Pre-Pre-Planning for 2018-2019

Happy summer!  This is a peek at what the building looks like without students, parents, and most of our teachers.  We are very excited about what it is going to look like by the time y’all come back in September. But that is another story for another blog post…

While we hope our students are enjoying the beginning of their summers, we at the school are enjoying the beginning of our plans to make 2018-2019 our best school year yet.  And to kick it off, I wanted to share a little of what we did together on your first two days of summer vacation.  After spending a day cleaning out rooms and wrapping up 2017-2018 with an amazing Staff Party, we officially opened the 2018-2019 school year with two days of what we call “Pre-Pre-Planning”. Let’s take a peek at what we did.

Thursday, June 28

9:00 AM – Welcome Activities

We opened our time together with a fun mixer and ended with our co-constructing an official OJCS Faculty Summer Playlist: “Looking to find your teacher groove this summer?  Here are some tunes to inspire reflection, relaxation, rejuvination as you celebrate a well-deserved summer break and begin dreaming next year’s dreams. Brought to you by the 2018-2019 OJCS Faculty…”  Listen along with us this summer!

9:30 AM  – Steeping in our Values: North Stars  

Having ended the year with greater clarity around our value proposition and having shared out our “North Stars” we can take a breath and prepare to begin to live our values.  So with our friends from NoTosh we spent some together thinking through important questions: What are they?  What do they mean to you?  How might they guide decision making now and in the future?  What aspects of current practice will we start, stop or keep doing?

We ended the session with our teachers making “mud maps” – three-dimensional visual representations of how they can connect their practice to the stars and how to connect the stars to each other. This was a chance for the full faculty to do an activity that we did as a design team.  We used data from the earlier conversation and a selection of toys to represent connects, insights, problems, questions.  A lot of creative ideas were generated which will surely translate to prototypes for the fall.

11:00 AM – The OJCS Book Club

Each member of the faculty will choose (at least) ONE book from the list to read this summer that will contribute to professional growth.  We will each bring ONE artifact from that learning (a blog, a PowerPoint, a video, etc.) that describes how it will impact our practice next year to be used in a pre-planning activity when we resume in August.  Want to read along with us?

1:00 PM – Chromebooks, Desktops, & SMART Boards (Oh My)!

We look forward to welcoming our teachers to the 21st century next year when we are able issue faculty laptops to all our teachers!  Our ability to work more efficiently and collaboratively will have tremendous impact on teaching and learning next year.  Next conversation?  What kinds of devices should the school expect students to have and what kinds of devices should the school be providing to students?  Stay tuned.

2:00 PM – Spiritual Check-In

It is always important for us to engage in torah lishmah as a faculty and Rabbi Finkelstein led us on an engaging and meaty text study to round out a great first day together.

Friday, June 29th 

9:00 AM – The Prototype Feedback Loop 

A number of our teachers ran mini-prototypes during the last months of school.  We took some time together for those teachers to share more broadly with the full faculty what happened and to solicit feedback.  It was very important to signal that no matter where they were at by this time, that taking the lead and sharing their successes and failures is crucial for the school to demonstrate that the values that have been established will continue to be our north stars for years to come.  We were inspired by just how much got accomplished in such a short time and how much is to come in 2018-2019.

2:30 PM – Lower School Team & Middle School Team Meetings

We ended our days together by meeting in these groupings.  It may not seem significant, but our ability next year to meet in these groupings regularly is going to make a huge difference in terms of overall behavior management and social engineering, coordination of homework/tests/projects, and improving the quality of communication.

All in all it was a wonderful two days and we left inspired about what is to come…

What have we been up to since then?  All the fun stuff we can’t do when we are busy enjoying students, parents and teachers!  Working on the building, working on curriculum, revising handbooks, revisiting procedures, working on the WEBSITE, investigating new virtual platforms, growing ourselves, and, of course, taking some time to rest and relax as we, too, need to recharge our batteries.

Four quick updates to close:

  • We are very close to being finished with hiring for next year!  So instead of doing it piecemeal, we will wait until it is complete and then look forward to sharing out the good news of who is joining our team next year.
  • We apologize for any confusion or frustration at not having our report cards ready to go by the last day of school.  I won’t go into an explanation or offer excuses.  They have now all gone out and we will ensure that this does not happen again in future years.
  • Returning and new families can look forward to a July mailing that will include all the important dates and information needed to ease back to school in September.
  • I am looking forward to seeing many of your children when I go up to Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa (CBB) next week.  I am prototyping an “OJCS @ CBB” experience to show a little love for our students and to build a stronger bridge between our community’s school and our community’s camp.  Look for pictures on social media!

Author: Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School. He was most recently the VP of Innovation for Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools.  He is the former Executive Director of the Schechter Day School Network.  He is also the former head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a K-8 Solomon Schechter, located in Jacksonville, FL, and part of the Jacksonville Jewish Center.  He was the founding head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas.  Jon has worked in all aspects of Jewish Education from camping to congregations and everything in between.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *