Let’s talk about day schools.
In some ways, Jewish day schools are more challenged than ever before: They face governance weaknesses, leadership absences, and, of course, a tuition “crisis.” The issues are not insignificant.
And yet, we see remarkable innovations. Such innovations can be focused on the quality of the student’s learning and experience, like makerspaces and arts opportunities, true chances for students to explore Judaism and their individual sense of self through creative expression. OOr, one school has taken an "R&D" approach, using the frame of design thinking, to revamp the structure of the student experience. Some schools are intertwining Jewish and secular instruction, with classes conducted in English and in Hebrew, and co-teachers fluent in both languages. In many places, technological tools help one set of Hebrew resources—activities, books, and songs—follow students from home to school and back again. In total, learning is creative, interesting, and personal.
These innovations speak to the capacities of the schools to do their work. The field is recruiting nonprofit entrepreneurs to serve as heads of school, with entrepreneurs now leading some of the richest Jewish educational environments in North America. Parent ambassadors are well-trained and recruit proudly, and room parents build community for students and families outside of the classroom, even beyond the elementary years. Heads of school serve as spiritual leaders for their families: They lead holiday services, baby namings, and weddings for alumni.
Day schools serve as anchors of Jewish communities. Although not the only anchors, they are imperative to the cultural vitality and texture of Jewish life. The ideas they represent and their students can serve as the vanguard of Jewish community. These schools require significant attention and we have to figure out how to help them not just survive but also thrive, engaging as many families as possible.
Beginning with a a half-day conference following the GA (program here; register here), continuing with a published landscape analysis of trends and opportunities, and via the web in coming months, we’ll be talking about day schools, usually working with our partners at Prizmah. It won’t be easy; in some cases, there aren’t easy answers. But we don’t do this work, of course, because it’s easy. We do it because it matters. And day schools matter.
(Jewish day schools offer a sense of purpose, history, and place to North American Jews today.)
(Providing purpose, meaning, and substance in day school education enhances student’s connection to their personal and communal Judaism.)
(Approaching Jewish education to meet the needs of Jews today.)
(When teachers study their own teaching, their teaching gets better.)
(Teacher retention is strengthened by continuous learning in subject matter and effective teaching strategies.)
About Student Experiences
(True blended learning—not adding games or computer activities, but genuinely situating educational projects online—yields a cost-savings while also allowing for a student-led experience. This video of the Moriah School in Englewood, New Jersey, demonstrates the investment of the AVI CHAI and Kohelet foundations in supporting schools to integrate blended online learning into their approach.)
(Learning in hevruta helps to build Torah study skills and knowledge and helps students learn to be in relationship with others—and, it’s fun.)
(Inclusion in day schools requires images of what’s possible, time in the classroom to make it happen, and teacher support.)
(Teaching Hebrew effectively asks for deeper investment: in teachers, as we help them understand how to teach Hebrew as a second language, in identification of realistic outcomes, in support for schools’ emphasis on Hebrew.)
(This yeshivah, which blends hasidut with Montessori principles and behavioral science related to learning, focuses on helping individual students become their best selves. Videos showcase their educational methods.)
(The head of school needs to have deep and flexible emotional intelligence to navigate a number of challenging relationships and help all school stakeholders continue their deep attachment with the school.)
(A successful head of school needs to have and be able to convey an educational vision, to facilitate teachers’ professional growth, and to be a leader for community stakeholders external to the school.)
(Training for Board chairs and other Board leaders has resulted in strengthened Board practices, including more expansive financial planning for the school and more positive head of school-Board relationships.)
(The Avi Chai Foundation reflects on their years of experience investing in day school leadership and offers nine suggested areas for effective leadership.)
(Excellence in day school education today requires brave leaders who receive the best training possible in a cohort setting.)
(Engaging parents in a giving circle can lead to parents with a stronger relationship with the school and to greater engagement in revenue generation and allocation.)
(Chicago’s website markets day school education and supports parents in finding the right school for their families.)