Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Back To Basics

“Factual knowledge alone is thus no longer the great differentiator between those who succeed and those who do not. Instead the individuals who are emerging as the new "winners" - the new thrivers-of the twenty-first century are those who possess above average creativity, strong analytical skills, a knack for foresight, and surprise surprise good people skills." From Stephen Covey’s book “The Leader in Me

Last week I used this quote as part of another blog post. The other night I attended the #leadfromwithin chat and the chat focused of things like loyalty, honesty, respect, and other important traits leaders should have. I also attended a class given by @gperl about humility.

All of this got me thinking that we need to go back to basics. We need to teach character development and leadership skills with the same emphasis that we teacher other subjects if not more. I often tell my students that when people meet you on the street they won’t ask you or judge you based on how much of subject “X” you learned but rather they will see and judge you based on what kind of person you are. Here is my partial list of some of those amorphous and less tangible things we need to be teaching:
• Honesty
• Humility
• Trust
• Respect
• Loyalty
• Empathy
• Transparency

How do we teach these skills? I believe these skills need to be modeled and taught by example.
I recently heard the following: You can teach your child about honesty and read about it and give examples from the Bible and other sources and of all that teaching will not mean anything if when the next time you go to the movies and you tell your 13 year old child to tell the cashier that he is 11 to get in at the child price.

If we want to prepare our students for the 21st Century we need to go back to basics and teach them, no show them what it means to be a good person.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Taking the First Step

If you pick up almost any educational journal today or read educational blogs you will inevitably come across the term 21st Century Skills or 21st Century curriculum. Yes these terms have been around for a while and I do find it a bit strange that the popularity of this term has grown some ten years into the 21st Century. What is true is that in today’s society perhaps even more so than 10 years ago things are changed at a much faster rate. The cell phone, computer, or even I-pad you bought today will be outdated in less than a year. This means that we as educators have to address this ever changing world we live in. Heidi Hayes Jacobs in her book Curriculum 21 says the following, “As educators, our challenge is to match the needs of our learners to a world that is changing with great rapidity. Therefore the skills of the 21st century focus on problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, design, and leadership. Perhaps Stephen Covey in his book “The Leader in Me” said it best, “Factual knowledge alone is thus no longer the great differentiator between those who succeed and those who do not. Instead the individuals who are emerging as the new "winners" - the new thrivers-of the twenty-first century are those who possess above average creativity, strong analytical skills, a knack for foresight, and surprise surprise good people skills."

Therefore we need to be looking at and updating what we are teaching. This is true in Judaic Studies as well. Today with the Bar Ilan Cd and a like, students have access to all the Torah and commentaries they need. What we need to be teaching them is how to think, question, and analyze what they have read and learned. We can’t begin to update our curriculum until we clearly state what we are currently doing.

On Monday we took the first major step in moving towards addressing the needs of our 21st Century learners. We established a wiki so that the teachers can put down in detail what they are teaching. This is a major undertaking by the faculty. However the reaction I got was overwhelmingly positive one teacher said, ““This is a great idea and it makes me actually think about what I teach.”
We still have a long journey a head of us but often taking the first is the hardest and today as a faculty we took the first step on a journey that will help prepare our students better for the world that they are entering into.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What Really Matters

Certain events over the last few days have caused me to pause for a second and think about what really matters. The first event was the shooting in Arizona over the weekend and the second a funeral I attended yesterday for a 17 year old boy.
I know for me personally I worry about the economy, what unforeseen expenses I may have, and other what now seem to me as trivial things.

The events of the past few days have given me a perspective of what really matters in my life as a husband, father, friend, and educator.

Here is my list of certain things that really matter
• My faith
• My family
• My friends
• Have I worked up to my potential today
• Did I help others maximize their potential
• Did I have a positive impact on someone’s life
Each one of these things have many different subsets too many to list.

As I tweeted last night we need to care about what really matters and make every day count.

I am fortunate to be in a profession that on a daily basis I have the ability to impact and change the lives of my students. However that comes with a tremendous responsibility as well. Our focus must always be how will this impact my students’ and will this maximize their potential and have a positive impact on them. If Yes then we must Do It!

However what works for one student may not work for another and therefore I think we need to be careful, myself included of not making generalizations about different things. Our barometer or measuring stick should not be is this “thing” good or bad but will this ‘thing” maximize student potential and have a positive effect on my student or students.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

“All or Nothing”- I Don’t Think So

Lately there have been a number of tweets about being a Passion driven school vs. a Data driven schools. Maybe I am crazy but I am not sure what the debate or issue is. I think we need to have both. We need students who are passionate about learning and are engaged in learning, and we need to be teaching them things that they are passionate about and will make a difference when they leave school and enter the “real world”. So yes I agree with those that say when was the last time you had to do a worksheet or answer multiple choice questions once you left school.

At the same time the passion that we hope to instill in our students needs to be channeled towards student learning. Whatever skills we want them to be learning, be it critical thinking, questioning, or analyzing, just to name a few, we still need to make sure that they are learning those skills.

So how do we insure that the students are learning the skills we give them in a Passion driven school?
The answer is through Data. Now Data doesn’t mean tests and more tests. Data could be a survey, a student project, an interview or any other way to measure what students have learned.

Education is a balance it isn’t all or nothing. The question is how to reach that balance,what is the percentage of X vs. Y? I don’t know, but what I do know is that you need both X and Y,or in this case you need the passion and the love for learning but you also need the data to let you know that the passion is being translated into student learning.

Monday, January 3, 2011


During this time of year many people reflect on the past and look towards future goals. This would be my 50 post on this blog and therefore with reaching that milestone and being the start of 2011, I thought I would reflect a bit on the past and look towards the future.

For me personally 2010 was a year filled with a lot of new and exciting things:
• I starting using Twitter in a very significant way
• I started a blog
• Joined Connected Principals
• Presented for a Elluminate Session for Connected Principals
• Developed a PLN
• Became a member of EDU PLN as well as YU2.0

Now I ask myself what is next what goals can I set for myself for 2011? Goals are important and we need to have them but we also have to careful not to take on too much. There is a famous Yiddish saying that I am often reminded of when life throws you a curve ball and that is, “Man plans and G-D laughs”.

Therefore as I posted yesterday on my posterous blog ( that my goal for 2011 is Just Do It! Meaning take one or two things that I am passionate about; perhaps assessments, grading, or differentiated instruction and take my ideas and make them into a reality. If I could accomplish that one in goal in the next 12 months I would feel like I really accomplished something and brought about at least on a small scale some real change which had a positive effect on student learning.
As many others have said perhaps the best way for change to take place is when it takes place one school, or perhaps one division or even one grade level at a time.

Wishing you all only success in the New Year