Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Saturday, January 28, 2012


One of my pet peeves is when people think that Differentiation Instruction and 21st Century Skills are something new and that now teachers need to do something different.  I think if would ask most teachers if it is important that they meet the needs of their students or that their students can communicate, think critically, and be creative, I would think most teachers would say YES no matter if they taught 25 years ago or are teaching today. Therefore I claim that D.I. and 21st Century skills are just good teaching and learning practices. This will be the topic of my presentation at the upcoming Martin Institute Conference in June. (

Then over the weekend I read this article by Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks "The Necessity of Asking Questions"

In this Article Rabbi Sacks point out the importance of asking questions. He states that in the middle of the climax of the story of the Jews leaving Egypt the Torah ( Bible) tells us the twice that our children will ask us questions
    "And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the     Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” (Ex. 12: 26-27)
In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Ex. 13: 14)"

Rabbi Sacks maintains that is more than just asking questions but that Teachers and Parents need to encourage their children and students to ask questions. He shares the following story:

"Isadore Rabi, winner of a Nobel Prize in physics, was once asked why he became a scientist. He replied, “My mother made me a scientist without ever knowing it. Every other child would come back from school and be asked, ‘What did you learn today?’ But my mother used to ask: ‘Izzy, did you ask a good question today?’ That made the difference. Asking good questions made me a scientist.”

 He  goes on to say "Encourage your children to ask, question, probe, investigate, analyze, explore....The one essential, though, is to know and to teach this to our children, that not every question has an answer we can immediately understand."

I don't know about you but to me it would seem to me that the Torah ( Bible) itself is teaching us the importance  of asking questions which by the way would today be described as a 21st Century Skill.

Therefore lets not get caught up with names or titles but rather  just focus on helping our children and students learn so that they reach their potential and be productive and successful in the world in which we live in

My Thoughts

Friday, January 20, 2012

Twitter- A Conference 24/7 365

This past Wednesday night's #JEDCHAT was devoted to takeaways from the recent #NAJDS Conference. 
One of main ideas shared was the importance of meeting people sharing ideas and seeing what is done in other schools and just networking with other educators. 
While nothing can replace face to face interaction but i believe the sharing of ideas, learning from others and just developing a Network or in other words a PLN could be developed through ones interactions and use of Twitter. 
Recently Lyn Hilt, an amazing Educational leader and a personal inspiration to me wrote the following blog post;Battling skepticism.At the end she asked the following question;"So what I’m looking for in the comments section below are ways that administrators who are new to social media and professional learning networks can get started. Help their fears subside… help them battle the skepticism and preconceived notions they may have about the tools and the connections made.

Here is an part of the comment I left on the blog; 
Another great post!
Yes I am fairly new to Twitter. This summer will be two years. I never imagined myself on twitter let alone blogging and starting a Chat for Jewish educators. I think people need to “dip their toe in the water” and try it. Take it slow and at first just lurk follow the #edchat and #cpchat streams using TweetDeck or Hootsuite. Follow some blogs and then once the water is right jump in.
One thing that I have personally found is that Twitter is a very safe environment and people want to hear what you have to say. Otherwise how do explain an Orthodox Rabbi from Memphis TN. with over 2200 followers.
My only regret is that I have only met a handful of my amazing PLN in person.
Lyn, Thanks again for sharing and for being an inspiration to me."
My point is that we all want to connect and learn form others and that is often what is the highlight of any conference. So when the question is how can we keep that feeling we got at the conference going or how can we build on it and sustain it through out the year? My answer is develop a PLN, join twitter follow #edchat, #cpchat and of course #jedchat. Twitter is that 24/7 365 Conference.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

MY ME MANIFESTO #30 Goal Challenge

Not sure if this fits the exact goal but I thought I would share it anyway. 

How many of us have read something know something to be true but either don't see enough evidence of it or at times feel like we are going the wrong way on a one way street. 

Well I have had the experience. I have read about how we need to move to a more student centered approach, with a focus on active learning and I believe it. I also believe that technology is an important tool but just that a tool.  This theme is one that have read about and blogged about myself. However it is a lot of theory and sometimes I felt like I was either preaching to the already converted or to those that just don't get it. Then I saw it action and had one of those great moments. 
By the way if  in fact if I do write a book one day the title will be "What the Books Don't Teach You". Reading and learning are great but there is nothing like when it actual happens and you experience  it in person. 

Here is my story:

Note: This is a copy of the email I shared with the faculty 

Truth be told I really didn't do anything but I just wanted to share one of those moments when it all comes together.

I am now teaching about copyright laws and intellectual property in my digital citizenship class. Rabbi Perl forwarded me a curriculum that I am using.

Today's lesson stated with the following scenario. A class wrote a play and they found out that their script was used to make a film. That film was entered in a film contest and won a cash prize.
The class wanted to know if any laws were broken and if they had any rights to the money.

so we started brainstorming some questions that the class would have.

Whose idea was it?
How did people get it?
Who got it? – was there an email or proof
What changes if any were made?
What if you were included/credited

We discussed each one and then we got to the one about Were any changes made. 
One student started talking about the similarities between the movie Pocahontas and Avatar. Then students starting looking it up online. Someone found a website that pointed out the similarities. Someone else found how there were certain suits brought when there were too many "coincidence's"  in the scripts and story line

A simple brainstorming about a made up  case led to some real life and actual case discussions. 

Next Step research some of these law suits etc. 

It was just one of those moments when learning happens. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Creating a Culture of Collaboration


 Last night I had the opportunity to participate in two great chats. #jedchat which I co- moderated with @dovemerson and @RabbiWex and #educoach which is moderated by some real twitter rock stars and personal friends @KathyPerret, @Shiraleibowitz @PrincipalJ ( all of these Five educational leaders deserve a early #FF). Trust me when I tell you that afterwards I both energized and at the same time tired.

 The interesting part is that both chats had a very similar theme and that is supporting teachers and creating a culture of teacher collaboration. As an administrator I have often said that what we want to see from our students needs to be modeled by our teachers and sometimes for our teachers. Meaning that if we want our students to collaborate and feel supported and safe then we as educators and educational leaders to model that, and therefore teachers need to collaborate and also feel safe and supported.

 In the spirit of transparency and being open and honest at times this is hard. For one thing teachers tend to be very protective of their own “turf”/ classroom and from an admin point of view there are times that we need to take a tough or strong stance with teachers and they don’t always feel supportive.

Given that disclaimer how can we create a culture of collaboration and support?

Here are some of my takeaways and ideas from last night’s chats and I encourage others to add their own.

• We need to get in the habit of saying “We” and not I and “Our” and not “My”- sounds simple but this switch shows that we are going through things together and that we are all in the same boat and we are here to help and support each other
• Transparency- This need to begin at the top and school leaders need to model and show a willingness to be open and honest and share.
• A culture of taking risks- Teachers need to feel safe and that they are encouraged and allowed to take risks in a safe environment ( which leads to )
• Teacher Evaluations need to be about growth and support and not gotcha
• Sharing success

 I want to be clear I am far from perfect and this post is also if not more a reminder for me. If I had one major goal/ resolution it would be to become a better educational leader/ boss/ all around better person.