HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


Reshet Roundup: Voices from the Field

by Debra Shaffer Seeman Issue: School Advocacy

When coaching networking professionals, I’m often asked about Prizmah’s “webinars,” our virtual presentations offered by content-area experts, and “virtual roundtables,” conversations among a group of school leaders. These webinars and roundtables form part of a large, robust set of opportunities within Prizmah’s Reshet groups, networks for peer-to-peer connection. Just as we believe that school leaders who share their learning and expertise with colleagues contribute to the power of the field, we believe we should share some of Prizmah’s thinking about the three central goals that these virtual convenings fill within Prizmah’s broad Reshet portfolio, while inviting you to consider ways to meet these goals within your school.

Prizmah’s robust webinar and roundtable calendar is reflective of the dynamic and responsive nature of our work. These convenings are often direct outgrowths of specific online conversations within a Reshet. Heads of school discussing their boards’ practices of support and evaluation led to parallel webinars on the topic for heads and board leaders. Out of a conversation about progressive thinking on faculty compensation, a webinar for school heads and finance team members was organized within 48 hours. Similarly, a Judaic Administrator Reshet conversation about challenges of project-based learning quickly transitioned to a live virtual conversation featuring three principals with a range of experiences to share with colleagues. Key to the success of each of these convenings was the decentralized nature of their creation. Reshet members expressed a need and were empowered to bring the event to fruition, with the support of the Prizmah networking team. As such, the webinars and roundtables function as high-impact, timely responses to an expressed need in the field.

In your community: Each school has faculty and lay leaders with unanswered questions and a willingness to come together to explore possible answers. Consider what it would take to empower them to find those answers as a community. How quickly can your school offer access to expert responses to faculty’s toughest questions? Beyond feeling empowered to do so, does the faculty have time and resources allocated to the endeavor? If your school doesn’t yet have a version of Genius Hour for your faculty—a time when they regularly explore their passions and research answers to the questions they’re most passionate about—what might it look like?

Prizmah’s virtual roundtables enable school leaders to connect with one another in real time and learn from colleagues’ hard-earned experiences. Roundtables have showcased dynamic head of school and development professional partnerships, elementary and high school leaders who are integrating STEAM and Makerspace into the Jewish studies curriculum, and successful marketing-admission teams. Each event provides a forum for school leaders to share their expertise. They offer a glimpse into one another’s classrooms and offices, enabling leaders from one school to gain a strong understanding of another leader’s philosophy of practice, tried-and-true strategies, celebrated mishaps and vision for future success. Presenters’ resources and a recording of each event are then accessible to all other Reshet members through Prizmah’s dedicated resource libraries.

In your community: What does peer-to-peer learning look like in your own school? Are there ways to push it beyond the status quo? Consider how often faculty visit one another’s classrooms and reflect on their observations. What are some mechanisms you might put into place in order to share that learning more widely?

Rather than functioning as stand-alone events, Prizmah’s webinars and virtual roundtables create additional pathways for colleague-to-colleague learning. Many of the virtual events include an invitation for continued connection. As such, the events function as springboards for deeper learning and continued partnership between schools and their leaders. Collegial working groups focused on exploring a specific topic, learning a new skill, or holding one another accountable for the implementation of a project have all grown out of webinars. Opportunities to join JDS Collaborative cohorts, where faculty from one school join colleagues from around North America to work on a well-defined project with the support of a skilled facilitator, amplify the network’s capacity through the power of collaboration. Rather than functioning as islands in the sea of time, the webinars and roundtables serve as starting points in coming together for shared learning opportunities.

In your community: Consider the ways in which professional development opportunities are woven into the fabric of the school year, rather than as one-off events. When smaller groups of school leaders choose to dive deeper into an area of interest, are there reserved and dedicated times that are available to them for collaboration? Is there anyone on faculty who will support them as needed so that they’re able to see the work through to completion?

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School Advocacy

This issue offers insights and strategies concerning school advocacy, by which is meant the ways that a school promotes itself, markets itself and speaks about itself. Authors offer insights into what day schools should know about young parents, and the various means to reach them, both online and in person. Other articles consider how schools can take some of their core practices, such as teaching Hebrew and supporting diverse learners, and use them in their promotion. Additionally, the issue looks at ways that day schools can tap into the larger community and its institutions for purposes of advocacy.

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