Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Today for me was one of those  days where you question certain thing and you are shaken to the core.
It started when I learned that a valued member of my PLN and a friend lost her fiancee suddenly just  two weeks before their wedding. I was speechless and words can't even express how I feel let alone what she must be going through.
Then I heard about terrorist attacks in Ottawa and in Jerusalem. In the latter a 3 month old baby was killed.

I know that G-D has a plan even if we don't understand or know the reason.

What shook me was the fact that we  shouldn't take anything for granted. And secondly here  I am complaining or feeling bad that I haven't been asked to give a key note, I haven't published , or my business hasn't taken off and I have been out of work for over year.  That all seems trivial in light of these other tragedies. Thank G-D my family is well we have roof over heads and food on the table.

So maybe there are some words. Tell your friends how much they mean to you, tell the people you love, that you love them and give your kids and extra hug tonight because we should take nothing for granted.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Makes You a Connected Educator

October is connected Educators month. I would consider myself a Connected Educator.

  • I am very active on Twitter 
  • I participates in Twitter chats and actually started one #jedchat 
  • I started a 30 blog day blog challenge and created a page on Facebook for others to join and share 
  • I actively blog and try to comment on blog posts
  • I have presented at conferences 
  • I have developed an amazing PLN and many of whom are actually very good friends
All of the above has made me a better educator, lifelong learner, friend, parent and spouse. I don't regret it for one second in fact I question at times where I would be without twitter and without my PLN.

However lets take a peak on the dark side. ( Again I am grateful to my PLN and my friends so this is not geared towards any individuals)

What if I wasn't as connected on line?

What if I only lurked on Twitter and blogged once in a while ?

Yes I have presented at conferences but have never given a keynote nor been able to work out a deal to publish ( yes some of that is my fault) 

 To be honest I have asked these questions 

Am I really connected and what would be different if I was a bit less connected? 

I think we need to view being connected a little differently. 

Being connected should not be measured by how many twitter followers you have, or by how many times you blog or by how many books you have published or by how many keynotes you give.

But rather how you connect with your peers and your students.

  • Do you connect so that you can learn more, or share ideas with others 
  • Do you connect so that you can grow as a educator and person 
  • Do you connect so that you can maximize your students potential 
  • When you connect do you make people feel that they matter 
I am sure there are other things we can and should measure but if you answered yes to the last set of ideas then I believe you are truly a connected educator 

Sunday, October 19, 2014


picture :

The weekend was the end of the Jewish holiday season. It culminated with the holiday known as Simchat Torah. On this holiday we sing and dance with the Torah Scrolls as we celebrate finishing the cycle of reading all five books of the Torah. However immediately after completing the final verse the very next thing we do is read the opening verses in Genesis about the creation of the world. There is never and end to the learning and depth of Torah study and therefore right when we "finish" we start again to show that there really is never and end and we can always learn more.

It is one of the beautiful things to me about the Torah and Torah study is that the same verses that we teach to a second and third grade and understood at that level can be read and understood by people at any age each and their own level. 

What at an amazing message to educators, leaders and lifelong learners. Ones learning never ends and the thirst for knowledge is constant and ongoing. Things that you learned at a young  age can be learned again with a deeper appreciation and meaning. 

How? How does one or can one accomplish this especially if there is end, how can feel accomplished?

My Rabbi this week shared the following idea. We have a tradition that each week we read the weekly Torah portion twice and once with a commentary. He suggested two things:
1. Each year pick a commentary that speaks to you and interests you 
2. Write down at least one idea that you could use and incorporate in your daily lives. 

I want to sort of expand and put in terms that all educators and lifelong learners can use. 

2. find something a topic or an idea that interests you ( makes the reading more enjoyable) 
3. Jot down or blog or tweet at least one takeaway from something that you read. 

Then even though ones quest and journey of learning never ends by following these steps you make the learning real practical and will be in my opinion motivated to continue on the journey. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Holidays and Hands on Learning


This is a busy Jewish holiday season. We are now celebrating the holiday of Sukkot ( Tabernacle). We eat in temporary huts and we take Four Species that we shake.  There are many reasons behind each of these customs and laws but  that is not the purpose of this blog post.  As you go through the Jewish calendar and it's customs  and laws you see a common idea that it is not enough to remember the ideas but we must experience it. Nothing illustrates this more than the passover Seder. The RAMBAM ( Maimonides) goes as far as saying that that one must view themselves as if they left  Egypt. Sukkot is no different it is not enough just to remember how the Jews traveled through  the desert but we must feel it and experience it by sitting outside in temporary dwellings. its in not enough to see or even lift the the Four Species but we need to actually shake it.

I am not a philosopher and others wiser than me have dealt with and addressed this point but perhaps Judaism's survival over the centuries is that we just don't remember the events of the past but we actual try to experience them.

As an educator the message is  clear. How can we make learning real and long lasting? How can we move from just memorizing facts but to internalizing it and making what we teach real?

The answer is simple it needs to be hands on and experienced. Students need to see the meaning of the learning and the outcomes and reasons need to be transparent. This idea of making learning real and long lasting is the theme of this month Education Leadership Magazine.

If we make learning transparent, focus on  the why and allow students to experience the learning the learning won't only be real but will be long lasting as well.

Here are some of my tweets from this months EL magazine :

"Teaching4understanding goes beyond basic facts&asks why do we do this"  Burns #AscdEL #edchat

 Akevy Greenblatt @AkevyStarEdu    
"we should be mindful of what our Ss understand not merely what they can do" via EL mag #ascd #edchat

 Akevy Greenblatt @AkevyStarEdu  
"Exploring the Why" via EL mag #ascd #edchat

 Akevy Greenblatt @AkevyStarEdu    
We need to shift our lessons from telling to asking via EL mag #ascd #edchat

 Akevy Greenblatt @AkevyStarEdu  
"Ss should never feel as though they're simply repeating the same thing today that they did yesterday" Brookhart&Moss #ascdEL #edchat

 Akevy Greenblatt @AkevyStarEdu  
"Ss should have clear goal. If the T is the only1 who understands where learning is headed Ss r flying blind" Moss&Brookhart #ascdEL #edchat

 Akevy Greenblatt @AkevyStarEdu  
"Learning goals must b transparent" Ss need to know the why and the what they r learning via EL mag @ascd #edchat 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Teacher Observations Should be About Growth


Tomorrow night begins the holiday of Sukkot and I will be unplugging for another three days. Tonight as I popped on twitter I noticed the following chat.

Tonight at 8 pm ET: Discuss effective w/ ASCD Faculty & .

Therefore I am sharing a post I wrote in 2011. I probably need to update this post but that will have to wait for another time right now.

Here are some of my quick thoughts:

1. We need to change the culture- Too often teacher evaluations have been seen by teachers as being a very top down process.The Principal evaluates the teacher, fills out a checklist without any type of conversation or follow up. If one of the ideas and skills we need to be promoting as 21st century schools is that of collaboration then the evaluation process must be a collaborative one consisting of several conversations between the teacher and the administrator.

2.The goal of any effective evaluation process or P.D.program must be teacher growth. We as educational leaders should want to see our teachers grow and help them maximize their potential.Therefore the process is not one of “Got You” but rather one of facilitating growth. One of the qualities we need to have as educational leaders is that of humility and we should want to see our teachers succeed.

3. We need to differentiate the process to meet the needs of the individual teacher. A one size fits all professional development plan doesn’t work.Teachers need to feel that the process is worthwhile and meaningful to them.

 I would suggest that to create a culture of learning and growing, we as the educational leaders need to set the example. We need to create an environment that people are comfortable with taking risks and one that leads to growth and not teacher frustration and burnout.

Monday, October 6, 2014

How Are We Judged


As I have mentioned I have just finished the High Holiday period. This is a time according to Jewish tradition that we are judged and our fate for the coming year is determined. It is an emotional time and one that leads to a lot of introspection and thinking about what truly is important.
Based on different conversation over the last two days I have also been thinking about how we as educators and leaders are judged. What are the factors that others use to judge us.

Are we judged by:

  • How many twitter followers we have
  • How many times we have been published in journals 
  • How many books we have written 
  • How many keynote addresses we have given
This month is Connected educators month. What is a connected a educator?
If you are not on twitter or don't blog does that mean that you are not connected?
If you only connect with 20 people and not 200 are you not connected?

I don't have the answers. 

If YOU MATTER is truly a mission which I believe it is that this idea needs to permeate our entire lives not just how we act towards our students but how we act towards our friends and coworkers as well. 

How many of us truly connect even with people we work with on a daily basis?

Do we truly care about the well being of our friends and coworkers?

Do we support our friends  and are we truly for them?

Are we happy for their success or are we jealous?

Do we accept our friends and coworkers for who they are or do we judge them?

We have to take care of ourselves first and my needs and the needs of my family come first. I agree and understand but in those other moments do we really feel that YOU MATTER mission in our lives? 

I will be honest. I have tried to kickoff my consulting business and it has been hard. I have never given a keynote, I have not yet published a book and I have not attended a lot of edcamps or conferences. I do believe on some level I am judged for this. I am not against doing any of the above but it just hasn't happened. And Yes at times I am somewhat jealous or wonder why others seem to have it so it easy and have written multiple books and given multiple keynotes. 

I am human and have these feelings. At the same time I am truly happy and supportive of my friends who are accomplishing so much and adding so much to the field and making lives of students better which is the key. 

My PLN is great and value their support and friendship and wish them all only success. I am saying this to myself as well but we need to be careful how we judge and define others. We are in this profession because we care about others and we each may do things in our own unique way, that doesn't make one way better than the other. 
Lets remember that the YOU MATTER mission applies to us educators as well. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Honest Ramblings

I am sitting here on a Sunday night and I really don't know what I am going to say. I together with most Jews have finished the High Holiday season which  culminated yesterday with Yom Kippur and now we celebrate the holiday of Sukkot ( Tabernacle) which begins this Wednesday night. So I will be unplugging for another three days beginning Wednesday night.

Today on Facebook I read two separate posts from two friends that were both just so open and honest that it moved me. I have blogged a lot about transparency but, have been as open and honest as these two friends were. Perhaps I try to tell myself that I have been.  So these may be more ramblings but this is an attempt to put things on the table.

I had a hard time getting ready this year for the High Holidays, and while I have a lot to be thankful for and to pray for, If I am honest I am probably a bit angry that I still have not been able to find a job or that my own business hasn't taken off. I know its silly to be angry with G-D but as a person of faith I have asked and wondered why am I still in this situation. Then out of no where something happened last night. One of the final prayers of the Yom Kippur service is the "Avinu Malkenu" ( Our Father Our King) in it we make requests of G-D that we should be inscribed in the book of life, we should be inscribed for a year of prosperity etc. During this prayer I started to cry, still not sure why, but I think it was all my deep emotions that perhaps were being repressed coming to the surface in that highly emotional moment.

I now live in a large community which has its benefits and my girls are very happy but I don't have many local friends ( that's starting to slowly change) most of my friends I haven't even met in person, and yet I feel more connected to them then  people that I have met in person. I am lucky to have a very supportive PLN and friends who have always been  there for me.  Geographical location is not a requirement for friendship.

I don't mean to sound negative because I am not. I have many good friends even if they don't live locally, I have a loving and supportive family, I have my faith, and the knowledge that something good is waiting for me around the corner.

Perhaps in this rambling I have uncovered the reason that we are not as transparent and honest all the time. The truth is that at times brutal honesty hurts and the facts as they are now look  like things are terrible but  there always two sides of the coin and the challenge is that in being open and honest we need to see both sides. Things are complex, our lives are complex and we need understand that our lives are more than just two dimensional, and that things aren't either good and bad but rather some combination of the two.

I want to thank my friends even though they don't know it for their inspiration and for being so honest in such a public forum, it is something that is hard to do but very much appreciated.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Every Child Counts

I am still not feeling 100% but I wanted to blog. Last night I attended a webinar given by the amazing Angela Maiers who is truly an inspiration to me and I am privileged to call her a friend. She spoke about the mission of You Matter and how we need to connect in a real way with our students and make them feel like they are important. Therefore I am re posting this post I wrote in 2011. 

There is always a lot of talk about school reform. It is a very important topic but at times I think we look at it using a very wide angle lens and we tend to see all the problems. When looking at it through that type of lens type of lens it can seem overwhelming and perhaps our reaction is why bother trying. We are not going to change the system and what can I do?

My faith and religion is something that is very important to me and as many of you know offers me a source of inspiration. When the issue of education reform came up I found inspiration in something that I read this week by Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
He tells the story about David who is a pediatrician and David had a favorite story. The story is actually taken from Loren Eiseley, a famous anthropologist.
The story is as follows:
"An old man was walking along the beach when he saw a young man throwing starfish that got stranded by the tide back into the sea one by one. He went up to him and asked why he was doing this. The young man answered that otherwise the starfish would die. The old man said, but the beach goes on for miles and there are thousands of them, you will not be able to save them all. How can your effort make a difference? The young man looked at the starfish in is hand and threw it to safety in the waves.To this one he said it makes a difference."( Loren Eiseley, The Star Thrower, New York: Times Books 1978) 
Rabbi Sacks adds; "We do it one day at a time, one person at a time, one act at a time. A single life, said the sages, is like a universe. Save a life and you save a world. Change a life you begin to change the world."

Therefore I think we need to take a narrow lens when looking at school reform. Perhaps we can't the change everything and perhaps the system is just too big but if we can change one child or one class then we begin to change the world.

Therefore as it says in the Ethics of our fathers: It is not our responsibility to to finish the work ( it is too great) but you are not able to exempt your self from doing anything.

Let us focus on what we can do within our classrooms and our schools and with that change we can begin to change the world.