The Principal Learner
I have had some incredible learning opportunities in these past two weeks that I wanted to share with you. It was inspiring, and helped me focus on what is essential to continue to bring our school to higher heights. I also had the opportunity to share about our school and the work we've been doing with educators from around the continent.
First, I attended a conference in Long Beach that was put on by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Then, Eric Chafetz (Judaic Studies Director), Kristin Weiss (Day School Governing Board Chair), and I flew to Atlanta to attend Prizmah, the conference formerly known as the North American Jewish Day School Conference. In both cases, over a thousand educators from near and far gathered together to learn and share about new and exciting findings in secular and Jewish education.
At NAIS, I attended a deep-dive learning session about brain-based education, helping us inform our choices in the classroom based on the constantly evolving field of brain science. I also learned a bit about Restorative Justice, which is an approach to school culture and discipline through which students learn how to act appropriately by doing everything in their power to right the wrongs they have enacted, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
At Prizmah, Eric attended a learning session about differentiating teaching to better meet the needs of all of the learners in our school. He also attended a session in which he was able to reimagine Tefillah education, and another through which he learned about how the learning environment is equally as important as the material, especially in Early Childhood Education (preschool through second grade). Additionally, he explored developmentally-appropriate ways to address the political landscape in Israel with the various ages that our school serves, helping our children form a loving relationship with the real Israel, not a mythical one.
Kristin attended sessions on advancement strategies and solutions for small schools, where she learned how we might take our fundraising and philanthropy goals for the Day School to the next level. Another session she attended on maximizing the power of parents to grow the school, shared the experiences of two Jewish Day Schools and their recommendations to maximize the effectiveness of Ambassador programs. Kristin also learned about constructive partnerships between Boards and Heads of School. These intentional practices can help strengthen our Board and ensure strong governance practices now and in the future. Lastly, Kristin participated in a Design Thinking Workshop which aimed to design solutions for how we might expand the quality and accessibility of Jewish Day Schools across the United States. There were many creative ideas generated that ADAT can continue to explore.
My highlights from Prizmah included learning more about how data regarding student learning achievements can best inform our teaching choices in the classroom and at the administrative level; also, I loved examining how so often, when we are in school leadership positions, the choices we face on a daily basis are not so much about figuring out the "right" answer to problems, but are more about managing the dilemma of when two values you hold dear find themselves in conflict. Also, I was able to learn about methods that other schools have used to successfully create a supportive internal environment of teachers mentoring teachers, making sure that new teachers have support while they navigate their first few years of this rewarding, yet challenging, field.
Most excitingly, I was able to represent our school and present on two different occasions during the Prizmah conference. During one session, I shared about how our work with Stanford's d.school is an example of ways in which Day Schools can partner with outside organizations to improve their schools. I also facilitated a three-hour Design Thinking workshop for 150 attendees, during which we designed methods for Day Schools to create a culture of enthusiastic and sustained innovation at their schools. After both sessions, I had many participants coming up to me to share how incredible our school sounded, and that they hoped they could visit the next time they were in Los Angeles. I can't even begin to describe the pride I felt when talking about our school – one that is both rooted in tradition and innovation, and is at the cutting edge, yet is warm and close.
Both Eric and I are very appreciative to the school team members who needed to work a little harder in our absence to make sure that while we were broadening our horizons, our school's day-to-day operations remained intact. I would like to extend a huge thank you to Sari Goodman, Sarah Schultz, Lauren Quient, Zoe Glassenberg, and Debra Peterkofsky for your hard work and flexibility in our absence!
I have heard it described often that school principals should look at themselves as the principal learners in school organizations. As I write this, Lauren is at the CUE Conference (Computer-Using Educators), and Sari is attending ASCD (The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), perpetuating this ideal. We all can't wait to pass along our learnings to our teachers! I treasure the fact that I am able to be a part of a community that values continuous improvement, learning, and growth. And, most importantly, I love that we are able to offer your children an enriched experience because of it.