Southern Hospitality

This is not the view from my office…but it is a view of my new home city – Jacksonville, FL.

“A Floor, But No Ceiling”

In the spirit of practicing what one preaches, I have entered the blogosphere.  I am a month into my new headship at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School after spending five years as the founding head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas.  Our teachers are required to blog and, therefore, so should I.  So here I am.

I didn’t know it was possible to leave Las Vegas and find somewhere even more uncomfortable during the summer, but it is. Differences in humidity aside, my wife, two daughters and I are slowly adjusting to our new home.  We are enjoying the southern hospitality and warm welcome we have received.  I am enjoying getting to know the staff, parents, students, and teachers of my new school.

We are a 21st century learning school invested in the continuity of a five thousand year-old tradition.  Our attempts to marry the past and the future into an engaging present will largely be the focus of my blog.  I have teachers better qualified than I already blogging about the specifics of 21st century learning, technological innovation and global learning.  Once I learn how to link to their blogs, I invite you to read them with regularity.

Most of my blogging will center on experiences here at school, but I hope to be of interest to anyone interested in Jewish day school, Jewish education, education in general, and in the kinds of stuff I think happen to be interesting and worth sharing.  I guess we’ll find out soon enough!

Why “A Floor, But No Ceiling”?  Because it represents what I believe the purpose of education to be – to ensure each child fulfills his or her own individual maximum potentials in academic, emotional, physical, and spiritual terms.  There are appropriate benchmarks to determine minimum standards for each grade level, but our aims are higher.  That is simply the floor upon which we build.  For there to be no ceiling has direct implications about what we teach and how we teach it.  I hope to use this blog to discuss these ideas and more.

I look forward to learning how to best use my blog to communicate and to be in communication with others.  Comments are welcome.

Author: Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School. Jon is studying to be a rabbi at the Academy for Jewish Religion and is on the faculty of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) as a mentor. 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.

28 thoughts on “Southern Hospitality”

  1. Hi Jon,
    Congratulations on your new position and on beginning your blog. I look forward to reading about your work at your new school. I am the principal of Lewis Elementary School in Portland, OR.

    Best Wishes,
    Tim Lauer

  2. Yasher Koach on your new position! I’m very impressed with your blog and I look forward to following you. I teach K-4 computers at a Jewish Day School in Chicago, Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School. Please let me know if any of your teachers would like to collaborate with us. We can Skype, create a wiki, or create a service project to benefit our communities. I look forward to working with you. (Last year, we sent out a Jewish Teddy Bear, called Chagit – she was born on Rosh Hashanah.) She visited different schools all over the world for each chag. The kids loved her and we created a wiki and Skyped with some of the schools. We’d be happy to send her to your school for a chag this year, if you’re interested. The kids all had a great time on many levels. Here’s the website:
    Hope we can plan something,
    Faith Shabat
    [email protected]

    1. I will definitely keep all that in mind…my school is more advanced than I am and they have been doing a lot of great work with wikis, nings, Skype, and podcasting. Our challenge is to remember that all this amazing technology is just a means to an end…not the end itself. It isn’t a race to see to see which teachers can Skype the most…it is about having exciting new tools in our tool-belts. To that notion, we decided this year to get rid of “computer time” and replace it with “technology integration & collaboration time”. A bit bulky, but more accurate…

      I’ll be in touch!


  3. Welcome to the world of blogging! Although I’m in Toledo, OH I’m interested in education in our country and around the world! You’ll be amazed at the knowledge you can receive from your digital friends.

    All the best with your new position!

  4. Welcome to the blogosphere! It is great to see another administrator that leads by example and is putting themselves out there. If we are expecting teachers to put themselves out there with blogs, we need to be able to sink or swim with our own adventures.

    I have started blogging myself only this year but have found it to be so beneficial to my own practice. The conversation that I have had with other educators leads me to do better for my students, while also giving me the opportunity to reflect on my own practice. It also has given parents an insight to some of my thoughts as an administrator and I always welcome them to come and talk on my blog as well. Here is the link:

    Also, I have started reading other Educational Administrator blogs this year and it has been fantastic to learn from their experience as well (I will be adding your blog to this feed as well). Here is the list:

    Good luck with the blogging and I LOVE the title. Knowing that you will give students the opportunity to reach their full potential is invigorating as a fellow educator.

    Wishing great things for you!

    P.S. If you are on Twitter, I would love to connect with you there as well. My handle is @gcouros

    1. Just starting following you on Twitter (I think)…I’m #Jon_Mitzmacher…

      I appreciate all the kind words and I definitely see how easily this lends itself to notions of reflective practice. I’ll be reading you!


  5. Welcome to the blogosphere Jon! One of the most effective practices that we as administrators can do is model and walk the walk with fellow educators. I commend you for taking the plunge with us and am looking forward to learning from you.

    1. Thanks much! I am looking forward to learning from EVERYONE…this is exciting stuff…I can totally see how well this lends itself to reflective practice…

  6. Jon, Love the blog. I’m with you on each kids coming as close to reaching his/her potential as possible. This is what education is all about. Making connections and building relationship. The learning will follow. Keep that passion for kids and learning. Wishing you all the best in your new home.

    1. Thanks much! I have so much to learn and just looking at other people’s blogs (like yours) shows me how much more there is to learn…but that’s what it is all about…

  7. Welcome to the blogosphere! I hope that you enjoy your time blogging. I started blogging a couple of years ago. At first, I only blogged about what was happening in my Grade 1 classroom, but now I have a professional blog too, and I enjoy sharing my learning with others. I can’t wait to read about your learning and school experiences too!


    1. Thanks so much for the kind words! You wonder if anyone will ever read anything you write and I think so far what is amazing about the blogosphere is how many people are out there reading and writing. I look forward to reading your stuff!


  8. Welcome to the realm of blogging. I love the title of this blog and the thoughts behind it. I look forward to reading more.

    1. Thanks much…I am looking forward to the give-and-take this new medium allows for.

  9. Hi there!
    Welcome to the blogosphere! I too have just (re)-started blogging and am trying to get the dialogue going with other edu-bloggers. I loved this line of your post:

    “Our attempts to marry the past and the future into an engaging present will largely be the focus of my blog”

    That’s such a great call to action for all of us as educators – and also helps me remember that despite all of my efforts to push forward and try new things, there are valuable lessons to be learned from the past and reflection is key to growth.

    Again, Welcome!! 🙂

    1. Thanks much!

      I am so new to all of this, my technology teachers had to show me how to access the comments! So much to learn, but it is all very exciting stuff. I appreciate the kind words and I look forward to following your work.


  10. Hello! I’m the deputy director at a small international school in Norway and saw your blog through a connection on Twitter.

    I just wanted to say congratulations on taking the big first step into blogging. I have spent a large amount of my summer holidays catching up on web 2.0 and am feeling pretty positive and enthused for using it with staff this coming year, in particular, using a blog for our memos.

    It’s reassuring and interesting to hear how other people have come to terms with the new technology! Keep it up, please!

    Jeanette (Yes I still write as though it’s a letter!)

    1. I’m the same way! I cannot text or email using any shortcuts at all. It takes me three times as long to respond as most of my (younger) teachers.

      I appreciate the well-wishes and I look forward to following you as well!


  11. What a wonderful thought–A Floor, but No Ceiling–that the standards are the minimum and the aim should be higher. Hopefully as we get better at integrating technology as a way to expand minds and endproducts, ‘landing’ at a point far above the minimum will become the norm.

    Best of luck with your new position.

  12. Now for a warm reception from your Jewish colleagues…kol hakavod! I’ve got you in my RSS feed and am looking forward to reading about your work.

    1. That means I have to keep writing?! 🙂 Thanks much…I am actually pretty excited about it…

  13. Hi Jon! As one of the fortunate individuals to have 3 children under your care, I was very excited to sit down and read your blog. Todah Rabah for setting such a positive, inspiring example for faculty and parents alike.
    When I clicked on to see who else had left comments, I was surprised, pleasantly so, that educators from outside of Jax were already reading and responding -amazing!
    I agree with you that it is a fascinating educational experiment to couple Jewish wisdom and traditions with the latest in educational technology. Good luck and know we are in full support of your efforts!

    1. Thanks much! We are off to a terrific start, but there is so much great stuff to come. Glad you are back in town…one week under our belts!

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