November 9, 2018
Nelson Mandela, the first elected democratic president of South Africa and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
Each day, I watch the world being changed as I see our children learning lessons big and small, enabling them to grow and allowing them to have an impact on their local and global communities. This week, I have witnessed a different form of learning — adult learning. I cannot remember a week so personally rich in adult learning since I attended an educators’ workshop at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem in 2006. This week has been action packed, and the learning for me and our faculty has been outstanding.
On Monday and Tuesday, we engaged in Professional Development Days. The flow of the two days was carefully crafted to reflect the important element of our school’s vision and our strategic plan. Teachers engaged in whole group, division-based and dyad learning, and explored topics as diverse as the application of art therapy in instruction and pluralistic ways to incorporate prayer into the classroom.
Particularly special about these PD days was that some of our facilitators came from our own community. Two of our sessions, both noted as highlights by the teachers, were led by parents. Yona Reznick led a wonderfully informative and enjoyable session on incorporating art into classroom learning and culture as a way to enhance meaning and connection for children. We definitely learned a lot and were exposed to teaching techniques that we can implement today, but we also had a lot of fun. Did you know that teachers get so excited when they have fresh crayons and markers to play with? The joyful spirit with which we began our day allowed us to delve deeply into the learning for the remainder of the day.
Seth Goren, a parent of a Grade 2 student and a local rabbi and Jewish community professional, helped us to better understand the structure of daily prayer and ways to make personal connections to many of the prayers we recite each morning. We took a deep dive into Modeh Ani, examining commonalities and differences among various versions, and we considered how this type of exercise could enrich the prayer experiences within our classrooms and communities.
Finally, our teachers were gifted with collaborative planning time to explore, as appropriate, an upcoming math unit or Hebrew reading assessment. The power of collaboration in the workplace cannot be underestimated. In a follow-up survey, teachers commented on the value of the time spent planning with colleagues and how understanding academic development across two or three grades enhanced their own ability to plan for the breadth of learners in their own classroom.
On Wednesday, I, along with two other inspiring women from our community, attended the #MoveTheDial Global Summit. The learning was spectacular. I had the opportunity to reflect on equity and inclusion in the workplace, and how I, as a leader, can ensure the best work experiences for my faculty. Teri Currie, a Senior Executive at TD Bank, discussed how to build an outstanding workplace culture. I listened carefully, as I know the faculty culture we create has a direct impact on the learning outcomes and experiences for our students and families. Teri talked about giving your people opportunities beyond belief. I truly hope that as a school leader, I give our teachers opportunities beyond belief so that they are able to do the same for our students.
In the Modeh Ani prayer which we studied on Tuesday, we thank God for restoring our soul each morning. The learning I have experienced this week through Holocaust Education Week, our Professional Development Days and the #MoveTheDial Global Summit has left me feeling restored and ready. As I move into the CAIS accreditation and the last six weeks of term, I feel energized and equipped to lead our faculty and students through marvelous learning experiences. This week proved to me that education truly is the best weapon with which to change the world.