Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

One Year Later

Today my blog is one year old. Happy Birthday!
I did a Google search the other day as to why we celebrate birthdays. The answered ranged from thanking G-D and celebrating life to reflecting on the past year. One post I saw actually said we shouldn't celebrate birthdays since we are getting older and closer to death. Way too morbid for me.

Anyway what would you do for a blogs birthday. I thought perhaps the most appropriate thing to do would be to reflect, give thanks, and offer goals for the next year.

So as I reflect I have come a long way. I have developed an amazing PLN through Twitter and I use both Twitter and my PLN to make me a better educator. I am a member of Connected Principal and will be one of the the Presenters at the RSCON3 conference this weekend.

I have also started to blog with edublog and my blog is called Beyond the Classroom Walls.

I want to thank my amazing PLN and I can't name all of you but you have all helped me grow and you are more than just a PLN but you are friends.

However I also realize I have so much to learn and a teacher, administrator, leader, father and husband.

I encourage you to spend a few minutes on Twitter searching the hashtags of #edchat, #cpchat, #rscon3 to get a glimpse of the great educators out there and the progressive and amazing things they are doing.

Learning is a never ending process and we all need to be striving to learn more but as I learned a year ago you need to take risks. If you would have asked me 13 months ago would be on Twitter and blogging the answer would have been an emphatic NO.

Now as I and many others are preparing for the new school year I need to think in what areas do I want to grow as an educational leader. Is it with engaging my students more with technology, or maybe incorporating more 21st Century Skills. The list can go on. One thing I know is that I will need to take some risks.So my hope is that in a year when I celebrate two years of blogging I can reflect and share with you the areas in which I have grown.

Looking forward another year of growing and learning ( and risk taking) together.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Finding a Balance

In June, during our Administrators Retreat, we spent a lot of time talking about 21st Century Learning. The bottom line is that today students are exposed to a lot more information and technological advances and the skills that are currently needed are not the same as in the past. If you don’t believe me I suggest reading “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink. Today our students need to be creative (not necessarily artistic), need to collaborate, and need to be able to problem solve. Learning needs to be more inquiry based and more student driven than teacher driven.

The question is how does this fit into a Judaic Studies classroom where the focus has always been on very basic skills of reading and translating. How can students get more involved if they are missing basic skills? Therefore, we need to strike a balance and to be honest, I am not 100% sure what that balance entails. We have begun the process of integrating technology and updated learning strategies into our classrooms and we plan to progress further each year as newer possibilities are open to us. As we continue to incorporate these components into our Judaic studies program, we must avoid the natural reaction to rebuff change because the end result will be detrimental to our students.

How do we deal with this issue of the future vs. our sacred traditions of the past? While in New York I bought a book by Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth. The title of the book is “Jonathan Sacks from Optimism to Hope; A collection of BBC Thoughts of the Day.” In one of the essays he writes the following: “Ours is a very future-oriented religion. We’re not afraid of new technologies precisely because they allow us to fulfill, in ways undreamt by our ancestors…and to become, in that lovely Jewish phrase, ‘G-D’s partners in the work of creation’. …The biggest mistake we could possibly make in the 21st Century is to believe that by embracing the future means jettisoning the past. .. Those most at home in the wisdom of the past can best face the future without fear.”

It is clear that we can’t nor should we do away with the past nor does it mean that we can ignore the future and new technologies. My hope is that this year we find that balance and we can instill not only the wisdom of the past into our students but embrace the future as well.

Enjoy the rest of the summer
Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt

Thursday, July 14, 2011

“Put on Your Own Mask Before You Help Others”

This summer I did something that I have not done in a very long time. We took a family road trip for about three weeks celebrating a family wedding as well as that of a friend’s daughter and visiting places we have lived.

I was a bit leery before I left. This feeling was caused by a) we would be doing a lot of driving and b) that I was taking a lot of time off.

Now that we have returned I can tell you that spending some significant quality family time and being away was exactly what the Doctor ordered. I had a great time connecting with my teenage daughters (we know at times how difficulty that could be), spent time and reconnected and in some cases connected with friends and family. Overall it was one of the best vacations we have had as a family in a long time.

During this time I remembered something I heard a number of years ago. A number of years a go someone told me that you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. They used the following example: That on an airplane you are told that you must first put on your oxygen mask before you assist others, bottom line we need to take care of ourselves before we can help others.

As educators we need rejuvenate and help ourselves so that we can be there to help our students.

Social media and technology and all of these other tools are important, necessary and vital, however sometimes we just need to unplug and reconnect with our family and friends and take care of ourselves so that we can take care of others.

Enjoy the rest of the summer