Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Thursday, July 31, 2014



 One of the people that joined the blog challenge is Jena Sherry, her post yesterday Count Your Blessings – Often is what inspired my post for today.

I try to be open and transparent and this post is one that I am writing from the heart.
I have been open and honest on my blog and with some of you more directly about some of the issues that I have faced over the last two years. I know everyone has issues and I am not asking for pity and as you will see that is not the focus of this blog but it puts things in perspective.
In the last two years, both my wife and daughter have been hospitalized, my wife on top of other issues related to a non-cancerous tumor which was removed already 15 years ago is now a diabetic, and for the past year both my wife and I left a toxic work environment and have not had any significant income in a year.
On the positive side; thank G-D the diabetes is under control and we are all healthy, our faith in G-D is still strong if not stronger, my daughters are maturing into young women who volunteer their time helping students with special needs and are happy.  Not a simple thing that teenagers are happy.
My family has always been a constant support and could not have gotten through the good times and the bad times without their help.
However, what are grateful for and truly amazed at  are the  friends that I have developed over the years. We have good friends that we have made in the cities that we have lived and even though we may not see them every day or speak with them every day they  continue to be a an important part of my life. I don’t tell them that often enough, but I know they know it.
Then there is my circle of online friends. Many, of which I have never met in person. Yet  to be very honest,I would consider some to be very good friends whose support is  invaluable to me.
In any event,  I am aware as I look to grow my consulting business and make connections and navigate through the current challenging waters I need their friendship more than perhaps they need mine. While I am OK with that and understand that it makes me at times feel like a nudge. So please know your friendship is important to me and my desire to connect comes from wanting to learn, grow, and help each other.

I want to share a few lines from Jena’s blog that inspired this post:

“I am once again reminded that I am SO blessed! …….My circle of friends has gone through a time of many hardships. We've helped each other through job changes, divorces, deaths of parents, close family members and even children. These events lead us to the epiphany that things happen in life and that we never know how long we will have the gift of one another. ………… All too often, life gets going in a whirlwind and we forget to just sit back, look around, and be thankful for the abundance that we have. “

Thank you Jena for your inspiration and friendship.  Thank you to all my friends both near and far for all your support and for just being there

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Yesterday I wrote about the importance of motivation. Here is an old post I wrote for a Posterous Blog I had (yes, that's how old it is) in 2011

Each week I usually give my students something about the weekly Torah (Bible) portion to read at the Sabbath Table. Today I decided to have them come up with something on their own. I teach fifth grade and I gave them the topic of Abraham's Ten Tests to write about. I told them it was for  them written by them and I made it clear it would not be graded. Everyone in the class was working and writing some amazing ideas. I walked around the room watching and helping as needed. One student, was writing about how the tests got harder, another one wrote why G-D tested Abraham, and so on. The entire class was motivated and engaged. In Judaic Studies sometimes that is a feat in itself that wasn't even the most amazing part. After giving them the allotted time I announced it was time for recess. About half the class sat in their seats  and asked me if they can first finish this (ungraded) assignment. 
I couldn't believe it!
 They made my day. 

How great it is to be a teacher and motivate students to learn and instill in them a love of learning 

This is why Teaching and the education professions in the greatest profession on earth 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sparking Motivation ( 9 of 30 in 30 day day blog challenge)


I am currently reading Grading Smarter Not Harder by M Duek. The whole topics of grades, giving zeros, and homework are definitely things I feel passionately about and will bog about them in the future. Suffice to say I don’t believe in traditional grades there is nothing that kills motivation than a zero and homework needs to be really thought out before ones assigns it.

The obvious question is how to stay Motivated!

Yesterday I tweed the following that address the point in reverse; “Intrinsic motivation decreases once people are paid to do what they used to do for fun” via D Pink #edchat
I think we can say when not paid motivation goes up.

Enter the 30 Day Blog Challenge!

Let me digress a bit and give some background

I recently started what start off as a personal 30 day blog challenge. There have been a lot of things going on in my life which I have blogged about and was no longer motivated and basically stopped blogging. Listening to a Principal Cast changed that and the 30 day blog challenge was born. I really created it for myself as a way to pick myself up and motivate myself during some difficult times. However because of my PLN and a dare we now have about six others who have taken on the challenge and we are always looking for more.
The key is that its personal, yes we support each other tweet and RT each other’s blogs but it truly is an intrinsic motivation with no other motive.  No one checks and its open ended. I will keep the challenge going and be supportive for anyone that wants to join. Someone today told me they will join but can’t start until the second week of August, I said no problem.

(I will let you in on a secret I hope to continue blogging daily even after the 30 days without all the fanfare.)

The challenge ignited the motivation.

I have also taken upon myself the commitment of studding one page of Talmud a day ( known in Hebrew as Daf Yomi) I have been doing now for two years and after seven and half years G-D willing finish all six orders of the Talmud only to hopefully start again.

Yet no matter how many times I try to exercise and diet it never seems to last.
Truth be told I am not sure why I am motivated for something’s and not others but I will share with you some takeaways

  •  Having support of your friends and family makes it ten times easier to complete a challenge
  • There are going to be things that one will naturally be more motivated to do no matter what like studding the Talmud
  • Even intrinsic motivation needs a jump start and something to ignite it

So what lessons can we use with our students Well rewards and payments will cause intrinsic motivation to decrease.
We need to tap into what they find fun, challenging, and stimulating.
Bottom line there are going to be somethings that kids and people just aren’t motivated to do

Monday, July 28, 2014


picture from

Today in education we talk about creativity, innovation, critical thinking, collaboration and other key life skills (I refuse to use the term 21st Century skills). These skills represent and focus on a Student centered approach. The learning needs to be real and meaningful for our students today. Technology also plays a big role in that it makes the learning real and hands on.
I ask you what did teachers do before the 21st century? Where these skills and ideas not important?  Did we not need to engage our students?
Too often teachers hear some of the terms I mentioned and think here we go again some new educational buzz words and for some reason that gives them justification to just ignore it and it may go away.
Well I hate to tell you these aren’t buzz words or fads and it’s not going away, I would tend to guess this idea of an engaged and involved learner dates back to Ben Franklin, who is older than any teacher teaching today.

Perhaps if we realize that these skills, these life skills existed before the 21st century and it’s not something new we can incorporate the principles which Benjamin Franklin taught us over 200 years ago. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Unplugged to Recharge (7/30)

If you ask any one even a small child will tell you than to charge your device you need to be plugged in.  Perhaps after blogging for almost a week straight I have lost it

I don't think so and let me explain. 

I have been very open about my beliefs and religious  convictions and as a Orthodox Jew I am a Sabbath observer. Each week from Friday right before sunset until Saturday night an hour after sunset is my sabbath. The sabbath is filled with a number of religious aspects like going to synagogue, having a festive meal, and making certain blessings. There are also things we cant do. I want to focus on a few of those. We don't use phones, computers or drive in cars. Lights must stay on for the whole 25 hours we cannot turn on and off lights either. So no cell phones, texting, emails etc. I am completely "UNPLUGGED". Now on the surface  it looks like a lot  of restriction and they are but behind the surface I think they reveal a certain beauty. 
It allows one to connect to what truly is important in their lives. ( Just as a side not many of my friends are online) Focus on the true meaning of friends and family. You are able to step back take walks and appreciate nature. Read a paper book and relax as well. 

By unplugging and taking a step back from the day to day grind in which we are often controlled by our devices  we are in fact able to recharge. 

I know many administrators have done a "NO OFFICE DAY" perhaps this year people should try an "UNPLUGGED DAY" 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Happy Fourth Birthday

Tomorrow will be my blogs fourth birthday. A lot has happened in four years but that is for another time. I told myself in doing this blog challenge that as a Sabbath observer I reserved the right not to post a Saturday blog. Then I said I will just post two on Friday and perhaps maybe for my Saturday post I will repost things that I blogged about fours ago I doubt anyone remembers them.
So for my Saturday post which is #6 in my 30 day challenge I am posting my first blog post much of what I said then is still true today.
Sorry to my fellow challenge bloggers is this is cheating a bit


Why create a blog? An excellent question. Lately I have been exposed to the world of twitter and all that it can offer an educator and a educational leader. So therefore I thought I would share some of my thoughts for those that would be interested. Granted my thoughts come from perhaps a very different perspective than most. I have been in the field of education for over 20 years but always in the private sector and in a Jewish Day School.

As I sit here and write this opening to my blog I do ask myself what I can offer. I look at my shelves and I see the books that I read from Authors like; Collins, Fullan, Covey, Maxwell, McEwan, Marshal and Lencioni, and ask what can I add? The truth of the matter is that we all have our unique experiences and each see things in our own way and perhaps others could learn from those experiences. By no means do I or for that matter anyone have all the answers but if I could help someone as many others have helped me than it is all worth it.
In our prayers each week we ask G-D to give a spacial blessing for those who are involved in communal service. I cant think of a greater communal service than educating the leaders of tomorrow my G-D bless us all.

Consistency in Change

Picture: by

Today we talk about growth and change and I have blogged and tweeted a lot about the topic and the importance of having a growth mindset. I would also consider myself someone who is open to change and a lifelong learner willing to face new challenges. Heck I started this 30 day blog challenge.

So where does Consistency fit with this change model.

Here is what I think. Sometimes we don’t get to control the changes that confront us, and sometimes the changes can be bad and bring about a crisis like the loss of a job and or family health issues. Yet we need to face these changes as much as we need to face the “good” changes. How do we do that? Foe me someone who in the past two years has faced both of those “bad” changes there have been three constants in my life.

1.     My Faith in G-D and my religious beliefs
2.     My Family
3.     My PLN/ Friends

Without all three I don’t know how I would have faced the changes that I have been confronted with over the years and will continue to face in the future (hopefully “good changes”).
Therefore for us to have that growth mind set and face change I believe we need to have some constants in our lives that ground us
What are your constants that ground you?

Please comment!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Differentiation- The Key to Meeting the Needs of Our Students ( Blog Post #4)

INTRODUCTORY NOTE:  This is my four blog in my 30 day challenge ( which I may extend but let's take it slow for now ) It started after hearing Kelly Tenkely speak on Principal Cast. So I started then I noticed on Facebook that Jena Sherry ( @jena_Sherry) shared my  status about the challenge. I took that as an opporutniy to reach out and ask her to join me. Jena has been part of pln but until recently honestly we didn't have much contact . We now encourage and push each other with this challenge. OK we or maybe I push more but it has showed me the value of a PLN and of reaching out. We are now trying to get others to join and as of now Theresa Stager ( @PrincipalStager) has joined. Never under estimate the power of your PLN and your friends. The funny part of all the people I have mentioned in this blog I have never met them in person yet I fell connected  with each of them. 

The name of this post is the same as the name of the presentation I recently gave for RSCON5. Below is a link to the Elluminate session. Differentiation,inclusion and meeting the needs of our diverse learners is a real passion of mine. Here are links to two articles I recently posted on Facebook

The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners, 2nd Edition

by Carol Ann Tomlinson   (I have this book on my iPad but  I haven't read it on my to do list )

3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do

As it says in Ecclesiastes " There is nothing new under the sun". A lot has already been said and written about differentiation and I am not going to add anything new. However one thing that I have heard is that people find DI daunting and many are afraid by what they think it .

Here are my 3 Keys or Essential Ideas

  1. Know your Students- Each student has a unique story know his or her story as Edna Sackson  says " Remember we are teaching people not subjects"
  2. One Size Doesn't Fit All - Even though in many of our schools we put students who are the same age in the same class is doesn't mean they are they same and you need different approaches for each. Kelly Tenkely gave a great analogy. She said that in the same way not all children loose their teeth at the same not all children are ready to read at the same time. No parent will demand that their child's tooth be pulled because his best friend has lost three teeth already.  
  3. Fair but Not Equal- The simplest analogy I could give would be to say well it is unfair that Johnny who is near sited gets to wear glasses. Not everyone is equal because not everyone needs to wear glasses but it is more than fair.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Leadership Essentials- Blog post #3


Today whether it is the global conflict, domestic issues or just being willing to think about and look at education differently we need leadership. I wouldn’t say that we face all of these issues because we lack leadership but I would say that without strong leadership I have little hope in seeing any significant change.  The torah portions that Jews have read over the last few weeks, and will continue to read in the coming weeks talk about the end of Moses’s life and his appointing Joshua as his successor. One of mentors when it comes to true leadership is Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
I would like to share some of his thoughts with you.

Note: There are many other essential qualities of leadership but these are the three that the Torah singles out in these portions dealing with the transfer of power from Moses to Joshua


“In looking for a successor Moses is told to “Appoint over them a leader who will bear with each person according to his individual character.
Maimonides in The Guide for the Perplexed says that this is a basic feature of the human condition. Homo sapiens is the most diverse of all life forms. Therefore co-operation is essential – because we are different, others are strong where we are weak and vice versa – but it is also difficult, because we respond to challenges in different ways. That is what makes leadership necessary, but also demanding:
This great variety and the necessity of social life are essential elements in man's nature. But the well-being of society demands that there should be a leader able to regulate the actions of man; he must complete every shortcoming, remove every excess, and prescribe for the conduct of all, so that the natural variety should be counterbalanced by the uniformity of legislation, and the order of society be well established.
Leaders respect differences but, like the conductor of an orchestra, integrate them, ensuring that the many different instruments play their part in harmony with the rest. True leaders do not seek to impose uniformity. They honour diversity.”

In education especially we are faced with more diversity than ever before and I believe our educational leaders need to embrace that diversity and creativity environments so that all children form whatever background can succeed.
We also need to remove the silos and work together to solve any problem we all need to learn how to work together and collaborate and that skill of collaboration is key to our students success. I just a quote recently that more and more employers are finding that one’s GPA has little to do with ones ultimate success and it the more intangible type skills like collaboration creativity innovation and a like that are more important.

The next set of traits that were important was that of strength and humility.   
On this Rabbi Sacks the following:
“Note the two characteristics, seemingly opposed – great and humble – both of which Moses had in high degree (me’od, “very”). This is the combination of attributes Rabbi Yohanan attributed to God himself: “Wherever you find God’s greatness, there you find his humility.”
 Here is one of his prooftexts: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger residing among you, giving them food and clothing” (Deut. 10: 17-18).

ish in the context of leadership is not a male but rather, someone who is a mensch, a person whose greatness is lightly worn, who cares about the people others often ignore, “the fatherless, the widow and the stranger,” who spends as much time with the people at the margins of society as with the elites, who is courteous to everyone equally and who receives respect because he or she gives respect.”   

The last idea of leadership Rabbi Sacks refers to as timing and pace.

“The Torah is hinting here at one of the most challenging aspects of leadership, namely timing and pace. The first phrase is simple: “who will go out before them and come in before them.” This means that a leader must lead from the front. He cannot be like the apocryphal remark of one British politician: “Of course I follow the party. After all, I am their leader.”

It is the second phrase that is vital: “who will lead them out and bring them in.” This means: a leader must lead from the front, but he or she must not be so far out in front that when they turn around, they find that no one is following. Pace is of the essence. Sometimes a leader can go too fast. That is when tragedies occur.

Respect for diversity, care for the lowly and powerless as well as the powerful and great, and a willingness to go no faster than people can bear: these are three essential attributes of a leader, as Moses knew from experience, and as Joshua learned through long apprenticeship to the great man himself. 

I think many of us want solutions yesterday and we live in a what have you done for me lately world. But our world, communities, and schools are made up of very diverse groups from very different socio- economic backgrounds and everyone at times seems to be in a different place and moving at his /her own pace. (Just as note it makes so much more sense to me now why pace is such an important component of differentiation. These as the Torah and Rabbi Sacks point out are the essential qualities of leadership for our diverse society.     

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lessons in Innovation and Creativity according to Jobs ( Blog #2 of my challenge )

Picture from

Today almost every educational post t has something to do with creativity and innovation. Today perhaps more than ever these are the skills that our children are going to need to be successful in our global society.
I just finished reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.  Isaacson in my opinion does a good job at portaying the true nature of Steve Jobs, to put in simply he wasa complex individual with very little middle ground eitherr you hated him or you loved him.
No matter which side of the isle you are on he can teach us some important lessons about creativity and innovation.

I want to share some of those quotes and ideas with you

“ It is Apples DNA that technology alone is not enough.  We believe that its technology married with the humanities that yields us the results that makes our heart sing” Jobs 

 “ Apple itself, which Jobs considers his greatest  creation a place where imagination was nurtured, applied and executed in ways so creative that it became the most valuable company on earth” W. Isaacson

“My passion has been to build as enduring company ….where people were motivated to make great products…..But the products not the profit where the motivation" Jobs  {This quote reminded me of a TED talk by  Daniel Pink and one by Simon Sinek }

"Our job is to figure out what they are going to want before they do….our task is to read things that are not yet on the page……
There are a lot of people innovating and that’s not the main distinction…. The reason Apple resonates is that there is a deep current of humanity in our innovation ….. You always need to keep pushing to innovate" Steve Jobs 

The next two quotes come from the speech Jobs gave when he returned to Apple and luanched the "Think Differently" campaign 

"Here’s to The crazy ones .The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who things differently

While some may see them as the crazy ones we see genius because people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do" Steve Jobs 

I want to end this post with two videos one is the speech Jobs gave at Stanford  University and Caines arcade 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Are We Doing Our Part - Day 1 Blog Challenge

Last night I had the opportunity to listen to #Principalcast hosted by Theresa Stager. Last nights guest is one of my hero's and inspirations Kelley Tenkeley.
The concept of blogging and the importance of blogging was a big part of the conversation. I am in now way going to ever be in the same league as Kelley but I have begun my own personal blog challenge ands that is blog once a day for a month ( except Saturday's ) and see where we go from there. My concern was what if I have nothing to write about. the advice given last night was don't worry about the reader write about something that motivates and is important to you. So this is my first blog in the blog challenge.

I cant write this post without first praying for a safe return of all the IDF soldiers and that G-D watch over them and we have peace in the region speedily. I also pray that G-D can comfort those families whose Husbands, Fathers, and Sons gave the ultimate sacrifice their lives for the safety and security of Israel.

This is absolutely a time for prayer, trust, faith and belief. We know that G-D has a plan and that every thing G-D does is just. I don't think we as humans need to worry about G-D. To me the bigger question which many Rabbi's have asked are we doing our part? Are we doing all that we can do. Whether that means prayer, giving charity, doing more good deeds or being nicer and  friendly to our fellow man. It is no coincidence that Jews find themselves in the period of  mourning related to the destruction of the Temple which was destroyed ( the second Temple ) because of baseless hatred.

So I ask again are we doing our part 

But I believe this question can be ask in all area of our lives. For me am I doing my part in finding a job and growing my consulting business.
As educators are we doing our part to give our students the skills they need to be engaged citizens in this global economy we live in?  Are we doing our part in making sure we reach those hard to reach students?
Are we doing our part in making sure we create an inclusive environment for all students.

I don't have all if any of the answers. For some things we do need to  rely solely on G-D and his  protection but in Judaism we also have a concept that we don't rely on miracles. So before we blame others and we blame the system or so and so let us ask ourselves


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Half Down and Half To Go


Yesterday, someone posted on Facebook that we are at the  half way point of 2014. Half of the year is behind us and yet we still have half a year to go. What are we going to do with the second half of 2014. Are we going to stay the course or maybe this is a good opportunity to change course. For me, I need to change course. My time frame dates back almost exactly to last year when in August of 2013 I resigned from my last position as Head of School. The last year so far  has been a journey with many ups and downs and while I try to stay positive the reality has been less than positive as evident from my lack of blogging over the last six months.
Below is a post I wrote in January of 2014  and now I would like to revisit it at this mid way point of the year .

It has been a while since I posted something on my blog. The last few months have been difficult for me and my family and I didn't have the drive and honestly desire to blog. I got into a rut and was (truthful still am) feeling a bit sorry for myself. I have looked on websites, sent out tweets, made proposal submitted resumes and I still find myself without a job.
Perhaps finally writing about it will give me the energy to move forward and start looking towards the future. I know G-D has a plan and that I didn't devote my life to education (mainly Jewish Education) to stop now.
I have created a short check list to help me and maybe others move forward during this difficult time. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as well.

Short Term

Do something productive/ constructive daily
Share thoughts and ideas, at least 3 times week via blog, twitter, Facebook etc.
Keep up on the latest ideas in Education by reading blogs, books and tweets each day
Continue looking for a  job and promoting my own consulting business and website at
A bit harder 
Stay positive and focus on the future not the past

Long term goal 
Come with an idea and start writing a book of my own

There is no silver bullet and I know this is all easier said than done, but I am hoping as we enter 2014 I too can now look forward to a brighter and better future. 

I would like to thank my family and friends, which includes my PLN for their  constant support and help 

Here's to a brighter and better future 

Many of the feelings expressed are still true and present. I ask myself if  I didn't accomplish  my short term goals in January and things are still the same what is going to help me accomplish the now?

I don't have an easy answer and would ask my friends to comment help.
Here what I do know though 

  • I am more committed to helping other educators and sharing my ideas. 
  • I am committed to think out of the box with innovative and creative ideas
  • I am committed to changing my outlook and I will find a job

To be a good educator, leader,family member and friend you need to make connections and develop relationships. For me that means onlinee and virtual connections which I hope to one day make personal and face to face.  
So if I message you on one of the many social media outlets out there I am not trying to be a pest or a nudge just trying to develop and enhance our connection.I promise to be more positive in our conversations as well. 

I look forward to connecting with all of you