending this conference - Rabbi Chaiton, Sarah Blattner, and me - and we look forward to meeting with and learning from Jewish educators from all across North America. This conference includes day schools from RAVSAK (community day schools), Solomon Schechter (Conservative day schools), Pardes (Reform Day schools), and orthodox schools. It offers sessions in everything from Hebrew language learning to day school recruitment and everything in between. We are excited to be there amongst our colleagues, including old friends Julie Smith, Patricia Schwartz, and Sharon Pollin, who many of you may remember fondly. I look forward to sharing this experience with my colleagues and returning to share some of what we learn with all of you.
January also brings much fun, as always, both in the classroom and in the field. Our 5th graders head to Islandwood on Bainbridge Island in Washington, at the end of the month with three PJA teachers, Harriet Wingard, Nicole Hampton, (lower school instructional assistant) and Shahar Eden (middle school Hebrew Teacher). While at Islandwood they not only bask in the beauty of their surroundings, they also meet students from 2 other Jewish Day Schools in the Seattle area.
If you have not had an opportunity to stop by and see the beautiful gifts your children presented to their school on its 50th birthday, please be sure to come in and see the gorgeous pieces of art created by our students under the guidance of Lisa Kagan, artist in residence. These pieces are representations of the six foundational middot (values) upon which an education at PJA is built : Kavod (respect), Limmud (learning), Zehut (identity), Achrayut (responsiblity), Kehillah (community), and Hoda'ah (appreciation). These are a truly magnificent addition to our school. Watch for a celebration date coming soon as we officially 'unveil' these beautiful pieces of art with our community.
I am sure I have left something out as I know that there is much more to tell. Watch for more over the next month as we look forward to February when we will have our middle school Taglit, the National Association of Independent Schools conference in Seattle, and of course, more great learning that happens every day in our classrooms.
Happy 2012! Wishing you all a year of limmud (learning), kehillah (community), and achrayut (responsibility) for our community, our school, and the world in which we live, as we continue to think for ourselves and work for the world at PJA.
L'hitraot and I'll see you in the crosswalk!
on Tuesday January 3, 2012 at 08:45AM