12 May Reflective practice in leadership: The Schechter Manhattan Education Committee

Reflection is a core value at Schechter Manhattan.  We ask students to think deeply about their school work, so that they can identify their strengths and set goals for what they want to work on.  Teachers are also expected to be reflective about their teaching practice, through self evaluation and goal setting.  The school leadership also takes steps to reflect on the successes and challenges in the educational program, through regular review of student progress, revision and updating of curricular units, and seeking feedback from students, teachers, and parents.  (Click here to complete the 2016-2017 Parent Survey.)  An additional and especially helpful tool for the Educational Leadership Team in our efforts to reflect on our practice is the Schechter Manhattan Education Committee.

The Schechter Manhattan Education Committee is a standing committee of the Board of Trustees charged with offering consultation and support to the professional leadership.  The Education Committee is made up of a group of parents and other community members with a variety of backgrounds across the fields of general and Jewish education who offer their wisdom on educational issues that the Schechter Manhattan Educational Leadership Team is grappling with.  Committee members bring expertise from their work in higher education, synagogue leadership, and other public, independent, and Jewish schools.  Together they comprise an impressive group of smart people, who graciously volunteer their time to help us in our efforts to always improve.

The Education Committee is led collaboratively by me and the committee chair, Saul Kaiserman, Director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Emanu-El and Schechter Manhattan parent. After consulting with the Educational Leadership Team, I bring Saul areas of the educational program that we are working on and he and I think about how to frame the issues to present to the committee to spur generative conversations. This generally includes preparations of materials for the committee to review before a meeting, development of a framing question for discussion, and planning a discussion protocol, to structure the dialogue. The goal is for the ELT to broaden their thinking about educational dilemmas and open up possibilities and ideas that we might not have arrived at yet.

A key to the successful functioning of the Education Committee is the clear boundaries of the committee’s responsibility and the professional educator’s roles. The Education Committee does not set educational policy or make curricular decisions, that is the purview of the Educational Leadership Team. Further, the Education Committee does not evaluate the work of any individual educator, rather it offers guidance and support. These boundaries allow the Education Committee to create the safe space necessary for honest reflection. The professionals come to the meetings ready to share things that are not going as well as we would like, knowing that the committee members will help us find avenues for improvement in respectful and collegial ways.

Over the years the Education Committee has had significant and positive influence on the educational initiatives and curricular growth in the school. Discussions of differentiating instruction led to faculty wide professional development. Meetings about teaching of literature led to clarifying of how literature is selected and what books are in the curriculum. Series of conversations about science and technology led to the move towards STEM and then STEAM education across the school. This year the Education Committee discussed the educational leadership structures in the school, our Hebrew language program, teaching about race and racism, models of teacher collaboration, and our STEAM initiative. The discussions around the Education Committee table are already helping us to refine and revise our plans in all of the areas on which we are currently working.

I am thankful to Saul and all of the members of the Education Committee for their time and wise counsel. I am also appreciative to work in a school where reflection informs our practice in such meaningful ways. The reflective practice supported by the Education Committee helps us to continually reach towards our aspiration for excellence.

Benjamin Mann

Author’s Chair

Each week we feature the written work of our students. We hope you will stop by every week and see what they are writing and thinking about.


Kitah Aleph

Kitah Aleph has been learning the Hebrew letter ק koof! Children drew pictures of animals and wrote about their voices in Hebrew.


קול של חתול
(meeow! Kol shel chatool.)
(Meeow! Voice of a cat.)

היר היר
קול של סוס
(Heer heer. Kol shel soos.)
(Heer heer. Voice of a horse.)


הבהב! קול של כלב

(hav hav! Kol shel kelev.)
(Hav Hav! Voice of a dog.)


מי או מי או
קול של חתול
(meeow meeow. Kol shel chatool.)
(Meeow meeow. Voice of a cat.)

ני ני
קול של סוס
(Ney, Ney. Kol shel soos.)
(Ney Ney. Voice of a horse.)



Click here to see work by Ava, Arielle, and Charlie.


Kitah Gimmel

In one of the third grade’s Hebrew classes, we explored the makeup of our different families. We focused on family words such as abba אבא (father), ima אמא (mother), ach אח (brother), achot אחות (sister), saba סבא (grandfather) and savta סבתא (grandmother). Through our lessons and project, students learned about the many different types of families that make up our class community. Students made family trees with pictures and labeled each picture with one of the above words and used words of ownership as well, such as sheli שלי (my.) Students then wrote summaries of their immediate families as well.

Click here to see work by ArielJoryMaya, and Sammy.


Kitah Heh

The fifth graders wrote research papers about the immigration topic of their choice.

Click here to see work by Elana, Geffen, Ronin, and Malka.