Looking back at my Daf Kesher columns from 2017-2018, I think it was a great year at Schechter Manhattan. Here is some of what we did and what was on my mind over the year.
The year was filled with rigorous academic work, and many of my columns described the students busy doing the work of learning. A walk through the classrooms in October found students involved in the quiet buzz of learning throughout the school. The combination of well practiced routines and interesting work leads to highly engaged students, so much so that a visiting educator marveled at how the Gan students were not distracted by a group of adults entering the room. The students brought their full energies to multi-step, complex, long term projects, such as the second grade community maps study, the sixth grade science exhibitions, and the publishing of a Middle School student anthology of writing about democracy.
The rigorous study extended to various areas of the curriculum. This year, the Lieberman Family STEAM Center has expanded to bring computer coding lessons to all the students at Schechter Manhattan, as we work towards our aspiration for Schechter Manhattan graduates to be conversant in three languages- English, Hebrew, and a computer programming language as well. In Jewish studies, we saw students thinking deeply about the meaning of the high holiday liturgy and experiencing the joy and commitment of Jewish practice through both celebration and study. The curriculum was enriched through special programs, such as field trips that enhanced learning, the interfaith seder with students from Catholic and Islamic schools, and the school concert.
Many of the columns this year offered insight into the educational approach at Schechter Manhattan. I shared an update about our work in the area of racial diversity and inclusion, including our partnership with Be’chol Lashon, an organization that provides opportunities for Jewish professionals to actively engage in conversations about race, ethnicity, and identity in the context of Jews as a multicultural people in America. I also wrote about the theory and practice of the Schechter Manhattan approach to tfilah education and health and sexuality education.
My colleagues on the Schechter Manhattan Education Leadership Team helped by sharing details about other aspects of our program. Gary wrote about efforts to support students’ digital awareness and safety online. Shira and Deanna wrote about our approach to early literacy instruction. Ruthi wrote about the Schechter Manhattan Hebrew program. And Elisa, a teacher in the Schechter Manhattan Kindergarten, wrote about faculty rounds as an example of collegial professional development among our faculty.
In order to sustain all of these rich educational program and curricular elements, we also needed to attend to students’ safety. We addressed both their emotional safety when scary things, like hurricanes, happen in the world and their physical safety by attending to the security of our school building.
The safe learning environment and rigorous learning activities at Schechter Manhattan produce amazing graduates. Schechter Manhattan alumni were in touch with us this year. Some shared their views and values in the marketplace of ideas, and one alumnus, who we hadn’t seen in a few years, stopped by to visit and share how his Schechter Manhattan experiences had such a positive impact on him.
This year, the Schechter Manhattan community came together in many ways. The Parents’ Association planned and implemented great community programs, including the wonderful shabbat dinners in January. We connected the Jewish studies we do in our classrooms to a larger community of Jewish learning on the Global Day of Jewish learning. Many members of the larger Jewish community supported our efforts tospread the light of Schechter Manhattan through the Chanukah match and celebrated our success at the annual Gala. Thank you to so many who have given generously to strengthen our special school.
This year we also joined world wide celebrations of Israel’s 70th year. We celebrated in school and with the larger community in NYC and even highlighted our love for Israel in a special Purim video. We also engaged thoughtfully with the challenges Israel faces through parent and faculty workshops with Resetting the Table, an organization dedicated to building meaningful dialogue and deliberation across political divides, primarily surrounding Israel within the American Jewish community. I also shared my thoughts after hearing Natan Sharansky speak about his vision for building bridges between Israeli and American Jews.
Mr. Sharansky imagines a better future, and this year we also encouraged Schechter Manhattan students to dare to dream, about their own bright futures and the positive change they will bring to the world. Setting our students on a path to such success is thanks to the tireless and skilled work of the Schechter Manhattan faculty, who we thank for a great year.
What an amazing year of learning and growing. We have much to proud of. Wishing everyone a wonderful summer.
Each week we will feature the written work of our students. We hope that you will stop back next week and see what they are writing and thinking about.
We have been studying the books by the author Mo Willem’s! On Wednesday, the students were so proud to present their hard work and found such pleasure in creating their own Pigeon books, getting to know Willems’ characters and dressing up as their favorite one! Here are some pages from some of the books. Enjoy!
KITAH GIMMEL / KITAH DALET
These are the result of our “writing clubs” in which students chose a genre such as fiction writing, biography, review, or article and wrote a piece in that genre. Any research or information presented was searched by the students themselves.
The students wrote a recommendation about a book they read recently. They learned the structure of a recommendation and the vocabulary to use.
Seventh graders composed essays on the practical applications of ratios and proportions.