03 Jun Professional Development Working Groups: Teachers Learning Together

On Thursday afternoon the Schechter Manhattan faculty participated in a special moment of collegial sharing- the spring Professional Development Working Group fair. Professional Development Working Groups are small groups of teachers from throughout the school who meet to work on  an area of their teaching practice. Teachers choose topics for study based on their interests, the things they want to know more about and do better in their teaching. The PD Working Groups meet during five faculty meetings, during which they plan what they want to learn, how they will go about learning it, and what outcomes they hope to produce. We complete two independent sets of  PD Working Groups each school year- one in the fall and a second in the spring. At the end of each round, we come together as a faculty to share our learning with colleagues from the other groups, as we did yesterday afternoon.

A few examples from this PD Working Group fair this week show the scope and seriousness of the work the teachers do.  One group presented their work and findings on how to help younger students develop reflective thinking. The teachers shared the prompt questions that they developed and how they used them with their students to help them begin reflecting. Another group presented the new standards and benchmarks for the teaching of Rabbinics that they helped to write and edit as part of a field wide project. The group outlined ideas they have for how to utilize the new standards at Schechter Manhattan next year to improve our instruction and refine our Rabbinics curriculum. And the STEAM group shared the research they had done on computer science curriculum and standards as well as recommendations for next steps in the teaching of computer science at Schechter Manhattan.

PD Working Groups are especially powerful professional development experiences. Since teachers self select their topics their work is personal, it relates to their own goals and aspirations. Since teachers make their own plans for how they want to learn and what they want to accomplish, the work is usually quite practical, focusing on steps that the teachers can take into the classrooms right away. And since the work is done in groups it fosters dialogue among the teachers about teaching and learning, which nurtures a positive faculty culture focused on improved instruction and student outcomes.

I am enriched by each time that I participate in a  PD Working Group. Hearing from my colleagues about their continued efforts to learn and grow their teaching practices made me proud to be their partners in the sacred work of Jewish education. I believe the reflective and collegial character of the Schechter Manhattan faculty is exceptional and I am delighted that each year our team engages deeply in the art and practice of becoming better teachers.

Shabbat shalom

Benjamin Mann

Author’s Chair




On Wednesday’s trip to the High Line park, Kitah Aleph released the butterflies they had watched grow from caterpillars. Here are some of their reflections on the experience.


I think the butterflies will fly everywhere in the High Line.  I felt a little sad and kind of happy because I was happy for them that they got to be free and fly.  And I said to myself I will always remember the butterflies.



THey will go everywhere.  I felt happy because they could start their new life.



Stay in the park.  I felt sad because I realy lovd the butterflies.


I think the butterflies went to different parks in Manhattan.  I felt sad because I wanted to keep them in the classroom.




Kitah Gimmel learned about different groups of Jews who immigrated to Israel.  They wrote paragraphs about why they immigrated, what was difficult, and what aspects of their culture they brought with them.


Russian Immigration to Israel

Russian Jews are one of the many groups of people that immigrated to Israel.  They began immigrating to Israel in 1988. They felt the need to leave Russia because the Russian government didn’t let them practice their Jewish traditions. One aspect of their culture that they brought with them to Israel was their cooking.  They are known for making delicious honey cake. One challenge that they faced when immigrating to Israel was learning Hebrew.  It was hard for them because they already knew a whole other language.  They now make up about 15 percent of Israel’s 8 million people.

–Arielle, Nathaniel, Ben, Hannah, and Rafi


Ethiopian Immigration to Israel

Ethiopian Jews are one of the many groups of people to immigrate to Israel.  They immigrated to Israel in two different waves, one in 1984 and another in 1985.  They wave of immigrations were called Operation Moses and Operation Solomon.  The reason they left was because when war broke out, they were left with little food and water. Ethiopian Jews are known for making embroideries that reflect their culture. One challenge that they continue to face in Israel is that people don’t always treat them nicely because of the color of their skin. The Ethiopian Jews went through a lot to get to a new Jewish community.

–Talia, Ari, Maya, Abby, Yoav


Yemenite Immigration to Israel

Yemenite Jews are just one of the many groups of people to immigrate to Israel.  They immigrated in 1949 and the immigration was called Operation Magic Carpet.  They left Yemen because they were treated badly and had to give up their Jewish customs.  Even though they made the move to Israel they brought with them some recipes from their culture.  They liked to eat meat and spicy food.  Many Yemenite Jews were artists and Jewelers in their country.  They brought with the beautiful pieces of silver jewelry they designed and created.  One thing that was challenging about moving to Israel was that Yemenites began immigrated soon after Israel became a state so the country was still developing as well.

–Yadin, Annabelle, Ella, and Yhonatan


Iraqi Immigration to Israel

Many Iraqi Jews immigrated to Israel in 1951 and 1952.  During Operation Ezra, also known as Operation Ali Baba, about 120,000 Jews made their way by plane to Israel.  The Iraqi Jews left Iraq because they had to deal with a lot of violence from the Iraqi people just because they were Jewish. It was hard for many Iraqi Jews when they first moved to Israel because they weren’t sure how to combine both their own culture and Israeli culture.  As they settled in Israel, they began to feel more comfortable including more parts of their culture with Israeli culture. The Iraqi Jews brought different types of foods to Israel. Iraqis like to stuff vegetables and eat a lot of lamb, rice, and yogurt. They enjoy cooking fruits with beef and turkey.

–David, Nina, Simon, and Sarah



The students of Kitah Heh wrote about their field trip to Ellis Island.


Early in the morning my class and I got on the train. The train brought us to aFerry. The ride on the Ferry was very sunny, even though I was indoors. We passed the Statue of Liberty which was on a small island that looked a little crowded. My classmates and I took pictures of the statue. Later on, we approached Ellis Island and got off. It was a big building that took up most of the Island. IOne of the guides showed us how a buttonhook was used, you put it on the eyelid and turn it inside out. Yuck! After that we played a game. In the game we wanted food and had to act it out since we couldn’t speak english. We visited many rooms. One of the rooms that we visited was were they slept and used the bathrooms. There might have been 30 tiny beds that were used for the immigrants to sleep in. The bathrooms were 3 old dirty sinks that were very low, there was 1 toilet for them all to share. After the tours we went outside to have Lunch. We sat down near a long wall that had many names on it.The wall curved around a big grass space. After everyone was finished with their lunch we went of and looked around. Most of us played a game called Jackpot and the rest of us were looking at the animals and looking at the wall of names looking for their relatives.


The fifth grade had a good time on their trip to Ellis Island. First, they took the subway to the tip of Manhattan. Then the class got on a boat to Ellis Island. They had to go through security and loooooong lines before they got on to the ferry. On the ferry, the class split up. Half of them went to the top of the boat while the other half was inside on the second level. The ferry stopped at the statue of liberty and the class got a lot of good pictures. Finally, the class arrived at the island. The first thing that the fifth grade saw was a big building. When they stepped into the building it was crowded. The building turned out to be the stations at Ellis Island. The class was amazed that it took 3 minutes to complete a 5 piece puzzle. There were also triple bunk beds in the dormitories! When they finished visiting the stations, they had lunch by the river. After lunch they played jackpot.Then they went back on the ferry. It was a field trip they would never forget. (Some of the fifth grade did get a bit dehydrated though).



Last week, my class and I went to Ellis Island, the immigration station for the East Coast which opened in 1892 and closed in 1954. t was a meaningful experience for me to see what my great-great grandparents went through back in the day. We started the day sun-screening ourselves and getting water and hats. We got on the 1 train and took it all the way to South Ferry, the last stop. When we got there, we went to Castle Gardens which used to be the immigration station prior to 1892. There, my teacher got our reserved tickets for the ferry. We all went to a large tent where there was airport style security. I went through a metal detector and found out that I did not have an explosive on me. We got on the ferry and I sat inside. When we reached liberty Island, my friends and I heard the security people shouting “move along” and “take bigger steps.” We mimicked them and got to see a teenage girl’s middle finger. “HOW RUUUUUDE!” we exclaimed.

When we reached Ellis Island, we went into a big building. I saw the baggage room where people put their luggage that they brought from their former countries. Some immigrants kept their bags because it was not uncommon for baggage to get lost on the overcrowded island. I toured the great hall, the dormitories, and the registry room. After that, we ate lunch next to the wall of honor. Some of my friends found relatives’ names on the wall. We then played jackpot, an exciting game involving catching a ball to get points or lose them. After all that, it was time to go. We got on the ferry, rode the subway and walked back to school.

All in all, Ellis Island was a fun experience. I saw what 12 million people had to go through coming to the United States. And most importantly, I had fun.