Mar 062014
 
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We are now accepting applications for two summer leadership institutes at The Principals’ Center of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Up to 20 Jewish day school leaders will receive AVI CHAI sponsorship to enhance their ability to improve the quality of their schools, and particularly to enhance and advance their Judaic mission. Learn what a past participant gained from the experience in this second post in a two-part series (first post is here) – and apply today!

By: Adam Shapiro

I have had the honor of participating in a number of AVI CHAI-sponsored programs over the past decade of my professional career.  I have been able to connect with some of the finest educators in North America as a result of these opportunities.  I have traveled to California to work with experiential educators from all over the country, taken part in the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and I was also selected to participate in the Harvard University’s Principals’ Center Art of Leadership program this past summer.

Few professional development opportunities have ever impacted my career as much as this program.  I was able to sit in fascinating sessions by day and then work with a talented group of Jewish educators each evening as we wrestled with the ideas of how this all tied into the work we were doing at home.  Together we thought about the mission and vision of our own institutions and pushed one another to think about ways that we could all be agents of change and forward thinkers upon our return.  Spending time throughout Shabbat davening, eating, and discussing the pillars of AVI CHAI’s philosophy – Jewish Literacy, Religious Purposefulness, and Peoplehood – provided me with the focus I needed to fully understand why we had all been brought together.  Of course, in our busy lives, we rarely have the time to sit and think on a deeper level. This program gave us the most precious gift: that of time to sit and think about how each and every one of us could go back home and create meaningful programming that would speak to one or more of these areas. Our learning did not stop there, and the guidance that we’ve received from Jonathan Cannon, along with the relationships that we were able to build with our colleagues in the field, has served as a springboard to our year of learning and working together.

Since returning from Harvard, I have had many substantive conversations with my colleagues at Golda Och Academy in order to further flesh out and define our institution’s educational goals.  We have had great discussions and have designed new programs with these basic AVI CHAI principles in mind, including a detailed survey of our 12th grade students about their experiences while working on their capstone project, Avodat Lev, this year.  This data will not only help us as we carry this project on for future classes, but it will also serve to help us in our thinking about our Judaics curriculum overall.  We dedicate many hours to teaching our students in the classroom, and it is of great importance for us to dig deeper and find out what’s working and what needs to be adjusted.  While this type of reflective practice is present in so much of what we do in our school, combining it with AVI CHAI’s guiding principles serves to add another layer to our process, one that we can all be proud of and learn a tremendous amount from.

I am, without a doubt, hopeful that we will be able to send more members of our leadership team to this program in the future, because I understand, even more since returning from Harvard, how important it is to have these high level conversations with those who are able to fully speak the same language.

Adam Shapiro is the Associate Head of School & Upper School Principal at the Golda Och Academy in West Orange, NJ.