The Class of 2020’s theme for their Siyyum is Rabbi Hillel’s famous dictum from Pirkei Avot, 1: 14: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, when? In keeping with their theme, I’ll speak about doing for ourselves, doing for others, and how those two actions can be connected. To begin, allow me to share a story.
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Four years ago, the Lower School made the decision to embark on a journey to transform our approach to the teaching of TaNaKH/Bible in order to align it with the progressive educational philosophy and practices that were characteristic of instruction in all the other academic disciplines.
Each year I select a characteristic that describes the senior class. I struggled mightily, trying to determine who you were --- unfortunately, I did not have your 2020 vision!! You referred, in your cantata, that you were the class with “ a bad reputation” but I actually never saw that.
Class of 2020, mazal tov! And thanks for inviting me here today.
JDS teachers have taught us two skills in particular for which I’m very thankful. I could list others, but I don’t want to violate a rule set by my father – a past JDS board president – that no graduation speech last longer than the Gettysburg Address.
Congratulations, Class of 2020! I feel honored to be here today on behalf of the faculty, to celebrate you and your accomplishments. It's done! The papers, tests, debates, all of it….Yes, sometimes at 3 am, but regardless, it all got done. So today, my friends, is a great day to pause and reflect upon what has occurred over your time here at JDS. Siyyum marks the culmination of your studies. It is a time to acknowledge the hard work you have put into your classes, your extracurriculars, your community.
There are a multitude of reasons why families choose to send their children to CESJDS. The one that is most present in my mind right now is that we share an intense commitment to engaging our students in a values-based curriculum that promotes social justice. We promote these ideas by including Tikkun Olam/Repair the World in our core values and devoting an entire student outcome to being an ethical, responsible, and compassionate global citizen in our portrait of a graduate.
As a high school faculty, we spend a lot of time talking about teaching and learning. There are always improvements to be made and different approaches to consider. At the center of many of our conversations is metacognition. The Merriam Webster definition of metacognition is, “awareness or analysis of one’s own learning or thinking processes.”
Mathematics has been among the most significantly impacted content areas of education as a result of the technology boom of this generation. Calculations that used to require supercomputers that could only be accessed by the academic elite can now be performed by devices that almost anyone can hold in the palm of a hand.
I attended three different sessions during the High School STEM Conference. All of the sessions allowed me to explore my interests in the STEM field, and connect what I have been learning in my classes to the real world. During my first session of the STEM conference I heard from Chaim Kirby who is a principal software engineer. Mr. Kirby works on developing software to make the medical field more efficient, including disease outbreak tracking applications.
A recent Washington Post perspective article argues that Algebra II and, perhaps, Calculus should be removed from high school math curricula across the country because students won’t likely use the topics in those courses. In their place, the author suggests that courses on big data or statistics would be most relevant to their future needs.
At the beginning of each school year, I speak to our high school students about empathy--the act of truly adopting the perspectives of other people. It’s hard work, I tell them, to break out of our worldview, out of our particular perspective, and consider what other people feel and believe, as well as why they feel and believe what they do.
I read an article recently by John Pavlovitz about his experience at the grocery store the day after his father passed away. Since it was so hard for him to keep himself together, he was rude to some fellow customers, which was these strangers’ only interaction with him. Some random guy was treating them disrespectfully, so they could only assume that he acted in a rude and ill-tempered way all the time. No one knew that his father had just passed away, so this was their only idea of who he was.
What is gender inclusion education, you may ask? It is a program of learning that engages students, staff, families, and the community with topics such as gender stereotyping, understanding gender as “binary” or “non-binary”or “spectrum,” and engaging with terms such as “gender identity” and “gender expression.”
Earlier in the calendar year at Shabbat Dinner, Levi Brenner’s (Grade 1) grandmother asked him about his favorite subject in school. His answer was not topical, i.e. math or science, Levi responded that ‘collaboration’ is his favorite subject.
In the last two decades, and especially the last five years, the term resilience has become an education buzzword. All over the internet, media, and education research field, people are asking questions such as, “Why are children less resilient today?” and “How do we help our children become more resilient?”
With nearly 20% of the 21st Century behind us, looking forward, what type of learning is most efficacious for our high school students? Continuing demand for workers with skills in technological domains1 supports study in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), which is, of course, a growing presence among our offerings at CESJDS.
In the Lower School’s August Welcome Back letter, we highlighted a number of new and ongoing initiatives about which we were particularly excited coming into the 2019-2020 school year. Among them, I briefly described a new addition to our Friday morning schedule: Community Morning Meetings.
Earlier this year I was honored to join fifteen other Jewish day school leaders as part of the eleventh cohort of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI). We represent a wide array of school administrator roles - Principals, Heads of School, and Directors - who are all relatively new to the role of their current senior leadership position.
I was impressed with Ms. Westover’s writing ability and found myself absorbed in her story. While her life experience includes extreme hardships that I do not wish upon any others and is, hopefully, foreign to all members of our community, it does touch on a number of points that are pertinent to the educational program in our high school.
The Class of 2023 is and will always be the first CESJDS middle school class in what has become a thriving and strong middle school. As the first 6th graders here at the upper school you were initially disappointed about waiting until 8th grade for your grade trip, which was totally worth it! We also know that sometimes being the first made you feel a bit like guinea pigs.