A few years ago, while on a visit to Elon University in North Carolina with other college counselors, I had breakfast with a former student from Gann Academy, the pluralistic Jewish day school where I work. I did not know the student well. I was relatively new to Gann when she was a senior, and she had worked with the other counselor in my office. So I asked the student why she decided to enroll at Elon. “I wanted to get out of my Northeast Jewish bubble,” she said.
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
The articles in this issue begin with a recognition of the difference and legitimacy of summer experiences, their necessity for the personal, social and spiritual development of children. At the same time, day schools conceive of themselves as model worlds that students are meant to take with them throughout the year and throughout their lives. Authors explore creative ideas for layering the educational and spiritual goals of school with the activities and environments of summer camp and downtime. Other pieces describe ways for various day school stakeholders to use the quiet summer months to prepare for their work during the school year.
Click here to download the PDF and printer friendly version of this issue of HaYidion.
How many times has this happened in your school:
Imagine you are welcoming your students on the first day of school after many of them have been at Jewish summer camp. What is going through your mind?
A) I hope they didn’t forget everything they learned last year! Maybe they learned even more in the 24/7 Jewish educational environment of Jewish camp.
B) I can’t wait to see how they’ve matured socially and emotionally after living in community with friends, negotiating intense feelings and close relationships.
Summer homework has increased in recent years. Frequently, these assignments include highly prescribed activities, even though evidence of their utility is scant. Educators should pause to analyze their goals and approach in assigning summer homework. In order to truly support students’ growth, teachers must value students’ interests, their summer experiences and all factors that contribute to students’ academic prosperity.
I am guilty as charged. Spring is in full swing, and there is still an untouched pile of summer assignments sitting on my desk. Luckily (or perhaps not) my students have never once asked about them, what grade they earned, or whether they would be returned. Evidently, something is wrong with the model; no value, significance or meaning has been dispensed to the summer work.
If you want to increase your fundraising, improve your relationships, align your staff and get creative, summer is your golden time. As June 30 approaches, we urge you to plan to use this valuable time wisely, even though it can be hard to be a 12-month employee at a school when the majority of your colleagues are off-campus for the summer. Reframe the summer time as a tremendous opportunity, not a burden.
Hello Muddah, hello Faddah
Here I am at Camp Granada
Camp is very entertaining
And they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining.
Summer is a time for growth, both in nature and in ourselves. As the trees around us grow and change, Prizmah is blooming, too. This time last year, Prizmah did not exist. We were five separate organizations. The idea was merely a seed of inspiration. And now, we are together, operating as a unified pan-North American entity, preparing for summer and working toward an even stronger future for Jewish day school education.
Five current Prizmah board members who served on the boards of the legacy organizations discuss their observations of Prizmah’s growth during this first year. Participants: Paul Bernstein, moderator; Michael Bohnen, Jodi Hessel, Nathan J. Lindenbaum, Joseph Steiner and Dara Yanowitz.
Paul: After nearly one year, what are people saying about Prizmah?
We are a small school in a small community with limited staff. We rely heavily on our volunteers for support. It seems like the same people keep showing up, and I am afraid we are wearing out our volunteers and their goodwill. What should we do?
What parents and teachers need is support from administrators who are willing to challenge the conventional wisdom. They need principals who question the slogans that pass for arguments: that homework creates a link between school and family (as if there weren’t more constructive ways to make that connection!), or that it “reinforces” what students were taught in class (a word that denotes the repetition of rote behaviors, not the development of understanding), or that it teaches children self-discipline and responsibility (a claim for which absolutely no evidence exists).
Among the portfolio of services that Prizmah offers are placement services, tailored for each school by a team of highly experienced professionals. Prizmah works with schools to implement strategic recruitment practices in order to attract the best candidates, and designs and supports a thorough interview and smart selection process to identify the best candidate. These search processes are conducted in strictest confidence. Below is an interview with a search committee chair at a school that has just completed a successful hire in partnership with Prizmah.
The genuine desire to “innovate” has led many schools to embrace new pedagogies and technologies. There is a growing recognition by schools of all types that in order to personalize, to better differentiate, to incorporate 21st century literacies, to increase choice and student ownership of learning, to add so-called “soft skills,” etc., it is necessary to provide students with cutting-edge experiences. Examples include STEM/STEAM, Robotics, Project-based Learning, Blended Online Learning and Makerspace, and we’ve dedicated our two prior columns to just these kinds of ideas.
Stolen Beauty: A Novel
by Laurie Lico Albanese
Stolen Beauty is a book about the life of Adele-Block Bauer and her niece Maria Altmann. It takes place in the wealthy world of early 20th century Vienna and the rapidly darkening years of the 1930s. You may have heard or seen Woman in Gold, the movie starring Helen Mirren as Maria, who sues the Austrian government for the return of her aunt’s magnificent painting by Gustav Klimt, stolen by the Nazis. This book fleshes out the story with fictional accounts of Adele’s and Maria’s lives.
The school year typically ends with the sound of a thud. It is the sound of an envelope or folder (usually manila), occasionally wrapped with thick rubber bands, landing on a student’s desk. Like an exhausted dock worker, the student sticks this envelope under her arm or in his backpack. The child emerges from the last day of school and climbs into the backseat of his car to a parent asking the hopeful and joyful question, “How was the last day of school, honey?” The student takes that manila package or folder out, like a messenger serving legal papers to the newly indicted, and drops it on the front seat of the car in disgust.
As the end of the school year comes closer, I can’t help but think back to my own childhood summers and the summer reading program at my local library. To be clear, I was what might be called a reluctant reader. But my mother brought my sister and me to the library on a regular basis, and eventually, I’d find a few books that didn’t look too terrible. My sister, on the other hand, was a voracious reader, no matter the topic.
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