In the Issue: Time
.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!
The idea for the issue was to look 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 so routine, so basic, that it is assumed to be as unchanging as the classroom walls and the sports field. There’s the daily schedule, with classes marked by bells, tefillah, lunch periods, PE, recess and afterschool; weekly schedules, with subjects arranged exactly so to ensure sufficient time for each; annual calendars, with Jewish holidays, shabbatonim, special days and weeks (color war, PD days). Then there are calendars for other departments: development, admissions, sports seasons, assemblies, theater and more. In schools, truly, to every thing there is a season, carefully mapped out well in advance.
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.
In normal times, Jewish day schools reach for a longer arc of time. Teachers regard their students’ presence in the classroom as part of a life in which they are planting seeds for flourishing in all kinds of ways. Teachers also practice their educational arts by taking their places within millenia-long traditions of transmission. Math teachers can trace ideas to Pythagoras, Euclid and Newton; history teachers, to Thucydides and Josephus. Teachers of Jewish studies see themselves as links in a chain of tradition extending from Abraham and Sinai through rabbinic tradition to future shores far out of sight.
HaYidion issues aim to be mostly timeless, addressing matters of administration, governance and pedagogy that have long shelf lives. By the time we arrived at producing this issue, however, the long shelf life suddenly seemed irrelevant. From the start, the team at Prizmah took to working on COVID-19 matters with a vengeance, seeking to provide schools with the support they needed to adapt and thrive under vastly changed and exigent circumstances. Yet at the same time, the normal matters of school life do not go away; we continue to care about good teaching, effective leadership, board stewardship. Hence, this issue acknowledges our present situation but also looks to the past and future, returning us to the day-to-day business of Jewish schools that are at the heart of our work and passion.
Indeed, as will be evident to the reader, articles in this issue were written at different times in relation to the pandemic. Some written in advance we decided to leave as is, while for others it seemed obtuse not to at least add an acknowledgment that the advice given in the article is not currently applicable. A third group was written later although planned earlier; these authors were able to face the present more fully in their writing. As we are fond of saying, “The situation is fluid,” and that fluidity is represented in the different stances taken here.
The first section suggests how schools can adjust their calendars—in the office, the classroom, the boardroom—to achieve growth. Etsekson and Rivkin showcase ways that schools can raise more money in less time by replacing the gala. Kushnir describes her school’s comprehensive redesign of its schedule to match its values. Kohn argues for restoring play as the primary time-on-task of early childhood education. Bruder and Safran Novogroder emphasize the importance of devoting time to teacher development, while Barton presents a slew of programming ideas for engaging parents. Shifting to Jewish education, Sandel and Weiss offer ideas for exploring the Jewish calendar with STEAM, and Berkman reveals how his school reconceived of tefillah and class time to allow more opportunities for spiritual connection. The section concludes with reflections on concepts of time in Hebrew by Benstein.
Our school spread this issue exhibits a gallery of pictures, all taken a month or two before the quarantine, that feature extracurricular activities in our schools. In the second section of articles, authors consider ways that stakeholders “find” or “make” time for things they value. The first three articles explore issues of burnout, efficiency and balance: Segal on school heads, Berger on board members, and Zarge on teachers. The next article relates findings from a study performed by CASJE on the way that educational leaders use their time (Levites), followed by reflections offered by two leaders (Mishkin and Rabinowitz). Wiener describes the use of block time to free up schedules, enabling her school’s trademark project-based learning. Kugler presents strategies to help high school students with difficulty in executive functioning to succeed. Levisohn and Kelman round out the issue with a discussion of the (misplaced) role of Jewish identity as a goal of Jewish education, and the way that the notion of Jewish identity has evolved over the past century.
From the whole Prizmah team, we wish you and your entire community health and wellness, unity and mutual support. And we wish you much success in navigating these choppy waters with calm and camaraderie, keeping the ensigns of Jewish education waving brightly, until we are able to land again on familiar territory.