Sunday, September 23, 2012

Animate - Divided BrainAre you a left or a right brainer?

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift & the rational mind is a faithful servant." ~ Albert Einstein

In a recent RSAnimate video clip, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our 'divided brain' has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society.

Dr. McGilchrist claims that our previous notion of the clear division between the functions of the left and the right hemispheres does not stand in reality anymore. Our worship of the left hemisphere (the sound of reasoning, accuracy and details) in today’s world is dangerous and should be rebalanced by allowing the right side of our brain to chime in (beauty, imagination wholeness).

The ultimate Science must have a beauty at its essence. Following formulaic methods does not result in great (or efficient, for that matter) achievements. An artifact must resonate in both hemispheres.

These words resonate well with Sir Ken Robinson’s talk towards inductive reasoning and how often during our education we were forced to believe there is only one answer/solution rather than taking a closer look at other options, or once again seeing the “big picture”.

What is the reason for this complexity? What is the origin of this “big picture”? It comes from the recent realization that our brain is not necessarily linear, rather a web of neurons that are all interconnected and influencing each other (images can be seen here) . This understanding, which resembles the discoveries of food webs (rather than food chains) is beautifully discussed in a recent  lecture by Manuel Lima from Microsoft Bing, who compares the neuronal network to other recently discovered (or created) networks, such as the web of life and the information and social networks.

During our back to school nights we have tried to share with the community our own vision of education at KSA:

  1. The emphasis on balancing the left and right hemisphere, bringing back into the academic life subjects such as art, music and experiential learning and encouraging curiosity, innovation and creativity.
  2. The power of networking - connecting disciplines and subjects while learning, connecting students to work collaboratively (physically or virtually) and connecting teachers to create together.  
  3. Last but not least - eliminating the hierarchy tree and creating a network of teams/task forces among staff and board members that work towards a common goal - growing together from good to great.

We invite you to join our network in any capacity you can - academic, social or professional.

I wish you and your families

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Growing the Grass Greener

In his book “The No Complaining Rule” Jon Gordon offers 3 methods to approach life with a positive attitude:

1. The But → Positive Technique. This simple strategy helps you turn your complaints into positive thoughts, solutions, and actions. It works like this. When you realize you are complaining, you simply add the word “but” and then add a positive thought or positive action.  

  • I don’t like driving to work for an hour but I’m thankful I can drive and that I have a job.

2. Focus on “Get To” instead of “Have To.” Too often we complain and focus on what we have to do. We say things like “I have to go to work.” “I have to drive here.” “I have to do this or that.” Instead, shift your perspective and realize it’s not about having to do anything. You get to do things. You get to live this life. You get to go to work while so many are unemployed. You get to drive in traffic while so many don’t even have a car or are too sick to travel. Focus on what you get to do. Focus on feeling blessed instead of stressed. Focus on gratitude.

3. Turn Complaints into Solutions. The goal is not to eliminate all complaining. The intent is to eliminate the kind of mindless complaining that doesn’t serve a greater purpose and allow   complaining that is justified and worthwhile. The opposite of mindless complaining is justified complaining. The former is negative and the latter is positive. The different is intent. With mindless complaining, you are mindlessly focusing on problems; however, with justified   complaining you identify a problem, and the complaint moves you toward a solution. Every complaint represents an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.
Gordon’s book teaches us, simply, that the grass is greener where you water it. He posits that, in our work places and our communities, positive energy is the water with which we nurture our garden.  

So, how do we grow our grass greener at KSA?  How do we use all the positive energy and great innovative ideas to unite our community and help it grow to new heights?

We start with our teachers.  We create an environment in which teachers are constantly learning together and from each other.  We encourage teachers to share new ideas, work collaboratively on projects, and even observe each other's classrooms to help improve the teaching and learning in their own classrooms.  

For our students we continue to focus on their strengths and opportunities for growth (hence personal goals). It means celebrating successes in academic and social areas and encouraging our students to be positive towards themselves, their friends, teachers, parents and community. It means observing each child’s growth and the development of his or her passions. Our grass is greener when we encouraging our students to be curious and compassionate and to embrace new experiences.

For our parents, growing the grass greener means building a culture of transparency and partnership. It means that parents are, and will become even more so, part of the collaborative team; working together toward the success of the students, the teachers and KSA as a community.

How can you help us keep the shefa, the flow of positive and holy energy nurturing our garden and our children, vital?  Meet frequently with the Kehillah teachers that educate your child. Be aware of the goals that your child is working toward this year and be an active part of the educational team by continuing to work toward these goals at home. Celebrate successes and express gratitude, both to your child and to our teachers.

Teachers, students and parents are all gardeners of our little corner of Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden.)  What will your roll be in keeping the energy positive and growing the grass greener?  Tell us what you think in the comments.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi David and Dr. Resnick

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why do YOU value KSA?

Why do YOU value KSA?
You'd think that by now our building would be quiet and that most of our teachers would be sitting by the swimming pool enjoying their free days.

Amazingly, they are not!

The building is buzzing with hard workers.  In one corner of the school Lisa Grossman is surrounded by boxes slowly arranging the rooms of the 3-4 grade kehillah, smiling and humming, with Hana busily working by her side. In another corner, Batya, Kathy and Alicia are seriously discussing multi-age curriculum and designing the various center for their kehillah. Our 5th and 6th kehillah, with Sara Zenley, Richard Brancato, Michelle and Miriam also meet frequently to discuss science, technology and room arrangements and our 7th and 8th grade teachers are always here, from Anita to Ariel, Joan to Richard Waldman and many others.  

So why do we value KSA – we value KSA because of the complete dedication of teachers and their commitment to outstanding teaching even if it means that they have to give up their own vacation!
Our administrative staff, our development office, recruitment team, and business office tirelessly meet with us, planning new strategies for next year. So why do we value KSA – we value KSA because of the great collaborative team work, realizing that many brains put together are by far better than one!
In our office we are meeting with teachers to discuss science and math curricula ensuring that KSA continues to be the torch holder in STEM education among Jewish Day schools.  The Judaics teachers are working to solidify a Judaic Studies program that celebrates our Jewish identity and our love of Israel and honors the values of the scholarly Jewish learner.
As teams and as individuals our teachers continue to create goals for students, goals that by the end of the summer will be discussed with the teachers of the coming year. Why do we values KSA? Because each and every one of us believes that excellence is a habit and we strive to teach it to each student in his/her own pace and passion.
These are only a few reasons why WE value KSA.
But we want to know why YOU value KSA?  Leave your comments below on the blog or on our Facebook page!  What?  You haven't "liked" our KSA Facebook page?  Click here and do that right now!

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David and D-Res

By the way...did you know KSA is tweeting all summer long?  Today we gave a sneak peak of our new media production lab.  Follow us @kehillahschacad

Friday, June 22, 2012


There is one word to describe this week - INSPIRED!

On Monday, we were inspired by our teachers and graduates who spoke so beautifully about each other and our Kehillah.

On Tuesday we were inspired by the incredible talent of all of our students at a school-wide talent show.  We bid farewell to our 8th graders and honored our teachers with tribute books and beautiful inscribed bricks, which now dot our pathway.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we were hard at work preparing for next year.  Our staff attended  a webinar on differentiation and took part in SCRATCH training (SCRATCH is a programming language that allows for the integration of technology into multiple disciplines and subject areas.)

With the help of some borrowed Home Depot shopping carts (thanks Steve G.) we got to work re-organizing our classrooms to reflect and celebrate our new Kehillot (Learning Communities.)  Every member of our staff helped out (and had a little fun at the same time.)

This has been an inspiring week.  We are going to continue to work throughout the summer crafting and creating a school that grows from good to great.  We will continue to post updates on the blog throughout the summer so keep checking in.

Rabbi David and D-Res

Friday, June 15, 2012

Shai (Gift)

I will gather feelings that remain,
like the last fruits after the harvest
All that the hand of sadness hasn't destroyed from the root
And the fires of anger have not yet scorched within me.

I will line a wicker basket with memories of Kineret
And the pink of morning skies between garden trees.
The gold of noon on the tranquil expanse
And the evening lilacs on the Golan hills.

The memory of the night the crescent moon rose over still waters
This is my shout of joy as my days begin.
This is the shout of joy I'll bind the basket with
And send it to you - will you be happy for the gift?
( )

Rachel is a very famous Israeli poet that lived in Israel in the beginning of the 20th century. She lived for many years on the shores of the Kineret (the Sea of Galilee) and most of her poems mention the view of the Kineret and the Golan height.

Like in the poem, this last week at KSA was a gift.  Our week began with a great milestone (Author’s Tea for the first graders) where our young students presented their first “bikurim” – a collection of booklets that they wrote about themselves and topics that are close to their hearts. The week continued with our lively Zimriyah – a huge celebration of KSA spirit and connection with Israel, shared by students, teachers, parents, families and most preciously many of our alumni, who went on stage with our 8th gradres to dance and celebrate the ending of the year.

Our second graders journeyed to Borderland State Park and Morah Batya's home and our third graders trekked along the Freedom Trail in Boston.  So many journeys, so many gifts!

At our annual meeting we celebrated some significant milestones for our teachers.  We honored those teachers who dedicated endless amount of hours, days, weeks and years (many of them 20 years) of hard work, passion and love to KSA.

For 5 years of dedication:
Miriam Klausner
Alex Leo
Alicia Raines
Anita Rodriguez
Sarah Shay Davidson

10 Years of dedication:
Rita O’Brien

15 years of dedication:
Sharon Duman Packer

20 years of dedication:
Ken Faria
Claudia Michaels Brodsky
Marla Osberg
Bracha Oren
Marcia Shimshak

Our week also included some sad moments where we began the difficult process of saying "goodbye" to some of our most beloved teachers. Each of them leaves a stamp on our community and in our hearts. The teachers/staff members that are leaving at the end of this year are:
Ronit Amit
Carol Fanger Bell
Ghilly Einhorn
Julia Horowitz
Shira Horowitz
Sharon Jacobs
Stella Kamenetsky
Fran Kantor
Kathy Kats
Rabbi Joseph Meszler
Claudia Michaels-Brodsky
Bob “Moreh Shem” Minder
Marla Olsberg
Daiva Navickas
Mindy Schiller
Marcia “Morah Miriam” Shimshak
Saying goodbye is never easy. Doing so together as a community eases the pain just a bit. We want to encourage you to click here to leave a message in one or more of our tribute journals.  The journals are also available by Rita's desk if you'd like to inscribe them personally.

Our week is like the bikkurim basket – full of happiness, sadness, memories and looking into a great future – "will you be happy for the gift?"

Rabbi David and D-Res

Friday, June 8, 2012

Learning is a Never Ending Journey

“Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner; put yourself in his place so that you may understand… what he learns and the way he understands it.”-- Soren Kierkegaard

Phineas Gage was a cheerful builder until one day, in the 19th century, he fell from a ladder and a metal pole got stuck in his head. Phineas lived for many more years after the accident but what surprised his physicians was the complete change in his personality. Phineas became an angry and a violent man (who wouldn’t? With a pole stuck in your head). That was the first time scientists realized that our brain is in charge of our behavior and cognitive functions and that the brain is flexible and constantly changes due to the ability of our neurons to re-wire and make new connections. 

This is how our 7th graders are introduced to the science of the brain, where they design experiments to test how music and visuals (from optical illusions, to art, to video games) can affect our learning and our ability to conduct daily chores.

Over the past few weeks we've had the opportunity to meet many parents. Some, during our community meetings, some in school milestones, some in personal meetings in our office and others informally in the hallways. Again and again, these meetings reminded us that we, educators, need to continuously learn and put ourselves in the shoes of the learner, be it a child or a parent. They also showed us that honesty and transparency are crucial when building long term relationships and developing a partnership towards a great education of our children.

KSA, like our brain, is a dynamic environment. We have always striven to provide our students with an excellent education that is tailored to the needs of the individual learner. While this outstanding foundation remains the same, KSA is updating some of its internal wiring, based on our own reflections, as well as lessons we've learned from parents and students, so we can grow from good to great. By creating personal goals for students, an experiential learning environment and opportunities for students to become academic and social leaders we are inspired by the words of Thomas Jefferson “ There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people."

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi David and D-Res (Dr. Nitzan Resnick)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Teaching from the Heart

What are the virtues of a good teacher? That was the question that we were asked this past Wednesday, by a donor that came to our school and spent a few hours walking into classes and talking to some of our staff.

We explained that the virtues of a good teacher are very similar to these of a good student, as teachers are on a constant journey of learning.

I added that these virtues can be found in the list of 16 habits of mind:

• Persisting
• Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision
• Managing Impulsivity
• Gathering Data Through all Senses
• Listening with Understanding and Empathy
• Creating, imagining and Innovation
• Thinking Flexibly
• Responding with Wonderment and Awe
• Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition)
• Taking Responsible Risks
• Striving for Accuracy
• Finding Humor
• Questioning and Posing Problems
• Thinking Interdependently
• Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
• Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

As we started to walk around the school the eyes of the donor lit up - he actually saw these habits in our classrooms. We walked by the first grade (who were having lunch at that time) and I explained how our teachers create, imagine, innovate and connect the book of Bamidbar (Numbers) with a great math lesson on census.

We hopped over to fourth grade to look at the pie charts on the wall connecting self awareness and math. Then we moved to the explorers' unit where our fourth graders learn to see history through a variety of lenses, thinking flexibly and interdependently.

Just before our meeting ended Sarah Shay Davidson grabbed us by the sleeve and took us to her room. She showed our donor who had a major interest in linguistics the wonders of technology in her Hebrew classroom.

Once we left the room the donor approached me and said, "There was one habit missing in your list." "What is that?" I asked. "Excitement" he said. "Did you see how she (Sarah Shay Davidson) sat on the chair? Just like a middle school student? She REALLY loves her profession and is excited about it!"

When we ask God to give us the wisdom to teach in שחרית (the morning service,) we ask that this wisdom be imparted by God into our heart. Heart and not mind.  This is where passion and excitement are born.