May 30, 2012


Reposted from Principal’s Post

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



A Vision for a School

April 27, 2012

Cross  posted from Principal’s Post


I spent the first part of this week in Baltimore. The school had arranged a number of Parent Open Houses for me to meet the parents.


I feel very lucky in that I am going to be involved that is already very forward thinking and has a very dedicated staff.

However it gave me a chance to articulate my thoughts on leadership and education.

While what I said is not anything new sometimes just expressing your thoughts and putting them down in writing can serve as an important reminder. I am also in the middle of reading “Start with Why” which talks about being clear about the Why, the How and the What.


I vs WE


I think in any institution including or perhaps especially in schools there needs to be a sense of ownership. Schools are made up of Administrators, Teachers, support staff and other faculty members, Students, and Parents each has a stake in the well being of the school. Therefore the school doesn’t belong to one person or one group and even though it may sound somewhat insignificant when talking about the school Principals and teachers should model this by saying WE and not I or Mine.


By saying “WE’, we are expressing a shared sense of leadership and team work.



By no means is this the only why but I think this covers a number of key areas.


Schools should strive to meet the academic, social, emotional, and in my case the religious need of their students, and to help students maximize their potential. Schools need to create life long learners who are engaged in the 21st Century world in which they live. I would add for an orthodox day school, schools need to insure that their students have a love and commitment to Torah, Mitzvoth and Midenat Israel ( The State of Israel).



Here to there is no silver bullet or one specific answer. So here is my list.


  • Differentiated Instruction
  • The use of Technology to help meet the needs of all learners
  • Making the learning real and relevant
  • Student centered learning
  • Teachers as the guide on the side and not the sage on the stage
  • Engaged learners



As I ( We ) embark on a new journey of leadership together I hope  to build on these ideas and add other ideas of how we can create future learners and leaders.

Differentiation In the Judaic Classroom

March 4, 2012

At this past week the topic of our #jedchat  was differentiation. I do believe that the area of differentiation is one that at its core is just good pedagogy that helps learning. What teacher wouldn’t want more engaged students and meeting their needs?


Many of the ideas in General Ed about Differentiation can apply in a Judaic classroom. I myself have used the jigsaw method, I have – Who has, Tic- Tac- Toe, Vocabulary on the move, Snowball fight, and exit cards.


Below on same more specific examples of D.I. that I used with my Fifth grade class.


Fifth Grade Chumash (Bible) Lesson
As a review of a certain topic in Chumash the class was divided into three groups based on levels. The lowest group needed to take words from the verses and come up with a creative way of reviewing them with the class. This group made up a word game and a matching game. The middle group needed to come up with a creative way of reviewing the basic story line with the class. They did a play. The third group made up of high end students had to take the commentary Rashi and incorporate his explanation into the story line. 

Chumash (Bible) vocabulary review
Today in the fifth grade we did a vocabulary review activity. I took about 30 words and wrote each word on an index card. Then on a separate index card I wrote the translation for those words. Each student was given the cards randomly and then they had 10 minutes to find the translation for the words. At the end I was able to see which words the class as a whole wasn’t able to translate even at the end of the chapter. This also served as a good formative assessment to know which words or concepts still need to be reviewed.

Chumash Round Robin- Fifth Grade
As a pre assessment before we started learning a new section in Chumash I asked the students to write down on a piece of paper words they already know and their translation as well as words they don’t know and the root of those words. Prior to that I had them in random groups and told them they could work as a group. I then gave each student a number. After about 10 min I said all number 1 and 2 should rotate to the left and see if anyone that they are now working with can help them with the words they don’t know. I did the same thing later and had numbers 3 and 4 rotate to the right. At the end we came back as a class to see how many words they still didn’t know. From 7 verses they only didn’t know 3 and they didn’t have to sit there listening to me translate all the words and we were able to learn those 7 verses in half the time it would have taken us in a more traditional way.

Shorashim (Root words) Vocabulary Review 
At the end of a Perek (Chapter) in Chumash I reviewed key vocabulary with the class. Each student got a list with the root words and they had to find how that word was used in the verse and its translation. However next to each word there was number. The number one represented basic words and 2 represented harder words. Some words had a 1/2 which meant I wanted everyone to do it. Then I divided the class into two groups based on levels. All the students in group one did the word s which had a number 1 or 1/2 and the students in group 2 did the words with the number 2 and 1/2. Everyone was working on the same worksheet. No one knew why I gave certain words certain numbers. 

Fifth Grade Chumash Differentiation 
Today my fifth grade lesson was differentiated. I divided the class into three levels based on ability. Each group had to read the same set of pesukim (verses) but each group had a different assignment. The weakest group worked with me and we filled out a translation sheet together. The other two groups did not get a translation sheet. I also had an anchor activity if the high end group finished first.
Then at the end of the lesson we reviewed the material together through guided and direct questions. 

What is “Jewish” Education?

March 1, 2012

(cross-posted from

Last nights #jedchat focused on the topic of differentiated instruction in Jewish education. As always, it was a lively discussion among a committed team of educators (and I encourage as many people as possible to join these chats every Wednesday night between 9 and 10pm EST). However, I could not help wondering, and I expressed this at one point in the discussion, if there was anything distinctly Jewish about the topic.

There has been much talk in recent years about the “professionalization” of Jewish education. That term refers to a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but it its broadest sense it means that Jewish schools are slowly but surely moving away from being the equivalent of shtiebels for kids and actually beginning to emulate many of the best practices that have been developed and tested in the much larger and more accountable school systems across the country. This refers to every aspect of the school, from teaching methodology to how observations are conducted to how students of differing needs and abilities are dealt with. There is no question in my mind that this is generally a good thing.
But at the same time, this professionalization erases many of the boundaries between Jewish schools and every other school in the country. The more that we recognize that the key to teaching a solid Gemara class is not only about being a talmid chacham but also about being able to organize a good lesson or to construct a valid and potent assessment, the more we find ourselves realizing that there is much to learn from the math teacher down the road in P.S. 47. The differences that remain are in the content that we are teaching and in the overall atmosphere of our schools.
One person on the chat last night noted that one difficulty that arises in trying things such as differentiation in Judaic Studies is that there are very few available materials that teachers can grab in order to provide multiple learning opportunities for their class. There is no doubt that this is true -a science teacher has a wealth of textbooks and websites where she can go for enrichment or remediation materials for students who need them, whereas the average Chumash teacher has to create everything from scratch – doubly so if we are talking about online materials. On a related note, it is not always easy or possible to set students learning on their own if they are incapable of understanding the Hebrew of Ramban or the Aramaic of a particularly difficult sugya. Again, additional work for a teacher.
But those concerns are more quantitative than qualitative and thus I return to my original musing – what is so “Jewish” about “Jewish education”? At least on the level of methodology and pedagogy, I am not sure that there is anything so unique. And I am not sure that that is such a bad thing.
I would love to hear people’s comments on this post.

It Is Not Something New

January 29, 2012

Re-posted from Principal’s Post


One of my pet peeves is when people think that Differentiation Instruction and 21st Century Skills are something new and that now teachers need to do something different.  I think if would ask most teachers if it is important that they meet the needs of their students or that their students can communicate, think critically, and be creative, I would think most teachers would say YES no matter if they taught 25 years ago or are teaching today. Therefore I claim that D.I. and 21st Century skills are just good teaching and learning practices. This will be the topic of my presentation at the upcoming Martin Institute Conference in June. (


Then over the weekend I read this article by Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks “The Necessity of Asking Questions”



In this Article Rabbi Sacks point out the importance of asking questions. He states that in the middle of the climax of the story of the Jews leaving Egypt the Torah ( Bible) tells us the twice that our children will ask us questions

    “And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the     Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” (Ex. 12: 26-27)
In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Ex. 13: 14)”


Rabbi Sacks maintains that is more than just asking questions but that Teachers and Parents need to encourage their children and students to ask questions. He shares the following story:


“Isadore Rabi, winner of a Nobel Prize in physics, was once asked why he became a scientist. He replied, “My mother made me a scientist without ever knowing it. Every other child would come back from school and be asked, ‘What did you learn today?’ But my mother used to ask: ‘Izzy, did you ask a good question today?’ That made the difference. Asking good questions made me a scientist.”


He  goes on to say “Encourage your children to ask, question, probe, investigate, analyze, explore….The one essential, though, is to know and to teach this to our children, that not every question has an answer we can immediately understand.”


I don’t know about you but to me it would seem to me that the Torah ( Bible) itself is teaching us the importance  of asking questions which by the way would today be described as a 21st Century Skill.


Therefore lets not get caught up with names or titles but rather  just focus on helping our children and students learn so that they reach their potential and be productive and successful in the world in which we live in

My Thoughts



Jedchat beyond the Twitterstream

January 23, 2012

The true power of a community (or “community”, depending on how far you feel we have come) such as Jedchat is not in the ability to create one hour speed-dating-like conversations that focus around a given topic in education.  Nor is it in its ability to bring together educators from across the country, and sometimes the world, on a regular basis whereas previously we could only meet at the occasional conference.

No, for me the true power of Jedchat is when it becomes the springboard to further and more substantive communication and collaboration.  For all of the wonder of twitter chats, the fact is that we communicate in that forum in mere soundbites; and while many of us have become quite skilled in saying a lot in 140 characters or less, there is clearly so much more we can say when given fuller forums.

I have had the privilege of taking advantage of this aspect of Jedchat twice in the past few weeks.  A recent Jedchat focused on the issue of Project-Based Learning (PBL), a topic that I have recently become very interested in in my own teaching, and thus a topic that I had much to comment about during the Jedchat.  I signed off of the chat feeling both exhausted from the usual breakneck pace of the chat and exhilarated from being able to have such a substantive dialogue with my colleagues about something that I was deeply involved with in my day-to-day teaching life.  However, that was only the beginning.

A few days after the chat, Debby Jacoby, a wonderful educator in San Francisco and a super-avid tweep, contacted me wanting to speak in more detail about PBL.  And so it was that Debby and I found time to Skype from one coast to the other to discuss the various benefits, challenges, and possibilities that are involved in PBL.

Around the same time, Dr. Moshe Krakowski of Yeshiva University got in touch.  In addition to serving as a professor in YU’s Azrieli graduate school of Jewish Education, Dr. Krakowski also moderates a CoP (community of practice) of educators who hold a monthly phone conference on the topic of PBL.  Dr. Krakowski asked if I would join the CoP and if I would lead the next discussion, relating my experiences and future plans with this approach to teaching.  I happily agreed and this past Thursday I had the privilege of speaking with roughly ten educators from across the country in a very spirited dialogue about PBL.

To my mind, this is the true power of the Jedchat community – when the once-weekly “meetings” become a time to lay the ground work for future conversations.  I have already had encounters with colleagues from Jedchat where our live conversations have simply picked up from where the Jedchat discussion left off, and the chance to parlay Jedchat discussions into live meetings, conferences, and skype sessions is indicative of the fact that Jedchat is becoming a significant tool in the creation of a cohesive and coherent network of Jewish educators.


(cross-posted on

#JEDCHAT: The NetWork At-Work – Thoughts on the Washington Post Article

January 22, 2012

Well, we hit the big time today.

In a matter of speaking.

The Washington Post had an article  in their Saturday edition, entitled “Teachers take to Twitter to improve craft and commiserate,” and it was all about how more and more teachers are turning to Twitter to connect with other educators for resource sharing, camaraderie, and support through tough times. In particular, educators are discovering a “community of mentors offering inspiration, commiseration and classroom-tested lesson plans,” through weekly twitter chats on a variety of education topics, the granddaddy of them all being #edchat.

And then, in the middle of the article, #jedchat got a shout out. This amazing community, a group that has only been chatting regularly on Wednesday night’s at 9 EST for a little over 3 months, made it into the Washington Post.

Now, we could all stop here, content that we as a community (and perhaps the larger Jewish educational community) got our 15 minutes of fame, and move on.

But I think there is more at play here, and it bears some reflecting.

A network is a powerful tool. In the age of the internet and social media, it has become something that is infinitely more far reaching and stronger than before. Starting with little more than an idea of “hey, we can do this too!” a group of Jewish educators came together on Twitter to have a conversation. And all of a sudden, it became a “thing,” something real, a destination.

It became a network.

With this transformation, ideas were shared, and people were inspired to bring these new ideas back to their own classrooms and schools. To me, this all culminated with the tweeting frenzy that took place during the North American Jewish Day School Conference last week in Atlanta, GA. Through Twitter, educators and other educational stakeholders were extending the ideas and messages of the conference beyond the walls of the hotel, with the #jedchat hashtag being one of the primary ones used to spread the knowledge (alongside #NAJDS & #NAJDSconf, of course!).

The people in our network are truly wonderful and inspiring educators. They are the ones, in the words of the Washington Post article, who “tend to be creative, motivated people with high standards for their own performance — the type who would rather try something new than pull out the yellowed lesson plans they’ve been using for years.” And when all these people come together through the internet, the network goes on hyperdrive.

I am reminded of a famous TED talk by Chris Anderson, entitled “How Web Videos Power Global Innovation.”



In this talk, Anderson notes how YouTube has revolutionized the development of dance worldwide, as dancers now find themselves with a global audience. He quotes Jon Chu, a movie director: “Dancers have created a whole global laboratory online. Kids in Japan are taking moves from a YouTube video created in Detroit, building on it within days and releasing a new video, while dancers in California are taking the Japanese video and remixing it to create a whole new dance cycle”

Chu actually harnessed this increased power of the network to put together an all-world troupe known as the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. These performers were all recruited through YouTube, and the result is, well, “Extraordinary.”


The idea is that, through the power of the internet and the talented people that participate in the global sharing process, dance innovation moves at a much faster pace, as new moves and techniques are spread, copied, and improved upon at lightning speed.

Is it any wonder you end up with amazing feats like this?


This is what technology is doing to networks in all sorts of fields. Education, and specifically Jewish education, is no exception. #JEDCHAT is one of the ways that we, as Jewish education stakeholders, are capitalizing on the incredible talent and power of connectivity that Twitter affords, in spreading innovation in our field.

How many Jewish educators are in situations not so different to Nineteen-year educator Ron Peck, who, as profiled in the Washington Post piece, “teaches in a small public high school tucked up against the rugged Klamath mountains in southern Oregon, hours from the nearest big city. Resources in his district are limited, he said, and innovation is slow. He said Twitter has been a lifeline to the larger world, infusing his classroom with new ideas and technologies that he wouldn’t otherwise know about.”

So at the end of the day, it is wonderfully exciting for #jedchat to be included in an article by the mainstream press, especially in a publication as respected as the Washington Post. But to me, and to many others in our growing community, the real excitement lies in who will learn about #jedchat through this and other articles and references, and in turn, help the network grow and create even stronger connections. Because as much as we look around and see a network of educators looking to share and learn from others online, we must remember that we are still the minority. Within the world of Jewish education, most educators do not even know what a hashtag is, let alone know that something like #jedchat exists.

Kol hakavod to all of you who have brought us to this point, participating in the weekly chats and sharing resources throughout the week.

What you are witnessing is the network “at work,” and it is indeed a beautiful thing.

(cross posted on


Learning Never Ends- #Jedchat and Twitter

January 22, 2012

As my red eye flight crosses the Mason-Dixon line (at least according to Jet Blu’s in flight TV monitor [note: As a first time flyer of Jet Blu I was excited to be able to watch TV on a continental us flight- Until they informed us that there’s a $2 charge for headphones and $5.99 for a movie- Hence my alternative activity which is more cost effective and lets me actually engage my brain!]) I can’t help but think back to last night when the Washington Post featured an article about educators using Twitter- and listed #Jedchat as one of the Twitter education groups! My first reaction was “o.k. it is a pretty big deal that out of the tens of thousands (millions?) of hashtags in the Twitter-verse the Washington Post included #Jedchat in it’s list.

Then I reviewed the article and thought to myself- this is what the influence of social media is all about. This is what #Jedchat is all about. Yet why does #Jedchat work? Why do Jewish educators and education stakeholders feel comfortable participating in #Jedchat? What makes #Jedchat unique? Does it have to do with pluralism or equality or all persuasions of Judaism coming together in harmony for the perfect educational symphony? Not necessarily- Though these are all offshoots and sub-goals of what #Jedchat provides.

When Akevy, Dov and I had our first Google Hangout our vision was very simple: we wanted to create a platform whose driving question (partial-plug for project based learning) for all genuine professional educators was universal; namely-  “How can we provide our students with deep authentic learning experiences.”

That’s ‘all’ it took to launch #Jedchat on Twitter. (And yes Israel- we will eventually have a chat in your time-zone!)

Twitter for edcuators is a unique learning experience. Yes at first it is intimidating because you feel like you are thrown into Midtown-Manhattan where everyone is bumping into you and you don’t know how long to walk, how long to stop, who to ask a question to, who to listen to…(do I sound like I am gearing up for The City!)

Soon you begin to follow a small group of colleagues you recognize and you slowly see the plethora of knowledge flying your way. You click on one the education links and start reading an article on something relevant to what you are doing in your school. You start reading and reflecting other tweets more carefully asking yourself if you agree or disagree or why. You slowly begin honing in and refining your real-time education techniques in ways that you may not have wanted to do before. You are making the learning happen for you without being pushed and it feels good that way. You get into a comfort zone. Then you start tweeting yourself, first by re-tweeting other people’s ideas you like and want to share and finally adding your own original thoughts and links.

Then you want to empower others as you’ve empowered yourself so you start showing your colleagues how Twitter works. At first most of them may not take you seriously. “but isn’t Twitter for celebrities” and all the usual stuff that becomes along with first time Twitter newbies. But be persistent and consistent with them and they will come to thank you the way you have thanked the people who showed you Twitter and #Jedchat. And keep up your great tweeting on #Jedchat!

Honored and Humbled

January 22, 2012

If you have been following the #jedchat stream you would have noticed that #jedchat was mentioned in a Washington Post article.

This is both a honor as well as very humbling. #jedchat is not just about the founders but what makes #jedchat unique and so special are all of you that contribute to it each week. I also think that #jedchat is unique in that  we have  reached out an attracted Jewish Educators and stakeholders  from a wide spectrum.

So Kol Hakavod and Yasher Koach to all of you for making #jedchat so special and for putting it on the national scene in just a few months

Here is the link to the article

Twitter- A 24/7 365 Conference

January 20, 2012


Originally posted on Principal’s Post blog 

This past Wednesday night’s #JEDCHAT was devoted to takeaways from the recent #NAJDS Conference. 

One of main ideas shared was the importance of meeting people sharing ideas and seeing what is done in other schools and just networking with other educators. 

While nothing can replace face to face interaction but i believe the sharing of ideas, learning from others and just developing a Network or in other words a PLN could be developed through ones interactions and use of Twitter. 

Recently Lyn Hilt, an amazing Educational leader and a personal inspiration to me wrote the following blog post;Battling skepticism.At the end she asked the following question;”So what I’m looking for in the comments section below are ways that administrators who are new to social media and professional learning networks can get started. Help their fears subside… help them battle the skepticism and preconceived notions they may have about the tools and the connections made.

Here is an part of the comment I left on the blog; 


Another great post!
Yes I am fairly new to Twitter. This summer will be two years. I never imagined myself on twitter let alone blogging and starting a Chat for Jewish educators. I think people need to “dip their toe in the water” and try it. Take it slow and at first just lurk follow the #edchat and #cpchat streams using TweetDeck or Hootsuite. Follow some blogs and then once the water is right jump in.
One thing that I have personally found is that Twitter is a very safe environment and people want to hear what you have to say. Otherwise how do explain an Orthodox Rabbi from Memphis TN. with over 2200 followers.
My only regret is that I have only met a handful of my amazing PLN in person.

Lyn, Thanks again for sharing and for being an inspiration to me.”

My point is that we all want to connect and learn form others and that is often what is the highlight of any conference. So when the question is how can we keep that feeling we got at the conference going or how can we build on it and sustain it through out the year? My answer is develop a PLN, join twitter follow #edchat, #cpchat and of course #jedchat. Twitter is that 24/7 365 Conference.