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Fri, 13 May 2022 10:01:00 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School. Matters of Taste: What Really Matters on Friday, May 6th was an unprecedented celebration, as never before have we had our entire student body join our supporters and extended JCDS community of friends and family for our signature fundraising event. The Book of Proverbs, also known as Mishlei, in … More School Sparks: JCDS’ Secret Ingredient

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

Matters of Taste: What Really Matters on Friday, May 6th was an unprecedented celebration, as never before have we had our entire student body join our supporters and extended JCDS community of friends and family for our signature fundraising event.

The Book of Proverbs, also known as Mishlei, in the Third Book of the Tanach, describes through imagery and poetry what it takes to build a house. Or we can think of it as “community.”

Proverbs 24:3-6
בְּ֭חׇכְמָה יִבָּ֣נֶה בָּ֑יִת וּ֝בִתְבוּנָ֗ה יִתְכּוֹנָֽן׃ וּ֭בְדַעַת חֲדָרִ֣ים יִמָּלְא֑וּ כׇּל־ה֖וֹן יָקָ֣ר וְנָעִֽים׃

A house is built by wisdom, and is established by understanding; by knowledge are its rooms filled with all precious and beautiful things.

Our sages must have been writing about JCDS – they just didn’t quite know it yet. A house, our special JCDS community, is built by understanding and wisdom passed down to your children and grandchildren in partnership with you and our extraordinary faculty and staff.

For wisdom and understanding to truly flourish, not only do you need effective teaching, but also you need an environment in which you know you truly belong. Imagine coming to school every day zipping up who you really are in order to fit in and feel a sense of belonging. That expends a lot of energy that could be spent on much better things. Our students deserve better. Our students walk through those doors every day and know that all of us truly see them. That is the magic. And, it is also a necessary condition in order for their understanding and wisdom to flourish.

At this year’s Matters of Taste, we wanted to find a way to demonstrate that very special ingredient, the special sauce that is so JCDS.

If you want to come into the school on any day, you are welcome to peek into our classrooms to get a taste of our academic rigor, the interdisciplinary points of connection, the pedagogical approaches which place students at the center so we hear more of their voices than our own as they develop their critical thinking skills. You will hear Hebrew spoken throughout the day and feel how joyful Judaism can be expressed and lived authentically. You’ll understand just how it is that we have students who win essay contests, rank nationally on the Math Kangaroo contest, and come in first place for the Chidon HaTanach.

But that still doesn’t get to the core of who we are as a community. I’m talking about the very thing that you know and feel when you think about our school. That special ingredient is what this year’s version of Matters of Taste was all about.

In an effort to help demonstrate what that special sauce is – we created an unscripted documentary-style film where faculty, staff, students, and an alumni tried to capture what fills our rooms with such beautiful and precious things.

Thank you to our community for your generosity and philanthropy that helps sustain us from year to year. Thank you to everyone who helped bring us to this moment.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 06 May 2022 13:49:00 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School. Zionism. It is a concept rich in history, perspective, hope, and dreams. It is also a concept steeped in complexity, weight, challenge, and debate. Zionism means a great deal to many, both within the Jewish community and beyond. And despite its collective significance, it remains a concept that is … More School Sparks: Teaching the History of Israel Through JCDS’ Habits of Mind and Heart

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

Zionism.

It is a concept rich in history, perspective, hope, and dreams. It is also a concept steeped in complexity, weight, challenge, and debate. Zionism means a great deal to many, both within the Jewish community and beyond. And despite its collective significance, it remains a concept that is unique to the individual. A key foundational lesson of our school’s new Israel history unit is that there is no single definition of Zionism. Replete with complexity, sometimes it can be hard to talk about, let alone teach. Yet at JCDS, our time-honored Habits of Mind and Heart continue to support our students as they build their knowledge of our history while honing critical thinking skills throughout the process. Perspective taking, evidence, curiosity, and humility will guide their experience over the next few months.

When we began teaching our brand new 8th grade unit on the History of the State of Israel, we made it clear that we wouldn’t – couldn’t, actually – do so through a binary narrative. We emphasized that each version of this history would come paired with another, sometimes many others, and that those versions would not always agree. Over the course of this unit, students would be challenged not only to engage actively with multiple perspectives on the history of the Jewish homeland, but to wrestle with the contemporary implications presented by those differing views.

Students were split into five groups which were each assigned a different Zionist philosopher from the late 1800s when the movement first began: Theodor Herzl, Ahad Ha’am, A.D. Gordon, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and Leon Pinsker. The assignment culminated in a panel discussion with students representing the views (and spirit) of their assigned thinker.

After spending several class periods immersed in primary sources written by these men, and secondary sources written about each of them, the students quickly learned that while all could be identified as Zionists, each one had their own definition of what that meant. learned how each thinker’s individual life circumstances informed their opinions, and how they differed in their approaches to, and opinions about, the prospect of a Jewish state. Questions about the Jewish State’s preferred location, who it would be for and, most importantly, why it should exist, were all up for debate when these men were alive.

As we watched the finished product of this panel come together, we looked on with pride as our students – armed with research and public speaking confidence – spoke with clarity, specificity, charm, and wit. They brought each thinker back to life by boldly stating their beliefs about Zionism. They were able to disagree respectfully, find points of agreement and ultimately paint a more nuanced picture of this critical era of Jewish history.

Yesterday, on Yom Ha’Atzmaut יום העצמאות (Israeli Independence Day) students took a trip to Israel, making their own passports and moving through a Middle School run El Al security. Students were filled with ruach as they participated in Chidon Tanach trivia, singing, hearing personal stories from Israeli parents, and ending with a raucous outdoor school dance party. We had so much fun learning and celebrating on Israel’s 74th birthday!

Yom Ha’Atzmaut Sameach!

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 29 Apr 2022 11:33:00 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School Yom Hashoah V’Hagvura, The Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and Heroism, which falls annually on the 27th Day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, marks the beginning of many Yoms (days) on the Jewish calendar. Next week, Yom HaZikaron (National Remembrance Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) … More School Sparks: JCDS Personalizes the Month of “Yoms”

By Shira Deener, Head of School

Yom Hashoah V’Hagvura, The Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and Heroism, which falls annually on the 27th Day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, marks the beginning of many Yoms (days) on the Jewish calendar. Next week, Yom HaZikaron (National Remembrance Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) will both be commemorated and celebrated in communities in Israel and locally.

Personalizing any one of these Yoms is the secret ingredient to student connection. And yet, with respect to Yom Hashoah, distance poses a challenge. With 75 years between us and the Shoah, the days of sharing personal stories through survivor testimony are dwindling. On this day, I think about my dear friends from Boston’s survivor community and I can picture them in our sifriya over the years, sharing intimate details about their survival with JCDS students. For years, Rena Finder, one of the youngest on Schindler’s List, and Dr. Anna Ornstein, who survived Auschwitz along with her mother, left students spellbound as they spoke honestly and openly, honoring our students’ capacity to bear witness to their stories.

Our challenge is to ensure that we continue making Yom HaShoah V’Hagvura meaningful to the next generation. This is where descendants of the survivor community – sons and daughters, along with grandchildren – play a crucial role in the process of transmitting memory to the children of today.

This year, JCDS 3rd-8th graders gathered in the sifriya for a short tekes (ceremony). The ceremony included lighting of the six yizkor candles (to commemorate the 6 million lives lost), reciting El Maleh Rachamim (a memorial prayer for victims of the Holocaust, see below), and singing Eili, Eili while Kayla Shechter ’23 accompanied the students on her cello. As the tekes concluded, students were instructed to zachor, to remember.

We are so grateful to Natty Hoffman P‘28 for sharing her personal family story with our community to help our students remember. With three newly bound machzorim (bookbinding performed by JCDS alumna, Rachel Jackson ’06), Natty shared her grandparents’ remarkable story of survival. She also shared the successful retrieval of the buried machzorim, hidden for safekeeping during the Holocaust, and extracted decades later in Slovakia.

2nd through 8th graders had the privilege of listening to Natty tell her story in age-appropriate ways. In the 2nd grade, students listened and asked so many questions such as: Why were the books so important that her grandparents wanted to bury them? Why does Natty prefer to pray with these books and not new ones? How do we learn from objects from our history? How did the grandparents cover the hole in order to hide the books? Through maps, photos, and Natty’s openness, our students honored the history of the Shoah while remembering the 6 million Jews who lost their lives. Together, students fulfilled the intention of this day: zachor, remember.

El Maleh Rachamim (God, Full of Mercy)
A memorial prayer for victims of the Holocaust

God full of mercy
defender of widows and father of orphans
be not be silent or restrained regarding the blood which was spilt like water
grant proper rest beneath the wings of Your Presence
in the great heights of the holy and pure
who like the brilliance of the heavens give light and shine
for the souls of multitudes of thousands, men, women, boys and girls
who were killed, and slaughtered, and burnt, and suffocated, and buried alive
in the lands touched by the hand of the German oppressor and its followers
all of them holy and pure
may the Garden of Eden be their resting place
therefore may the Master of mercy shelter them in the shelter of His wings for eternity
and bind their souls with the bond of life
God is their inheritance
and may they find peaceful repose in their resting place
and let us say: Amen

אל מלא רחמים
דיין אלמנות ואבי יתומים
אל נא תחשה ותתאפק לדם שנשפך כמים
המצא מנוחה נכונה
על כנפי השכינה, במעלות קדושים וטהורים, כזהר הרקיע
מאירים ומזהירים
לנשמותיהם של רבבות אלפים
אנשים ונשים, ילדים וילדות
נהרגו ונשחטו ונשרפו ונחנקו ונקברו חיים
בארצות אשר נגעה בהן יד הצורר הגרמני וגרוריו
כלם קדושים וטהורים
בגן עדן תהא מנוחתם
לכן בעל הרחמים יסתירם בסתר כנפיו לעולמים, ויצרור בצרור החיים את
נשמותיהם
יי הוא נחלתם
ינוחו בשלום על משכבם
ונאמר אמן

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 01 Apr 2022 11:38:15 -0400
You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your G-d: I am G-d. (Leviticus 19:32) Our tradition teaches us that an essential part of קדושים תהיו (You shall be holy) is the imperative of honoring the elderly. JCDS’ fifth grade students are learning … More School Sparks: Learning from the Elderly

You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your G-d: I am G-d. (Leviticus 19:32)

Our tradition teaches us that an essential part of קדושים תהיו (You shall be holy) is the imperative of honoring the elderly. JCDS’ fifth grade students are learning this lesson up close and personally. Pre-COVID, our students were given the gift of visiting members of our senior community at Hebrew Senior Life in person. During the pandemic, we did everything we could to continue this tradition. This year, we pivoted, once again, in order to form relationships with the residents of Hebrew Senior Life – we met over Zoom. Each meeting, students prepared questions to ask the residents about universal topics like their favorite holidays and foods. Students encouraged their new friends to think way back to their fifth grade experiences in order to compare and contrast with the learning they are experiencing today at JCDS. Students learned about “ancient artifacts” such as rotary telephones and adding machines and watched commercials and advertisements from their childhoods.

COVID prevalence reached a safe enough level last month making it possible for a face-to-face visit. We realized when we went last month that we were not meeting strangers – we were connecting with friends! Fifth grade can participate in this program because of a generous grant called Better Together from the Legacy Heritage Foundation. Each year they sponsor an essay contest, asking students to write about the impact that the program has had on them. Each school chooses one internal winner and then all the essays are submitted to a national contest. Our very own Eve Menzin won the internal contest! Kol Hakavod, Eve! You are invited to read Eve’s very personal reflections here:

Learning from the Elderly
by Eve Menzin ’25

The Hebrew Senior Life (HSL) program has helped my relationship with the senior citizens which will connect me more to elderly people in general. I think that if I had not done this program I would never have really interacted with seniors at all. I used to not know many seniors. I was a lot more shy with people. Now, I am much less shy with seniors. And I learned how to ask questions more. I also realized that seniors are just normal people.

Before I started this program the only elderly people I really knew were my great aunt and uncle. (My uncle passed away a few years ago, so really only my aunt.) I had heard a lot about my other family members who had lived a long time ago. I had so many questions that I wanted to ask my extended family but being the shy kid I was I didn’t ask. One example of when I was really shy with elderly people was when I was in fourth grade. I was going to a nursing home with my Girl Scouts troop on Halloween. When I got split into my group with two other people, I was too shy to say anything. I just stared at the floor until it was time to go. If I hadn’t done HSL, I feel like all of my interactions with seniors might have been like that.

HSL has taught me that I should not be afraid to ask questions. This is important because you can understand more about people.

Also sometimes people really like it. For instance, the Gemara says, “If his son is wise and knows how to inquire, his son asks him. And if he is not wise, his wife asks him. And if even his wife is not capable of asking or if he has no wife, he asks himself. And even if two Torah scholars who know the halakhot of Passover are sitting together and there is no one else present to pose the questions, they ask each other.” This is one of my favorite quotes from the Gemara because it shows that no one knows everything. Part of being wise is asking questions.

When I was asked to write questions I always put my time and thought into them. I was usually the last one to turn them in. When I started HSL in school I had a huge interest of World War II and the Holocaust. I had read 10 books that took place then. I also read five factual books. I read many articles in fourth grade. I even did a big project on FDR. That’s why when I started this program I sort of thought of the seniors as “personal history question “answerers””. They could tell me exactly what I need. What could be better for me? Well, they were also friendly and I could talk to them like normal people.

After HSL I can understand how seniors are just normal people. (Though, at first they kind of felt like aliens). Rabbi Akiva says to treat people how you want to be treated. HSL helped me treat elderly people, and think of the elderly, more respectfully. Also It says that “In the presence of an elder you shall rise from your seat and respect that elder.” HSL has helped me respect Elderly people more. Which was actually really important because, looping back to what I said earlier about asking questions, the Misha says that we should learn from everyone, especially the elderly. That is another reason it is important to ask questions to elderly people.

In conclusion, HSL has taught me that asking questions to seniors is good. Also I learned that I shouldn’t be scared to ask questions because most of them like when I do ask questions. HSL has also shown me that seniors are normal people and have similarities to me. I learned from HSL to respect elderly people more. From HSL I have learned many helpful lessons which will help me for the rest of my life.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 25 Mar 2022 18:35:00 -0400
By Shira Deener, Head of School. This week JCDS Middle School students cut the ribbon and inaugurated the long-awaited, newly-constructed single-stall gender neutral bathroom. Our 5-8th grade students gathered in the Chadar Ochel to do something familiar to all: learn, reflect, and bless. In this case, we reviewed the words that Rav Abaye, the 4th … More School Sparks: Asher Yatzar (Who Formed)

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

This week JCDS Middle School students cut the ribbon and inaugurated the long-awaited, newly-constructed single-stall gender neutral bathroom. Our 5-8th grade students gathered in the Chadar Ochel to do something familiar to all: learn, reflect, and bless. In this case, we reviewed the words that Rav Abaye, the 4th C. Talmud scholar, famously crafted – Asher Yatzar.

As Jews, we are given so many opportunities to stop, pause, notice, and show gratitude. When one sees the wonder of a rainbow, hears the roar of an ocean, or notices something beautiful in nature, we have a blessing to recite. Asher Yatzar is a blessing of thanksgiving for the workings of the human body, without which we would not be able to live our lives healthfully and in service of God.

The text of the blessing is as follows:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה, וּבָרָא בוֹ נְקָבִים נְקָבִים חֲלוּלִים חֲלוּלִים .גָּלוּי וְיָדוּעַ לִפְנֵי כִסֵּא כְבוֹדֶךָ, שֶׁאִם יִפָּתֵחַ אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אוֹ יִסָּתֵם אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אִי אֶפְשַׁר לְהִתְקַיֵּם וְלַעֲמוֹד לְפָנֶיךָ אַפִלּוּ שָׁעָה אֶחָת. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי, רוֹפֵא כָל בָּשָׂר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשׂוֹת:”

“Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, who formed humans with wisdom and created within them many openings and many hollow spaces. It is obvious and known before Your Seat of Honor that if even one of them would be opened, or if even one of them would be sealed, it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You even for one hour. Blessed are You, Adonai, who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.”

At JCDS, living healthfully not only means biologically or medically, but also living with dignity, comfort, and an acceptance of our full selves. Having a gender neutral bathroom is an important step towards ensuring a safe and positive learning environment for our community. The importance of maintaining a daily regimen for our physical health is widely understood. Movement is medicine. The need to stay fit, exercise, and eat healthfully is accepted and embraced by many. What isn’t always as obvious is the importance of social-emotional health and wellness and how bathroom choice is a part of that experience. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, our new single-stall bathroom will help continue our journey to safeguard the dignity of each member of our diverse community.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 11 Mar 2022 09:30:15 -0500
By Sarah Langer, 6th-8th Grade Math Teacher; Social Justice Coordinator. One of the 7th grade math units addresses percent change. In the unit, we learn how to calculate how much a value has changed over time. This topic easily lends itself to real world contexts such as tax, tip, sales, and commission, but the 7th … More School Sparks: Using Math to Make Sense of the World

By Sarah Langer, 6th-8th Grade Math Teacher; Social Justice Coordinator.

One of the 7th grade math units addresses percent change. In the unit, we learn how to calculate how much a value has changed over time. This topic easily lends itself to real world contexts such as tax, tip, sales, and commission, but the 7th grade math team, Yaara David, 6th-8th Grade Math Teacher, and I wanted students to go one step further.

For the past week, students have worked in small teams to analyze average ocean temperatures since 1880, average seasonal temperatures since 1880, unemployment data from the last 8 years, the Minneapolis police department budget, or oil prices in 2021. Students thought about historical events related to or coinciding with their data, came up with a question that their data could answer, found the percent changes over time, and analyzed those changes. Through their analysis, students discovered that a sharp increase in unemployment correlated to the beginning of COVID. They discovered the small percent changes in seasonal temperatures during the first half of the 20th century, and then the relatively larger percent changes in temperatures in the last 50 years. One group even researched and then analyzed their own topic: the market price of bitcoin during the week of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, as Russia was buying bitcoin and the West was sanctioning Russia.

All this analysis connected to two of our Habits of Mind and Heart – curiosity and evidence. Through this project, students saw how their math evidence provided a lens into the news. One group shared how surprised they were that the percentage change in ocean temperature over the past 50 years was only around 2%, which felt small to them given the impact on our oceans. Another group explored COVID rates data so they could compare the data more directly with that of unemployment rates.

All groups saw how data can give some answers to their curiosity, and ended with asking further questions, since data can only tell us part of the story. One group wondered, “What were the unemployment rates during the Spanish Influenza?” Another group asked, “Why did the temperatures sometimes decrease, as well as increase, even as overall they increased?” And finally, “What could humans have done differently, so that the temperatures would not rise?” As we concluded the presentations, one group noted, “This is a very important topic in our world today and we were able to learn a lot about it by looking at this data.”

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 04 Mar 2022 06:53:00 -0500
By Shira Deener, Head of School. This week, once again, our teachers were called upon to support their students as they navigated tragic and frightening world news in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We heard from teachers on Monday, it was quickly apparent that many children, even from our youngest students in Gan … More School Sparks: Difficult Conversations

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

This week, once again, our teachers were called upon to support their students as they navigated tragic and frightening world news in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We heard from teachers on Monday, it was quickly apparent that many children, even from our youngest students in Gan Nitzan (Kindergarten) up to our Middle School students, arrived full of thoughts and questions about the news. Our teachers rose to the challenge of leading thoughtful and caring discussions, keeping in mind the varied needs of all their students.

In leading these difficult conversations, our teachers are attuned to the developmental stages of the children in their classrooms, the fact that families might vary in how they are approaching the topic at home, and regardless of age, that students can have very different emotional responses to the news. We are aware some children had extensive conversations at home, some little to none; some might show a great deal of interest in the news, others will not tune in; some families have close ties to the region and for them this is a very personal experience; some children will clearly express their emotions; other children may look disinterested but are actually taking it all in. It is not uncommon for kids (people) to act silly or giggle when a serious topic stirs up emotions for them, making it look like they don’t care when in fact the opposite is true.

On Wednesday, the Middle School participated in a guided conversation introduced by Josh Mocle, 6th Grade Humanities Teacher, 7th Grade Social Studies Teacher, and MS Advisor, who presented some historical context and basic facts about the war before the students were divided into small discussion groups within their grades. These discussion groups used the Facing History and Ourselves framework “Head, Heart, Conscience” as a platform to allow the students to first, clarify their thoughts and questions about what they know about the War, then to express any feelings it brings up for them personally, and ended by thinking together about greater humanity and how to help those who are suffering more directly in that region.

Listening to the teachers share the conversations they had with the children was another reminder of what a thoughtful and compassionate community we have at JCDS. Unfortunately, we know as the war continues to play out, the questions and conversations will continue. Below are some resources that can remind us how to support these conversations. Also, please know, Judith Werner, our school counselor, is here to be an additional resource for any student or family where she can be supportive.

NYT’s How to Talk to Kids about Ukraine

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry – How to Talk to Children About What’s Happening in Ukraine

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 18 Feb 2022 13:30:00 -0500
By Avraham Sosa, Middle School Science Teacher. This year, 7th grade science students are bringing awareness about food waste and composting to JCDS. In January, 7th graders led a school-wide educational program on the benefits of composting food waste and how to get started. They taught their fellow students about how composting speeds up the … More School Sparks: The Benefits of Composting

By Avraham Sosa, Middle School Science Teacher.

This year, 7th grade science students are bringing awareness about food waste and composting to JCDS. In January, 7th graders led a school-wide educational program on the benefits of composting food waste and how to get started. They taught their fellow students about how composting speeds up the natural decay of organic material by providing the ideal conditions for organisms to thrive. The product of this decomposition process is nutrient-rich soil that helps crops, garden plants, and trees to grow. Through presentations, games, fun activities, and enthusiasm, the 7th graders taught about all sorts of compost concepts such as the difference between brown waste and green waste and the ratio of nitrogen and carbon needed to make good compost.

The 7th grade is also leading the way in making a school compost that we will use to make fresh fertile soil for our school garden and to reduce waste. When advocating to launch this compost program, one student shared, “We think this is also an educational opportunity; students will need to learn about what goes in compost and how to convert it into compost most efficiently.” In the upcoming months, the 7th graders will experiment with different ratios of carbon to nitrogen to find the perfect compost.

We learn in Genesis, “God took Adam (humanity) and placed them in the garden of Eden (ecosystem) to till it and tend it.” Soil is the link between the air, water, rocks, and living organisms, and many other different functions in the world’s ecosystem. We were put on this world to take care of it. Part of that is taking care of the soil, being prepared to compost, and supporting our garden and ecosystem, with our 7th graders leading the way!

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 11 Feb 2022 06:04:22 -0500
By Shira Deener, Head of School. Having just returned from the annual Prizmah Day School Retreat for Heads of School, I have the theme of mistake-making swirling in my head. Along with many other school leaders, I spent the past 3 days deeply focused on the value of mistakes and the importance of creating a … More School Sparks: The Taxonomy and Blessing of a Mistake

By Shira Deener, Head of School.

Having just returned from the annual Prizmah Day School Retreat for Heads of School, I have the theme of mistake-making swirling in my head. Along with many other school leaders, I spent the past 3 days deeply focused on the value of mistakes and the importance of creating a culture in a school where mistakes are seen as opportunities for learning and failing forward.

Mistake-making is often associated with feeling vulnerable and making people feel insecure, but when done thoughtfully, schools can become special places where mistakes are repurposed for not just our students, but also teachers, parents, and administrators alike. According to the Oxford Dictionary, mistakes come in many different forms – as inaccuracies, errors, faults, blunders, slips, miscalculations, misunderstandings, flaws, gaffes, faux-pas, misreadings, slip-ups, and the list goes on. But one thing is for sure – to be human means we will make mistakes. How we react to them as a community is in our hands.

In his book, Gateway to Self-Knowledge, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin points out many different questions which when approached with an open heart can make a profound difference. These questions can help us rethink our own failures and our responses to the inevitable mistakes we will make. For example, he asks:
Do you tend to make the same mistakes over and over again? What would prevent you from making the same mistakes? What is your usual reaction when you make a mistake? Do you spend a large amount of time berating yourself for your mistakes? If so, what do you lose out by doing so? When other people point out your mistakes do you feel embarrassed? Grateful? Angry? In what ways do you view mistakes as learning experiences to help you grow? When you make a mistake do you carefully analyze the reasons for your mistakes?

Our school is well-versed in the value of holding a growth mindset for our students, faculty, and staff. By definition, such a stance necessitates making mistakes. Growth comes from trial and error. Growth comes from deep reflection and learning from the times when we may miss the mark. True growth comes when we are willing to be vulnerable and admit to the times we could have done better.

As a community, I am grateful that mistake-making is in the air we breathe here at JCDS (and of course we could always do more of) and, indeed, something to celebrate as we continue to mature as a school.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

Fri, 04 Feb 2022 06:40:00 -0500
By Danielle Smith, 4th Grade General Studies Teacher. This is the time of year when Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement is top of mind for people. Black History Month is celebrated throughout the month of February, uplifting Black voices, activists, and leaders. In Kitat Alon (fourth grade), students have been diving … More School Sparks: The Harlem Renaissance

By Danielle Smith, 4th Grade General Studies Teacher.

This is the time of year when Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement is top of mind for people. Black History Month is celebrated throughout the month of February, uplifting Black voices, activists, and leaders. In Kitat Alon (fourth grade), students have been diving into moments of Black joy throughout history since December, focusing on The Harlem Renaissance and the impact this time period has had on our modern day.

The Harlem Renaissance was a time when Black art and culture flourished. Black joy burst through the canvas of artists such as William H. Johnson, Romare Bearden, and Jacob Lawrence. Music evolved with jazz and blues gaining popularity, and singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong filled theaters with racially diverse audiences.

At JCDS, the fourth grade classroom has been full of music and art, as well! Students listened to music, wrote poetry, and created art making connections to themes and emotions of the 1920s in Harlem. Figurative language fill these student poems, as they share their reflections of music from a century ago that continues to stir our hearts. 

The Blues
By Lev
oh, the blues, calm and peaceful,
but sad nonetheless deep, like a dinosaurs roar, and slow like an ankhilosaurus
instruments ring, voices sing,
sometimes a story, sometimes not
the blues take hold of you, and your thoughts start to run
oh, the blues, the blues

Music
By Zoe
I hear my mind floating away to the music they play.
I feel my body hovering above the ground.
I like how soft their music is.
I am the trumpet they play.

Ella and Louis
By Daniel
It was calm,
Ella and Louis’ voices picking up
after each other.
Louis’ voice was as soft as snow
but as deep as a loud BOOM.
Their voices usually didn’t mix,
and it was slow
a little of a sad song.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.