Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Monday, September 29, 2014

Finding the "SWEET SPOT"


I originally wrote this in November 2010

I just read this post by Leadership Freak AKA Dan Rockwell about finding ones Sweet Spot.
Here are some quotes from the post:
“Finding the sweet spot may take patience and persistence.
Finding the sweet spot is about helping others reach their own goals and achieve their own dreams.
In my opinion, the greatest obstruction to finding another’s sweet spot is imposing our own agenda on others.”

I asked myself how can educators or more specifically Principals help teachers reach their own goals and achieve their own dreams?

Then as fate would have it I was listening to Deborah Kenny being interviewed by Bill Cosby and one of the points she made was about how she empowers her teachers to make certain decisions on their own about the curriculum etc.

Based on that interview and some of my own thoughts I came up with a list of what I can do as an administrator to help my teachers reach their goals without as Rockwell said imposing my own agenda on them.

1. Empower them. Let them have control over what goes on in their classroom
2. Find something they are passionate about and let them take the lead in that area. For example of one of the issues we have in my school is getting students more involved in our Prayer program ( we are a religious school) If a teacher had a certain passion about Prayer I would ask him/her to head up that committee
3. Offer choices for areas of Professional growth.
4. Be supportive
5 Value the contribution they make to the school and to the team. We are all individuals with different talents and everyone plays an important role. I often use a sports analogy in speaking with my students. Tom Brady may be a great quarterback but you can’t have a whole team of quarterbacks and if you do you probably wouldn’t win too many games. Every person is unique and important.

What I didn't realize then but realize today is that "Finding The Sweet Spot"  is not about your own dreams and potential but it is about helping others reach theirs.

We talk about transparency, openness, collaboration etc. How great would it be if we each of us  tried to help find that sweet spot within their school community or community.
Imagine how much true collaboration and transparency there would be if we truly wanted our friend to reach his or her potential.

During these days of Repentance we focus not only on our relationship with G-D but in  our inter personal relationships as well.  Imagine if we took upon ourselves to help out family friends find their sweet spots.

As educators we are in the profession of helping others and therefore I think one of our goals should be t help others meet their goals and help others find the SWEET SPOT

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Small Things Count

Jews the world over find themselves now between Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. These days are known as the 10 Days of Repentance.

What should our focus be during these 10 days. Most people will tell you that we need to look at what we have done and try to change our ways and repent. However that could be a daunting task. Where does one start in the process of repenting?

The first place to start is to make a list. List the areas that you would like to improve and work on and from that list Rabbi Yisroel Slantar says take only 3-4 things and preferably the small things so that you could actually achieve your goal. Too often if we take upon ourselves something too big we end up not being able to accomplish our goal and we get discouraged.

While I believe this is makes a lot of sense and we see it all the time with concept of creating SMART goals which are small and attainable, how do we know that this is what G-D wants?

On Rosh Hashanah we read from the Jeremiah. We read how  that it will be the tears of Rachel that will cause G-D to forgive the Jewish people and allow them to return to the land of Israel. The obvious questions is what grey act did Rachel do that her tears and cries are answered while the prayers of the Fore Fathers and that of Moses were not answered. What did Rachel do she showed compassion to her sister Leah and avoided her sister  from being embarrassed. Rav J.B. Soloveitchik asks, why does this act out weigh more dramatic and other presumably greater acts. He answers the following, "Sometimes it is the seemingly insignificant act, private and hidden from public view. which is more significant than the greatest acts of courage and heroism." ( Teshuva Lecture, 1972, Derashot HaRav, p 58)

The same could be said for our acts of repentance often its the simple things that we do and the things that are done privately without all the fanfare that have the most meaning both to us and to G-D

May we all merit a Gmar Chatima Tova! ( May we be sealed in the Book of Life)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014



Today will be my last post until Sunday. Tomorrow begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which leads into the Sabbath. I will be unplugging from sundown tomorrow until Saturday night. It will also end my streak of blogging for 67 straight days.
So I find it interesting that as this streak comes to a temporary end ( I will continue to blog on Sunday) it also marks the beginning of the Jewish Year and a time for reflection as well as hope for the new year.

Perhaps there is a deeper message in this coincidence. Perhaps as we go through life certain things end; relationships, friendships, jobs, and sometimes lives. Life is also full of new beginnings; new friendships, relationships, new careers, and new lives.

So I will never be able to blog for 100 days straight but that's OK.  And during this past year certain things in my life did come to and end. Some of those things were good and some not so good, but I have had a lot of great beginnings.

  • Started blogging more  
  • Started a Blog challenge 
  • Increased my PLN in a more meaningful way
  • Made new friends for life
  • Worked on kicking off my consulting business 
  • Created a newsletter as part of my consulting business
  • Spent more quality time with my family 
I have a lot to thankful for as we end this year. My family is healthy, my daughters have turned into some amazing young women whom I am so proud of, and I have good friends who are hoping and praying I succeed. 

I definitely still have a lot to pray for; continued health, a job, peace and security in Israel and throughout the world. 

So as we face endings and new beginnings, I pray that the new year brings health peace and prosperity to all. 

Wishing everyone a Shana Tova
A Happy and Healthy New Year 

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Journey

My last few posts have been somewhat related to the upcoming Jewish Days of Awe which begging with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and day we are judged.
It gives most people myself included  time for reflect and personal retrospection on what has happened during the course of the last year and how we can and need to improve on the past.

At the same time we are told that we are not expected to be like Moses but rather to be the best we an be and therefore no one is going to change overnight and that life is journey filled with ups and downs and we hope that when faced with a challenge we are not only ready for it but will react in a better or perhaps more positive way then we did when we faced the challenge at an earlier time.

just ti give a simple analogy a child deals with the challenge of being hungry much different than an adult deals with it. But there are times and challenges that force us to be in this constant state of flux if we will sometimes growing and sometimes slipping back and loosing a few steps.

I recently saw the following tweet:  Sep 20

This picture of success sure puts it all in perspective.

This is the picture associated with that tweet

I would venture to say the picture really represents all of life's struggles and that Life isn't just a simple line moving us in an upward direction but life as in success is truly much more complex and that at times in life it seems or looks like we are moving backwards.
We must remember that as in success, life is about a journey filled with ups and down but in the end we achieve success and hopefully our life long goals.

May this New Jewish year bring about much success, health, and happiness. While that is our wish and our prayer and ultimately we hope to granted that the journey to achieving it may not a straight path but rather a twisted one filled with many ups and downs.


Sunday, September 21, 2014



I have blogged, tweeted, posted on Facebook the importance of a growth mindset. Yes having a growth mindset is very important. It allows us to be resilient, learn from our mistakes and understand that we are not stuck in the place that we currently find ourselves. However the idea of Mindset is so much more and permeates almost everything about our lives and careers. A while ago I read   "Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching"  by Angela Watson and I would like to share with you some of the highlights from the book.

"The only factor that you have complete control over is your mindset: the way YOU think and perceive things, and the way YOU choose to respond. If you want to create meaningful and lasting change in your job satisfaction, the best place to start is with your own thought patterns and attitude....

Your mindset is ultimately the reason why you love teaching or despise it. There is no such thing as a “good school” or “bad teaching position”; workplaces and jobs are not inherently good or bad. I finally understood that whether you enjoy your work or not is completely within your frame of reference.

Will our negative feelings ever go away completely? No. It’s not possible to feel happy, content, and undisturbed during every moment in life. We’re fallible human beings, and negative emotions are a natural part of our lives. We experience loss that brings sadness, and injustice that brings anger. Feeling these emotions can be a very healthy experience. It can help us to bring about positive change in ourselves and the world."

Watson in her book quotes Dweck and at the root of her ideas is that we need to adopt a growth mindset as she says;  "Carol Dweck has written extensively about how our basic abilities are not fixed from birth, but can be improved through hard work and dedication. The belief that this development is possible is called having a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. I encourage you to adapt a growth mindset as you read this book, believing that you can, in fact, improve your ability to handle stress and manage classroom challenges if you put forth the conscious effort to do so."

The real take away I had from Watson's book was that whether our job s good or bad and how we approach stress and, negativity also is our control. We make the reality of situation. Only we can create happiness for ourselves and only we can determine if we are in a good school or not.

While this sounds so simple it is often forgotten. How often my self included would say, "Oh that's a bad situation." Well it's a bad situation because I determined it to be bad situation.

As Jews worldwide approach the day of judgment, may we merit the ability to look inward and recognize that everything that G-D does is for the best and is good and that it our mindset that determines how we in actuality view what is intrinsically good. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Rosh Hashanah Message

Originally posted Sept 2010

A New Year's Resolution- My Personal Oath as an Educator

A while ago I was reading a blog post from Mr. Rice entitled “My Educator's Oath" he ends his blog with the following "I challenge each of you to write your own educator’s oath. Forever consider it to be a work in progress. Revise it often. Throw it away and start over. As you evolve, it should too."

Therefore as tonight is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New, I thought it would be appropriate for me to make my New Year’s resolution today in the form of “My Personal Oath as an Educator”. 

(Please note that the list is no particular order of importance since I believe that each point is important)

As an Educator I promise that I will:
1. Develop a close relationship with my students. I will know my students strengths and weaknesses and I will meet the needs of my students to the best of my ability and help each one realize and maximize his/her potential 
2. I will love my students and treat each one fairly. Fairly but not necessarily equally. (I once heard a lecture on the concept of fair but not equal.) 
3. I will have a student centered classroom that engages students and pushes them to think and question. 
4. I will incorporate technology in my classroom to help engage them and bring the learning we do to life. 
5. My classroom will be a safe place for students to learn and students will feel comfortable taking risks. Failure will be seen as a learning opportunity and not as a cause to be down on one's self
6. I will incorporate 21st Century skills and Differentiated instruction to meet the needs of more of my students
7. I will act as role model for my students and that my students will learn that I don’t know everything and it is OK to make mistakes and ask for help. 
8. I will commit myself to always be growing and constantly learning 
9. I will develop a PLN to help me grow. 
10. I will be flexible and be willing to change and grow. I will also be flexible in my teaching approach knowing that at times I may need to change my lesson based on my students’ readiness.  
As Mr. Rice` said I will be flexible in knowing that this oath will need to change as I grow and change. 

As I enter into the days of Awe on the Jewish calendar I hope that I am able to fulfill my oath and that G-D gives me the strength, wisdom, and insight to continue to have a positive effect on the lives of the children that I teach. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Not Ready

picture: View Source :

This is the last Shabbat of the Jewish year with Rosh Hashanah just days away. We actually begin saying selichot this Saturday night.
I will be the first to admit I am not ready to stand before the King of Kings to be judged. I am a bad person, I don't think so. Am I perfect for sure not and I have a lot I could do better. 
This week I went to hear Charlie Harary speak. He mentioned the following points (to the best of my recollection) 
Rosh Hashanah is not about asking for forgiveness rather we are coronating G-D if you will as the King of all Kings. 
It i s a day of din of judgement. Judgement is order and as human begins seek that order in our lives and are upset when we don't understand why G-D acts sometimes the way he does. So in heaven on Rosh Hashanah the evil inclination is prosecuting our case against us and the power he has Harary said comes from us, our insistence on order and judgment gives him his power. 

How do we defend ourselves? 
The Shofar breaks the prosecutions case. How ?
Harary said that the shofar recalls Abraham's ultimate willingness to sacrifice his son. That willingness Haray said is ultimate Chesed when we say it's not me but you G-D. We give up on the idea of order and Din. Therefore the Evil Inclination looses its power. 

Here is the takeaway. Haray said as long as I factors into the conversation what's in it for me then we are still focused on Din and the case against us is huge, however if we give up the I and focus on the We, Us , and them and in this case on Him bring G-D then we are using the attribute of chesed and Din Judgment has no power. 

So while I may not be prepared for the awe of the day I know that I can and need to be there more for others. I need to give up some of the me and focus on what is good for my family and community.  I also know that all I have and all my blessings come from G-D so on this day of His coronation I say that  I will try to be better at giving up of myself and that what I have is really Yours. 

I hope that if we all give up a little of the I and me and invite more of the We we will not only be granted a year of health prosperity and peace but we will have a more fulfilling year as part of a community and as part of the greater Jewish community.

Wishing everyone a Kesiva Vchasima Tova may we be inscribed for a year of good health,wealth and peace . 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Two Cents on Creativity

Picture: 21st century learning on Pinterest

I have written about the importance of creativity. I have also seen over the last few days a number of articles about creativity.  I ask myself as well as you the following questions?
Why some many articles about how to be creative? 
Isn't creativity natural?
Walk into any preschool class and without much teacher direction and probably with very little thought to what they are doing the students are very creative. 
Look at the phenomenon created by Caine's Arcade again something done on his own outside of school. 

Therefore here is my two cents on creativity:

1. It's natural and as I mentioned yesterday we need to give students more autonomy over what they are doing in school. 

2. Get out of the way often teachers tend to get in the way of creativity. What we need to be doing is cultivating planting the seeds and watering the ground so that the creativity happens on its own. 

Basically as long as we don't mess things up most kids are creativity each in his or her own way. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Motivated ,Engaged, and Controlled

This post is based on this months Educational Leadership Magazine.

Picture from ASCD

I think we could all agree that today we want our students to be motivated and engaged in the learning process. Daniel Pink says "With engagement you're doing something because you truly want to do it, because you see the virtues of doing it. However Pink contrasts that with complaint behavior when do something because someone told to do it.

Many classroom by default are places that we see more complaint behavior than engaged behavior and in reality we need to shift this so that students are engaged and are given a sense of freedom.

Pink says it best; We need leaders, both in organizations and in schools, who create an atmosphere in which people have a sufficient degree of freedom; can move toward mastery on something that matters;and know why they're do something, not just how to do it.........As parents, as teachers, as entire organization, our instinct it toward greater control. We think control is going to make something better. But people only have two reactions to control: They comply or defy. We don't want defiant kids but we also don't want compliant kids. We want kids who are engaged. If you truly want  to engage  kids, you have to pull back on the control, and create conditions in which they can tap into their own inner motivations." 

To have engaged students we need to give up on the control and allow the natural motivation to shine. All students are motivated the only question is what is their level of motivation. By giving up control and allowing the motivation to come through we will end up with more engaged students.

Jackson and Zmuda in their article "4 Keys to Student Engagement" also make the the distinction between Complaint and Engaged. They point out the following:
  "Real engagements not compliance. We can't pine for engaged learners when our policies and practices tend to focus on producing compliant learners. If we want to grow capacity in our students;unearth student talents, dreams, and aspirations; and instill perseverance through a focus on doing hard work, learning from mistakes and revising one's work,we need to design classroom practices around securing real engagement. 

To sort of wrap things up Cossett and Gilmore in their article "10 Standards for Motivation " give us a top 10 list:

  1.  The need for Active Learning
  2. Lessons incorporate student autonomy
  3. Learning is relevant
  4. Frequent opportunities for collaboration 
  5. Appropriate use of technology
  6. Multiple learning methods
  7. A balance of challenge and success the create independence. 
  8. Differentiate 
  9. Feedback and authentic assessment
  10. Inquiry that promotes a sense of curiosity and desire to learn
To sum up : Motivation + Autonomy= Engagement and Compliance and Control reduce motivation and therefore limit true engagement. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What is a Lifelong Learner


The name of my blog is Views of a Lifelong Learner. Well what is it to be lifelong learner? Today I came across the following article.

"Six Ways to Be a Lifelong Learner " Here are the six points  the author makes

  • Read daily.
  • Seek out experts
  • Make connections
  • Turn off the TV
  • Find the time
  • Invest in yourself
I highly recommend reading the entire article as the author expands on each of the six points. 
I will like to add my own and in some cases agree with the ones listed above with my own commentary. 

  1. YES! READ READ and READ One needs to be current on the latest trend in what ever field they are in and they need to be gaining more knowledge all the time. Imagine if the skill set you are using now was the same one you used in high  school. 
  2. Develop a PLN - This is similar to the second and third points above. No one person can know it all and they need to rely on others for help. Why reinvent the wheel when you don't have to. It says in "Ethics of Our Fathers"; "who is truly wise, one who is willing to learn from anyone 
  3. Related to number two is that we need to try new things and take risks. We don't know everything and the only way we can learn is by trial and error. 
  4. Be willing to adapt to change. To learn means to grow and change and we need to willing to embrace that. 
  5. Be a lifelong learner is journey it never ends. It is the ultimate marathon. So you need to ready for the long haul. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lessons I Learned from My GPS


Today I spent the majority of the day in he car going from one place to the next. I sort of knew where I was going but I didn't worry because I had my smart phone with my GPS apps. Someone even said do you know where you are going and I said not really but I have my GPS. Well as fate would have it just as I really needed the GPS  it timed out couldn't reach the server. I was in trouble ! Well I kept on trying to refresh it actually my wife who was with me tried since I was driving and I tried to get a sense of my surroundings so I could figure out where I needed to go. Eventually the GPS came back to life. I used it twice more today and things were better.
Why am I telling you this random story? Good question. From this experience I learned some value lessons.
1 I should always have a backup plan just in case something goes wrong
2 Just because something didn't work once doesn't mean  you should give up
3 Even though  at times the journey, and how you get there is important the goal was for me to get there

OK great but so what?

Well I think these ideas can be applied to some peoples reluctance to use technology.

1. It is not always going to work and part of being a good teacher is preparing for the unexpected. If you have a lesson based on technology and it doesn't work you need to have a backup plan.

2. Technology will fail! That doesn't mean that we give up on it after a few tries.

3. The most important lesson is that; Technology is the tool the goal is the pedagogy and what  life long lesson you want to instill.  If the technology doesn't work doesn't mean you give up on the goal, you may need to use a different tool.

"Pedagogy is the driver,technology is the accelerator and passion is the gas! #edtechchat "

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Culture of Collaboration


One of the key life skills that I have spoken about it collaboration. I am also a big believer in modeling and practicing what we preach. So if want to instill collaboration in our students than we as educators must be willing to collaborate and model that sill for our students.

 This at times can be hard for some teachers. Teachers feel like the classroom is their domain and therefore some can be very protective of that and secondly unless there is a culture of transparency and openness teachers often feel like they are being watched and judged which limits their willingness to collaborate. Finally a fear of failure if they try something and it fails everyone will know.

Given those very real concerns and the fact that we need teachers to collaborate, how can we create a culture that makes collaborating easier?

Here are some of my thoughts 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 am fully aware that so,e of this is easier said than done but I think they are important starting points.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Being an Effective Teacher

Orginally posted November 2010
Still a good reminder. Using my "sabbath exemption" to repost a post I wrote a while ago 

Picture from:

This month’s Education Leadership magazine is devoted to the topic of Effective Teaching. Therefore I thought I would throw my hat into the rink and share with you my two cents. 

I think for the most part if we had to give a definition of an effective teacher we would all come up with similar ideas:

An Effective Teacher is :
• A teacher that cares and connects with his/her students both inside and outside the classroom
• A teacher exhibits a love and joy for teaching and is enthusiastic about learning 
• A teacher that instills in his/her students a love and joy for learning and the desire to be a lifelong learner
• A teacher that gives his/her students the skills needed to survive in today’s ever changing world 
• A teacher that measures success in terms of a student’s growth in learning
• A teacher that creates an environment where students are pushed out of their comfort zone when it comes to learning 
• A teacher that himself/herself is constantly wanting to grow and improve

How do we measure some of these qualities. I think we would all agree that standardized testing can’t be the only measure. A teacher who has a student who is two grades below grade level and brings that student up a grade level and has made a connection with that student wouldn't you say that,the teacher is an effective teacher?

I would like to quote to you what Thomas R. Hoerr wrote in this month’s Educational Leadership:
“Too often educators get sidetracked by focusing only on grades, grade- level equivalents, and percentiles. Those are all valid measures, but they are not the only ways to gauge growth. Part of the reason that our society gives so much attention to test scores is that we are so bad at measuring other, more amorphous qualities. That’s our fault. If enthusiasm for learning is important – and we know it is-we ought to be able to measure it. How might we do that? Certainly not with a multiple –choice enthusiasm test! Instead, we might examine student reflections in logs or journals or use rubrics to capture evidence of joyful learning.”

To me it is clear that we need ways to measure a teacher’s growth in all areas not only in the academic area but perhaps more importantly in the area of teacher effectiveness, and not necessarily to be evaluative but to truly be an effective teacher you want to be growing and we need to be able to measure that. As Thomas Hoerr says,"I want to know how good we are today so that in the future I can look back and see how we have improved.”

The challenge I know that I have is how do we effectively evaluate and measure what Hoerr calls the more amorphous qualities. Is that purely subjective or are there tools that we can use that can give us a more objective answer. 
I am not sure what the answer is but it is certainly an area that we need to develop so that we can measure our effectiveness and "Look back and see how we have improved."


Friday, September 12, 2014

The Power of a Story


Each week a get a an email with Rabbi Sacks thoughts on the weekly Torah portion. When I read this week's article and he opens by quoting Howard Gardner I knew I needed to read this and blog about it.

 In Rabbi Sacks article , "A Nation of Storytellers" he talks about the power a story can have. Below are some of his thoughts:

"Howard Gardner, professor of education and psychology at Harvard University, is one of the great minds of our time. He is best known for his theory of “multiple intelligences,” the idea that there is not one thing that can be measured and defined as intelligence but many different things – one dimension of the dignity of difference. He has also written many books on leadership and creativity, including one in particular, Leading Minds, that is important in understanding this week’s parsha.[1]

Gardner’s argument is that what makes a leader is the ability to tell a particular kind of story – one that explains ourselves to ourselves and gives power and resonance to a collective vision. So Churchill told the story of Britain’s indomitable courage in the fight for freedom. Gandhi spoke about the dignity of India and non-violent protest. Margaret Thatcher talked about the importance of the individual against an ever-encroaching State. Martin Luther King told of how a great nation is colour-blind. Stories give the group a shared identity and sense of purpose.

A large part of what Moses is doing in the book of Devarim is retelling that story to the next generation, reminding them of what God had done for their parents and of some of the mistakes their parents had made. Moses, as well as being the great liberator, is the supreme story teller. Yet what he does in parshat Ki Tavo extends way beyond this....

Here for the first time the retelling of the nation’s history becomes an obligation for every citizen of the nation. In this act, known as vidui bikkurim, “the confession made over first fruits,” Jews were commanded, as it were, to become a nation of storytellers.

This is a remarkable development. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi tells us that, “Only in Israel and nowhere else is the injunction to remember felt as a religious imperative to an entire people.”[4] Time and again throughout Devarim comes the command to remember: “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt.” “Remember what Amalek did to you.” “Remember what God did to Miriam.” “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.”

The vidui bikkurim is more than this. It is, compressed into the shortest possible space, the entire history of the nation in summary form. In a few short sentences we have here “the patriarchal origins in Mesopotamia, the emergence of the Hebrew nation in the midst of history rather than in mythic prehistory, slavery in Egypt and liberation therefrom, the climactic acquisition of the land of Israel, and throughout – the acknowledgement of God as lord of history.”[5]

Jews were the first people to write history – many centuries before Herodotus and Thucydides, often wrongly described as the first historians. Yet biblical Hebrew has no word that means “history” (the closest equivalent is divrei hayamim, “chronicles”). Instead it uses the root zakhor, meaning “memory.”

There is a fundamental difference between history and memory. History is “his story,”[6] an account of events that happened sometime else to someone else. Memory is “my story.” It is the past internalised and made part of my identity. That is what the Mishnah in Pesachim means when it says, “Each person must see himself as if he (or she) went out of Egypt.”[7]

Throughout Devarim Moses warns the people – no less than fourteen times – not to forget. If they forget the past they will lose their identity and sense of direction and disaster will follow. Moreover, not only are the people commanded to remember, they are also commanded to hand that memory on to their children.

 The great leaders tell the story of the group, but the greatest of leaders, Moses, taught the group to become a nation of storytellers.

You can still see the power of this idea today. As I point out in my book The Home We Build Together, if you visit the Presidential memorials in Washington, you see that each carries an inscription taken from their words: Jefferson’s ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident . . .’, Roosevelt’s ‘The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself’, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and his second Inaugural, ‘With malice toward none; with charity for all . . .’ Each memorial tells a story.

America has a national story because it is a society based on the idea of covenant. Narrative is at the heart of covenantal politics because it locates national identity in a set of historic events. The memory of those events evokes the values for which those who came before us fought and of which we are the guardians.

A covenantal narrative is always inclusive, the property of all its citizens, newcomers as well as the home-born. It says to everyone, regardless of class or creed: this is who we are. It creates a sense of common identity that transcends other identities. That is why, for example, Martin Luther King was able to use it to such effect in some of his greatest speeches. He was telling his fellow African Americans to see themselves as an equal part of the nation. At the same time, he was telling white Americans to honour their commitment to the Declaration of Independence and its statement that ‘all men are created equal’.  

England does not have the same kind of national narrative because it is based not on covenant but on hierarchy and tradition. England, writes Roger Scruton, “was not a nation or a creed or a language or a state but a home. Things at home don’t need an explanation. They are there because they are there.”[8] England, historically, was a class-based society in which there were ruling elites who governed on behalf of the nation as a whole. America, founded by Puritans who saw themselves as a new Israel bound by covenant, was not a society of rulers and ruled, but rather one of collective responsibility. Hence the phrase, central to American politics but never used in English politics: “We, the people.”

By making the Israelites a nation of storytellers, Moses helped turn them into a people bound by collective responsibility – to one another, to the past and future, and to God. By framing a narrative that successive generations would make their own and teach to their children, Moses turned Jews into a nation of leaders.

I think storytelling is a great tool as both Rabbi Sacks and Gardner mention it is a way for leaders to convey a powerful message and show clearly their vision and purpose. 

Not that I could add to the words of Rabbi sacks and Gardner and perhaps what I am going to say is implied in their words but for educators storytelling is powerful for another reason. 

When a teacher or any educator shares a story they allow their students a glimpse into their lives and they let their guard down for a brief moment and are able to connect with their students on a whole new level. It also shows a teacher's willingness to be open and transparent. Teaching the material is important, but real learning takes place when we connect. 

I had just moved to a new community and a new school and we had an opening retreat. Not  many of the students knew me and i was asked to speak. It was this time of year around the Jewish  High Holidays and I wanted it  to be inspirational. I had a whole speech planned at the very end, I scratched it, and told the following story :

There was a young woman who had a very normal life two kids a loving husband and was just a regular nice friendly person. One day she was having issues with her eyes saw spots and went to the eye doctor. They had just moved and finding a doctor was not so easy. She was able to make an appointment and saw the DR.The Dr said I want you go for an MRI tonight and scheduled one at the hospital that night around 9:30. They found a babysitter, but as luck would have it there was a storm that night and the roads were flooded and they couldn't pick up the babysitter so they asked a neighbor instead. It was dark and gloomy and in a new city it was literally a perfect storm.
The MRI was so late that they needed a security guard to take them to their car and open the parking lot for them. You could imagine what was going through their minds at the same time this was the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. 
The eye doctor called the next day and over the phone with no warning or details told this young couple that the wife had a brain tumor. Shock! It was the last thing anyone expected. They asked a barrage of questions to which he had no answers he told them that he made an appointment that afternoon with a neurosurgeon who would be able to answer all the questions. It was Friday and the couple had no idea what would be the  fate that awaited after they saw the surgeon. They called their family and both the woman's mother and mother-in-law came for shabbat  not knowing what the surgeon would say. 
All of these days before Yom Kippur. They met with the surgeon, and it was a tumor, but it wasn't cancerous thank G-D and very operable. 
However, the davening that Yom Kippur was probably very different and one never knows and we have to be thankful for everything we have. 
That was the end of the story. However, I added one final line. I said the women in the story is my wife. 

I told the story because it was appropriate for the time  of year, but by opening up and making a personal connection I had a very good relationship with all of those students and over 10 years later still connect with some of them. 

Just like we teach students  not subjects and we need to  know their story we can also connect by telling them parts of our story as well. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014


It is hard to believe that today marks the 13th anniversary of 9-11-2001. I still remember exactly where I was and it seemed all surreal and we all thought it couldn't be true. Then to find out that I had friends and relatives who survived that day and some who unfortunately did not. My heart goes out to those families as well as my eternal thanks to our first responders and those serving in the military.

As an educator it is also strange that almost all students in grades K-8 weren't even born or are too young to remember 9-11.

When it comes to things like this I tend to turn to my faith and my mentors as to how to respond. I saw an article that Rabbi Sacks wrote. Excerpts of the article as well as a link to the complete article are below.

The 9/11 attacks are linked to a wider moral malaise

"If so, then 9/11 belongs to a wider series of phenomena affecting the West: the disintegration of the family, the demise of authority, the build-up of personal debt, the collapse of financial institutions, the downgrading of the American economy, the continuing failure of some European economies, the loss of a sense of honour, loyalty and integrity that has brought once esteemed groups into disrepute, the waning throughout the West of a sense of national identity; even last month’s riots.

These are all signs of the arteriosclerosis of a culture, a civilisation grown old. Whenever Me takes precedence over We, and pleasure today over viability tomorrow, a society is in trouble. If so, then the enemy is not radical Islam, it is us and our by now unsustainable self-indulgence.

The West has expended much energy and courage fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq abroad and defeating terror at home. It has spent far less, if any, in renewing its own morality and the institutions — families, communities, ethical codes, standards in public life — where it is created and sustained. 

But if I am right, this is the West’s greatest weakness in the eyes of its enemies as well as its friends.
The only way to save the world is to begin with ourselves. Our burden after 9/11 is to renew the moral disciplines of freedom. Some say it can’t be done. They are wrong: it can and must. Surely we owe the dead no less."  

I think Rabbi Sack's message is clear. While we have to fight terror both here and abroad and we can never forget and allow another 9-11 that is not enough. The events of 9-11 need to impact us and change who we are.

As most years 9-11 comes around the time of the Jewish High Holidays when we reflect on the pervious year and pray for a better one. It is a time that we are judged both individually and as a people. It is no secret as to why most Jewish prayers are written in the plural because to pray for ourselves means we need to pray and care about others.

Therefore, as Rabbi Sacks says we owe it to those who gave their lives so we can continue to live, in freedom to be more focused on the WE, on our families, and our community. By doing  so, not only we will remember those that perished, but we will grow and change both our communities, families and ourselves.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How Do We Define Success

There seems to be a lot of focus on motivation this month's Education Leadership magazine talks about motivation  (I haven't read it yet but will and hopefully blog about it) and tonight there was a community event which showed Rick Lovoie's session on motivation.

There is a direct correlation between success and motivation. One needs to feel and experience success in order to sustain one's motivation. As Lovoie said " If students did better they will dry harder. They need to feel success and we need to set them up for success. "

However,  how do we define success. Are  getting straight A's or doing well on standardized tests the measure of success? As I blogged about earlier, I believe that a student that grows and goes from a C to a B may actually be more successful than than the straight A student. If we can't  define it how then can we as Lovoie said, let them taste success.

I believe that success is something personal and needs to be measured by each individual.
Therefore, I happen to like Coach Wooden's definition of success. He  says; "Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming".

As many of us are just starting the new school year, let us keep this definition in mind in thinking about our own growth as educators and more importantly when looking at our students. If we want our students to be successful, we have to help them maximize their potential and become the best that they are capable of and for some students that might be an A but for others that might be a C. Let us also try to find ways so that all our students can taste success.

May we all become the best that we are capable of and have, a successful year.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Kicking Things Off


This week was the kickoff of a new NFL season and for me it was a kickoff for me as well.

A little over a year ago I started  Star Educational Consulting. However, to be honest the journey has been difficult. Truth be told I didn't give it the time needed  for starting a new business.  There is still a long road  ahead, but I am giving it my all and with G-D's help I hope things will take off this year. To that end besides the website, we have a Facebook page

AND today for the very first time an Educational Newsletter  I hope to have a monthly newsletter.

I also changed my twitter name from akevy613 to @AkevyStarEdu 

We are kicking off and moving in the right direction.

As with any type of kickoff and "new season" there is that adjustment and tweaking period. We are also defining ourselves. As we go through this process I believe that Star Educational Consulting will come to know for its focus on "Life Skills", with having a Growth Mindset as the root of those skills. And to make  education "REAL" 

R- Reaching
E- Engaging



We have a long journey still to go to make this dream a reality, but  we are on the right track and look for some of these ideas to be incorporated over the next few weeks and months.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Journey and the Process Counts

This post was originally posted in May of 2012. However as I have been involved with the blog challenge I have come to learn and appreciate even more that the journey and the process counts. In that vain I wanted to repost this. 

I also think that that the questions at the end of this post can be asked or at least in our minds as we start the school the year. 

Originally posted May 2012 

This weekend I read the following article:
"Learning or Knowing ;Which Takes Precedence? by Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Chancellor of Yeshiva University

Unfortunately right now the article is not available on line.

 There was a also a second piece titled  "Perspective on the Field by Dr. Eliezer Jones

Below are some quotes from Dr Lamm   followed by those of Dr. Jones

"Judaism, then, takes exactly the opposite worldview of the Greeks, and holds 
that becoming takes precedence over being. Accordingly, we believe that study 
is more important than knowledge. If knowledge is a state of Being, studying 
is an act of Becoming. As one studies, he keeps growing and growing.

"This preference for the process explains what the Sages mean when they say, 
“According to the pain is the reward.” 
What one is rewarded for is the pain 
involved in the process - the pain of studying, the 
pain of researching, the pain of thinking, the pain 
of solving conflicts- the pain of being confronted 
by one’s own ignorance and struggling to 
overcome it"Dr Lamm

"Learning by oneself as an adult is in a sense derivative of the 
requirement to teach one’s children. For Judaism, teaching children becomes 
more important than teaching adults. Why? Although the end product is 
considered important, the process - the study - is much more important. 
This explains why our emphasis is on child education, as opposed to adult 
education Dr Lamm

"As I am somewhat connected to the field of education myself, I know that 
teachers are very often frustrated. There is a very high degree of burnout. It 
isn’t easy to be a teacher. Therefore, educators frequently fret. I have heard 
this from many teachers in elementary schools, in high schools, and even in 
universities. They complain that they put so much effort into teaching and 
they don’t produce results. They don’t see the students getting as much as they 
should out of school. They feel frustrated by not being able to do all they hoped.

they could. Both the quantity learned and the joy of learning are less than they 
ought to be. The struggle is often a very disheartening one.
Nevertheless, my friends and colleagues who are in the field of education need 
to remember this idea. The process is more important than the results. The 
very act of teaching, the struggle of challenging the students, is worthwhile 
even if it does not succeed in the way the teacher would like, and even if it 
appears to fall on deaf ears. That is the greatness of our craft, of our profession, 
of our call, of our commitment."  Dr Lamm 

"Twenty-first century  education continues to recognize the need for teaching core content, but as 
information becomes more available and easily accessible, skills like creativity, 
collaboration, problem solving, innovation, communication, digital citizenship 
and critical thinking have become the primary skill base. As Rabbi Dr. Lamm 
suggests, the process of learning, not just knowing, is significant." Dr. Eliezer Jones

"As Rabbi Dr. Lamm articulates, Jewish education needs to focus less on the 
“downloading” of information and more on the process of learning. While 
there is value in knowledge, in the digital information age, it is the learning that 
must be at the forefront." Dr Eliezer Jones

As many of us are ending another school year I think we should be asking ourselves a new set of questions. Rather than asking how much  do my students know or how much did a I cover ( a phrase I abhor) we should be asking these questions:

  • How did my students grow this year?
  • What types of questions did my students ask?
  • Do my students know how to think?
  • Did I make them think?
  • Did I push my students out of their comfort zone?
  • Did I emphasize the importance of the learning process?
I am not saying that students don't need to have basic skills and knowledge, they need that in all areas but what is our focus and more than that do we teach our students that the process of learning is also part of learning and also matters, perhaps more than the knowledge itself. 

Please share what questions you would add


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Life Skills

Today, most people will tell you that no longer are just raw knowledge enough. I think it was the head of Google who said that no longer is class ranking and GPA a good measure of someone who will be successful in the workforce today.

The term 21st Century Skills has been used to describe this shift and these new skills 
While I agree with the importance of this shift away from just raw knowledge and facts I don't like the term 21st Century Skills.  We are more than half way through 2014 and we are almost two decades into the 21st century. I would rather call these skills, life skills. 

What are these life skills ?
Here is my list

* Creativity
* Critical Thinking 
* Communication 
* Collaboration 
* Innovation 
* Questioning 
* Risk Taking
* Learning from Mistakes
* Having a Growth Mindset 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the life skills we need to  instill in our students. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Post Disclaimer

The pervious post was written sitting in the ER(thank G-D everything is ok)from an app on my windows phone. The problem is after you write the post you only have two options to post or clear. You can't check or edit what you wrote.

Why and What

After blogging now for a number of years and consistently as of late I think it is important to understand why and what we blog. One of the amazing things I have learned from the blog challenge is that blogging is personal each person has their own style and reasons but we can learn and share from everyone. For me I write what am passionate about which includes my faith, my beliefs, education,friends and family and leadership.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Grading Scale That Reflects Effort

This post is some what of a follow up to my post yesterday on effort. 

Editors Note: I have not really looked at this post in almost four years a lot may have changed but I think the idea is still important. 

Originally posted in November 2010 

I have yet to understand what an “A” means or a 99 if you give a number. Does that mean that you don’t need to learn anymore? Or as I tweeted earlier this week “we grade our meat but we should teach our students.” 

Therefore I would like to propose a different type of grading scale. 

Editors Note: I know it may not be realistic given parent perception and the way colleges work but we need to stop defining our students based on grades. 

There are two scales and each student gets a letter and a number 

E- Excels and exceeds grade level benchmarks
G- Meets grade level benchmarks 
A- Approaches grade level benchmarks 
B- Is working below grade level 

1- Is an enthusiastic learner and works out of his comfort zone
2- Has shown academic growth
3- Is willing to try and has started to make progress
4- Hasn’t shown any growth and only does what he needs to do 

When using this system a student who is naturally smart but doesn’t do anything more could get a G-4 or an E-4 but a student who is not doing well academically but shows growth will receive a grade that reflects that. 

I applaud schools that have a similar system. I would love for you to share what you are doing.