I have an iPad. It is pretty awesome.
I use it for a variety of purposes – some of them are even work-related! I carry it on my class walk-throughs so that I can write notes about what I am seeing. I take it to meetings. I can check my email and keep up with all the social media that I still sometimes find overwhelming. It is an incredibly versatile tool.
I also use it for all sorts of other things – organizing books, staying on top of my fantasy football teams, movies, music, pictures, games, etc. – things that simplify my life and allow me instant access to the things that I am interested in.
There is little question that an iPad, like many of the other technological tools we now use without thinking, can serve an a means for connectedness. I can use it to stay connected to people as close as the room next door or as far away as another continent. I can interact with the blogosphere and twitterscape at a moment’s notice. I am constantly connected.
But I have been thinking a lot about the quality of that connection and about the “i” in “iPad”. That connection was made explicit to me last night at our Middle School Open House. We had a wonderful Open House – parents had an opportunity to hear from teachers, view their blogs, watch some innovative student-created videos, etc. The overwhelming message – as is that of the name of this blog – is that we are charged with the task of providing maximal individual attention. We must know our students as individuals and lovingly inspire them to reach their individual academic (and spiritual, and emotional, and social, etc.) potentials. I, I, I, I….
There is no “i” in “Jew”.
Judaism has strong communitarian leanings. We are encouraged to see ourselves as a community, not as a collection of individuals. That is why , for example, we are required to pray as a group – the minyan. This can create tension in an American Jewish Day School, especially one such as ours, which seeks to be be a place of interaction, not assimilation or separation.
For us, as a Solomon Schechter Day School, we do not seek to subsume our Jewish values to American values (or vice-versa), nor do we presume we can live as bifurcated people, switching personalities and viewpoints depending on whether we are functioning as “Jews” or as “Americans” as a matter of context…as if that can be done. No – we believe that children (and adults) are human beings who are capable of bringing their American and Jewish selves together in healthy holism. As much as we focus on the “I” in “AmerIcan,” it is important sometimes to focus on the “we” in “Jew” (okay, you have to spell it backwards, but it is there). Luckily just such an opportunity comes knocking on Monday…
I am headed off to Camp Ramah Darom in Atlanta next week with our Middle School on its annual retreat. I am beyond excited – camping is in my blood and it will be a remarkable opportunity for us to take what we do here inside the walls and make it come alive in an awe-inspiring natural setting. I look forward to sharing that experience with you upon our return. For me, the Middle School Retreat will be important for restoring balance to the “i-centrism” I have been discussing. This retreat is all about “we” – and we are going to have the times of our lives.