Hopes and Dreams 5780

September 20, 2019

Read the full Ta Shma, Beit Rabban's weekly email, here

Dear Beit Rabban Community,

It was wonderful to see so many of you yesterday at our annual Curriculum Night. Thank you to all who made the time to attend, and thank you to the many who shared their feedback with us via this survey . We fully understand that surveys are annoying, so it means a lot to us that you actually do complete them when we ask. We deeply value our community’s thinking because it helps us design programs that best meet your needs. In turn, we are best able to serve your children. So, thank you again!

Anyone who has ever attended a back to school night is no doubt familiar with the ubiquitous “hopes and dreams for the year” troupe. Our children’s hopes and dreams are ambitious, funny, reflective and, at times, simply bizarre. Our hopes and dreams for our children are emotionally charged, intense, optimistic, anxiety ridden and so much more. Somehow, this beginning of year ritual never gets old for me. I laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously, when I read the hopes and dreams that our students articulate for themselves. 

Jewish day schools have the good fortune of launching each school year during the month of Elul when our communal vibe is all about hopes and dreams, repentance and resolutions. During this period of time, we communally affirm each person’s right to start fresh with a clean slate. What a beautiful context in which to start a new school year.

In preparation for each Jewish new year, and accompanying new school year, I spend summers working with my colleagues to identify whole-school priorities, these are our hopes and dreams for the school as a whole. We reflect on a variety of inputs: all the parent evaluations we have received; the results of teacher satisfaction surveys that we administer at the end of the school year; and the data from “mid-year in review” and “full year in review” feedback sessions we conduct with our whole staff. We asses our progress on the priorities we identified the past year, and we identify areas for growth for the coming year. Through this process, we have chosen three whole school priorities for 5780; two areas for exploration and prototyping; and a focus for teachers’ professional growth. All these were shared and work-shopped with teachers at our pre-school teacher in-service. I share them with you now in the spirit of articulating hopes and dreams as the new year approaches and because one of the most important reasons we do all this work (outline these goals, specify measurable outcomes under each goal, select particular strategies to achieve these outcomes, and clarify how we will evaluate our performance) is that this transparency helps us remain focused and feel accountable. So, here they are…

School-Wide Goals for 5780:

  • Kinder interactions among students: Our social-emotional curriculum this year will focus on kindness on a one-to-one basis. We will use our Positive Discipline methodology and our community meetings to recognize each others acts of kindness, to learn how to choose kindness during moments of conflict, and to form the habit of committing random acts of kindness, what we call Ahavat Chinam. 
  • Improved teacher access to resources: Our administration will assess teacher’s technological, material, and curricular needs and engage in a design process to ensure that our teachers encounter fewer technical difficulties on a day to day basis, allowing them more time and mind-space to focus on the most important part of their work - the students. 
  • Successful Middle School launch: After many years of communal design and investment, the Beit Rabban Middle School known as the Chativah is finally a reality, and we want to ensure that this new program is properly nurtured. We are committed to making Middle School student learning and growth widely visible to the students, their parents and the larger Beit Rabban community. We are supporting our new Chativah teachers so they can teach their classes, mentor students, build Middle School programming, and collaborate on curriculum and assessments in a way that is highly generative and sustainable. And, finally, we are investing in strong home-school communication and partnership to ensure that parent input continues to inform our growing school.

Priorities for Research and Exploration in 5780:

  • Our Ivrit team is exploring how to more fully integrate spoken and written Hebrew throughout the schedule of the school day, throughout our facilities, and throughout all our programs in order to expand students’ opportunities to engage with Hebrew in authentic and practical ways.
  • A staff working group is collaborating to determine how best to refine our educational practices so we approach LGBTQ and gender with intentionality and strategy that is more consistently aligned with our values.

Finally, professional development for our teachers this year is heavily geared toward understanding the science behind learning. Gan teachers are engaged in a year-long graduate level course on the science of language acquisition with a focus on how children develop pre-literacy skills. Teachers in our older grades are taking a two year-long graduate level course on the science of reading, with the goal of evaluating our curricula to ensure that they are based on the most current research and best practices. Finally, our Ivrit teachers are studying the Orton Gillingham multi-sensory approach to teaching literacy, a methodology based in scientific evidence about how individuals learn to read and write. This approach, which particularly helps people for whom reading, writing and spelling does not come easy, has rarely been applied to the teaching of Hebrew. We are thrilled to have our teachers participate in pioneering its expansion so we can better serve more children.

These are our articulated hopes and dreams for the new school year at Beit Rabban. More importantly, however, we do not lose sight of the fact that these detailed hopes and dreams are all in the service of something much bigger and much more important… helping your children achieve their own hopes and dreams.

Wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,