The end of this year also signifies a time of transition for CJDS. As a teacher, an educational leader, as a Jew, and as someone deeply committed to doing everything I can to continue to grow this rich and vibrant learning community we love so much, I am delighted and grateful to the Board of Trustees for appointing me to become CJDS's next Head of School as of July 1st.
Before I continue, I must express my deep gratitude for the leadership, mentorship and friendship of Tali Zelkowicz over the last two years. I have learned so much about school leadership, about the scholarship of education, and about myself in my work with Tali. I am grateful that she will continue to be present at CJDS as a strategic advisor over this next year and that I will be able to continue to learn with and from her.
As I transition into this new position, I want to share with you my Educational Philosophy, which I was honored to share with the Board of Trustees during my interview process. This philosophy has been honed over my years of educational experience as a teacher, a dean, a director and a principal. These are the building blocks that I believe lead to a healthy, vibrant, and intensely educative school environment and learning community, and I look forward to talking about and exploring them with you together in the months to come.
First, schools are communities. Communities are created and built through deliberate and thoughtful actions of faculty, staff and students towards each other. Members of a community are accountable to each other, care about the well-being of one another, and give of themselves to help each other. Students, faculty and staff share so much time together, they know and care about the ups and downs of each other’s lives. Schools are able to do their best work when the people within it are invested in being part of a tight-knit community.
Partnership is essential. All stakeholders in a school community are working towards the same end goal – student learning. When administrators, teachers, parents and students are on the same page, almost any issue can be solved in the best interest of the student. When a party doubts the intention of the others, conflicts become much harder to settle. Creating partnerships takes time, investment and trust. I believe it is the school’s responsibility to build that trust with families from the moment the family walks in the door to tour the school, all the way through graduation.
Excellent learning means excellent teaching. I believe that schools should foster a culture of professional development where teachers continue to grow in their craft and strive for excellence. Excellent teachers work towards the best education for their students by being learners themselves. Teachers need to be immersed in discourse about their craft internally, as well as beyond the school’s walls. They need to learn their students’ strengths as learners and work hard to meet their needs. Students have the potential to thrive when teachers reach out to their teaching colleagues and other school-based staff to help them reach their potential and feel a sense of accomplishment.
I take very seriously the “Whole Child” approach. Students are not robots. They have feelings, lives outside of school, hormones, and relationships – so many other things that are at play in their hearts, minds and bodies. Acknowledging this allows students and teachers to have closer and more authentic relationships. I believe that when we see the whole child in front of us, we will see the truest and best student that can be. We should celebrate the strengths of all students and in doing so welcome them as whole beings into our community.
Resilience fosters growth. Students must make mistakes in order to learn. It is my belief that the most important element in school is helping students learn from their mistakes and move forward. We teach students that learning will continue throughout their lives as each experience allows us to reflect and grow. In teaching resilience, we help our students become flexible, responsible, brave, creative and honest.
Independence is the endgame. Students must learn how to advocate for themselves. I believe that students should graduate feeling empowered, confident and articulate. The foundation for all of these qualities is building relationships with teachers where students feel seen and heard.
Pluralism fosters dialogue. As a Jewishly pluralistic school, CJDS celebrates multiple expressions and practices across our families and we teach about and respect differences across the Jewish religious spectrum. Diversity among students comes in many other forms, as well – political, socioeconomic, learning ability, racial, and more. Pluralistic schools invite diversity to the table and help students articulate their opinions and be a part of the conversation about how to build community.