Monthly Archives: August 2012

Are we reaching middle school students?

Introducing hands-on computing in secondary ed...

When did things get so serious for middle-schoolers?

A new Gallup poll studied factors related to student engagement, optimism, and well-being revealed that students scored relatively high on all these factors.

Except when you examine the findings for middle school students: (italics mine)

“Many adults are apt to blame hormonal and other life changes for the drop in student engagement at the middle school level, but that is not how students tend to explain it, he added. Instead, students are more likely to say that they are “not known, not valued, not recognized” at the secondary level, as they were in elementary school. They also indicate that their school days are stripped of “play” in middle school.

So, turn that reality into goal statements and we should have a very clear idea of the work we need to do.

Public school teachers have their challenges for sure. On top of handling large class sizes, coping with intense student tracking and detailed record-keeping, managing curricular pressures, there needs to be a focus on emotional and social learning.

They would think our work in these areas with students is a piece of pie.

As Jewish educators, we have the luxury of working with teens on an emotional and spiritual level.

For the most part, we have small classes, little curricular pressure, less record keeping.

We should be aceing this challenge and making such a difference with students in this age group.

Instead, students face the middle school reality, along with the intensity of the 7th grade (Bar/Bat Mitzvah) year.

How playful is that?

Not very.

So, how can we make it more so? Mentoring? Trope contests? D’var Torah write-ins?

We can not continue with the ‘business as usual’ paradigm.

So, I know, Gallup’s results aren’t directed at Jewish educators.

And, there is no call to action in the article detailing Gallup’s results.

But we know that we’re not succeeding with this age group.

And yet, again, we need to step it up, quickly.

Photo credit: License, Free-use,  creative commons.

 


One minute, three reasons why Jewish education helps teens focus on what’s important

One minute. Three reasons.

Why just three reasons?

Simple.

Your time is valuable.

Plus everyone’s way too busy getting ready for the school year to spend so much time reading blogs.

And, most importantly, if I keep the reasons limited to three, it will take you less than 1 minute to read.
We’ve all got at least 1 minute.

Here goes—

Jewish Education:

    1. Helps your teen get away from the mundane interactions with peers to focus on meatier things: ethical choices, responsible decision-making, moral values. All of which help your child succeed in a challenging college environment.
    2. Provides your teenager with an instant core group of teachers and mentors, happy to partner with you in getting your child to travel in the right direction.
    3. Offers your child the opportunity, on a regular basis, to focus on the big, big questions like the universe, the meaning of life, relationships with friends, spirituality, and God (that will come in up in conversation elsewhere….when?).

OR…….you can just hope that things will turn out all right.

Have you been on a college campus lately?


Learn these four leadership skills at a Hebrew High

English: Ronald A. Heifetz on 29 March 2010 du...

Ronald A. Heifetz: “Leadership in times of crisis”   How can you make this connection for #Jteens?

A blog I read in the Harvard Business Review mentioned all the bad habits that accrue from being part of a hierarchical and bureaucratic school system.

Coleman writes:   “Our entire education system, from elementary school to graduate school, is poorly constructed to teach young people leadership. Schools do many things well, but they often cultivate habits that can be detrimental to future leaders. Given that most of us spend 13-20 years in educational institutions, those habits can be hard to break.”

Of course, I immediately thought about how, in a community Hebrew high setting, we develop future leaders.

Mostly, we run contrary to most of the details the author wrote about.

Let’s explore four of them here, with the bad habit taught listed first, then very brief examples of how these leadership habits might be experienced differently in a Hebrew High setting:

1. Schools have an emphasis on hierarchy. Examples given are: “Teacher in front of the classroom” syndrome and priorities given to class rankings, class standings, etc. 

Teachers are often called by their first names, and when asked, share personal insights. Teachers are more often the facilitator of learning rather than the expert in a subject area.

Class rank? Often doesn’t exist in a school where some classes consist of multiple grades, with mentoring going on between students.  Coleman says it best:  “Leadership is an activity, not a position,  a distinction explored deeply by Ron Heifetz in Leadership Without Easy Answers. “

2. Schools generally teach that there are right vs. wrong answers. 

Courses in Hebrew high schools are often discussion based, where critical thinking skills are necessary. There are rarely right or wrong answers. Students delve into complex situations like Mid-Eastern politics or ethical issues, where multiple vantage and view points need to be considered.

3. Schools don’t encourage or deal well with failures.

Yet, we know that it’s precisely the activity of trying, and trying again that is part of many leaders’ accomplishments (Lincoln, Einstein, Steve Jobs, etc.).  Students who experience leadership classes or work on programming for the school deal with failure, problem-solving, and work to rectify difficult challenges presented by the student body: lack of motivation, time, interest, etc.

4. Most school reinforce the “serve-yourself’- over-others” attitude by the emphasis on individual test scores, grades, GPA’s, etc. 

The very nature of a school oriented around Jewish values is not only are you learning about core altruistic values, but you are acting upon them through school programming.

I know I’ve created a very generalized portrait of a Hebrew high experience.  All schools differ and their goals are not the same. However, in a school that develops future leaders, the examples I listed would be very typical.

So, interested in building a leader? Becoming one? The shortest route might be to head over to your local Hebrew high and sign up.

Photo credit: Wikipedia


How Would You Market to Jewish Teens?

Needed: Marketing pizzazz for Jewish Teens

This post is more about marketing than it is about Jewish education.

It’s a subject I have learned to get close to, being a member of a very small niche group (Jews in America) with a specialized skill set (Jewish Educator) for an even smaller, underserved and often forgotten very specific age group: Jewish Teens.

(The lyrics from “New York, New York” come to mind: “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”)

So, it’s understandable that I’d be focusing on ways to get the word out about teens and how we can best meet their needs before they go off to college and saunter into the sunset.

A quote, from the Harvard Business Review Blog  prompted me to write this post:

“For your prospects, this means they need to see a clear distinction between what they’re already doing and what you’re proposing.”

Makes perfect sense.

The hard part is translating this concept to a service, that for many reasons, is a ‘hard sell’.

The article recommended using pictures to convey these ideas. Wow, that’s a tough one in our business.

Pictures of happy teens only goes so far.

In a previous  post I asked if were are communicating with the tools we do have (words) to our potential students about what we offer.

Now I’m asking how we might headline the news of our great programs that would encourage students to sign up? What message could grab a parent’s attention?

Here are some possibilities based on meeting an underlying need. We might actually use a few.

Fear:

Going to college? Then You Must Be Ready to Respond to Israel bias. If not, sign up now to be prepared!

Ethics:

Going to college without a strong ethical foundation is like going sky diving without a parachute. Don’t risk it. Sign up now.

Academics:

Everyone in your class is already taking AP classes, advanced calc, and is on some type of team. How many are taking an extra academic course load and college credit classes? Sign up now and get a college advantage!

Social Stuff:

Build a great social network of Jewish Teen Leaders like yourself. Sign up now!

Change:

Tired of being frustrated in Hebrew school? Change things up and sign up now!

Which one would get the attention of Jewish Teens? Their parents?

Please share yours here, and maybe we can all benefit from our collective creativity.

Photo credit: flickr


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