Innovation, Resilience, and Risk Taking
This past Sunday, eleven of us flew down to Atlanta, GA to join over 1,100 other Jewish educators from all over the globe for the 2019 Prizmah Conference. There we were encouraged to dream together. Several of our faculty members presented the phenomenal work that they are doing at CESJDS and how they and CESJDS are leaders in the field of Jewish Day School education. George Couros, author of The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity, inspired us to push ourselves to think innovatively about education, parent partnerships, and how we foster student growth and success. Couros charged us to be more flexible in our thinking and to be open to change rather than to fear or shy away from it.
My greatest takeaways from the conference were that resilient people innovate, innovation requires risk taking, and taking risks requires resiliency skills. Apple, IBM, Tesla are all companies that have identified problems we never knew we had and solved them for us with new innovative technology before we realized we had the problem. Innovation can also be the art of introducing a new idea onto something that already exists. Consequently, anyone at any age is capable of innovating, but it requires resilience.
The word “resilient” permeated conversations between friends and educators, appeared as big, bold letters on projected slides, and weaved its way into solutions for the future. Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a family doctor with expertise in child development, shared that while we all talk about wanting our children and students to be happy, when pushed to define what happiness means, we end up using language that more closely resembles resiliency. Resilient children become thriving adults. Couros and Gilboa reminded me that while we need to be there to support my students and children, we also need to let them experience life and take risks, because people learn best through first hand experiences.
Taking risks is crucial to innovation. Adolescence is the time when the brain’s structure and function is setup to take the most risks, which is why we work hard to encourage our students to take academic risks in Middle School. It is the perfect time where adolescents can take risks, and though they might fail at times, there is a safety net to catch them and help them up so that they can try again. Brown, Roediger III, and McDaniel, in their book Make It Stick, demonstrate that learning by struggling through doing, such as tackling new math problems without being told how to do them, may feel worse at first, but it results in stronger long term memory and deeper understanding of what was learned.
The CESJDS Middle School continues innovating to create the most optimal experience for our students. For the 2018-2019 school year, we changed the schedule to create a better advisory experience, overhauled Jewish Journeys so that it allowed our students to explore their Jewish identity and personal journey through different experiences, and added the 8th Grade Civil Rights trip to the South during which our students will apply the lessons and values they learned throughout Middle School. We believe that our openness to innovation is why the CESJDS Middle School is so great.