Shofar So Good!

It has been wonderful to walk the school, to feel the positive energy oozing through the walls and see the smiling faces of our students and parents.  As we say this time of year, “Shofar so good!”

Our newest faculty members are acquitting themselves with great aplomb and our returning teachers have plenty of new tricks up their sleeves to mix with their tried and true excellence.  Hopefully those of you who were able to join us for last night’s “Back to School” night saw evidence of that firsthand.  The focus of the evening was appropriately on the teachers, but we did break some news during the sweaty opening in the Gym that I want to make sure didn’t get lost in the mix and/or gets to all the parents who were unable to be with us.

New Parking Procedures for Morning Drop Off

We briefly described what our new parking procedures will be for morning drop-off and shared that they will begin as soon as we make a few adjustments to the parking lot to make things as clear and as simple as possible.  It should not be more than a week or so before we begin.  The new rules are not that much different than the old ones, but will require some adjustment from parents to ensure the safety of our children.  You will have two choices upon arrival to the lot in the morning.

You are welcome to park in a legal parking spot and spend as much time with your children (before the door opens) or your friends as you like.  You can then physically escort them (or they can escort themselves if old enough) through the crosswalk or on the back sidewalk onto school grounds as you like.

Or you can drop-off in the carpool lane.  There will be painted, designated spots (most likely four) at the front of the carpool lane where you may stop your car to let your child(ren) out on the school-facing side of your car (only).  Once the designated stops empty their carloads, we will wave the next cars down and so on until the carpool line is complete.  You may not turn your car off and park in the carpool lane.  You may not unload your car in the carpool lane unless you are in a designated spot.  The carpool lane is designed to give parents a safe and expeditious way to drop off children.  The parking lot is designed to give parents as much time and space to drop off children as they prefer.

You will be notified when the new rules will go into effect and there will be plenty of security and administrative staff outside to ensure a smooth launch.  Your cooperation with these new procedures is appreciated.

Hot Lunch Program

We are pleased to announce the launch of a hot lunch program at OJCS!  The food will be provided by Babi’s Restaurant and delivered each day directly to your child(ren)’s classroom.  This is a pilot so your feedback on any part of the program is welcome.  Please pick up a November menu from the Main Office and/or look for menus both coming home and soon online.

Google Classroom

So.  The good news is that our entire teaching faculty has embraced the use of Google Classroom in new and exciting ways that enhances our students’ experiences and engages our parents’ participation.  The bad news is that we totally bungled the roll out of new student email accounts making it extremely frustrating for parents to ensure their children’s and their subscriptions.  The good news is that we have largely fixed the problem.  The bad news is that we will likely need y’all to re-activate new accounts and re-subscribe.

What happened?

Our normal student formula for student emails is “first name.last [email protected]”.  But we mistakenly issued them in the same formula as our faculty emails, which is “first initial.last [email protected]”.  So each student in Grades K-3, plus each new student in Grades 4-7 was accidentally given the wrong email addresses.  Some succeeded in activating; others failed.  Some succeed in joining Google Classroom; others failed.

What have we done?

We have/are re-issuing correct student email addresses to each student in Grades K-3, plus each new student in Grades 4-7 with default passwords.  Please provide your child(ren)’s teacher(s) with new passwords, should you choose to change them, so that we can assist at school should a child forget his/her password.

OK, so my child has an active OJCS email account.  Now what?

From here it should be easy…

There are two ways families engage in Google Classroom.  Each child will be subscribed into the appropriate Google Classroom(s) as a student.  Each parent will be subscribed into their child(ren)’s Google Classroom(s) as a guardian.  [If a parent does not have a Gmail account, s/he will be prompted to create one.  You cannot subscribe to Google Classroom without a Gmail account.]

Here’s what it looks like from the guardian perspective…

If I click “Accept”…

If I have a Gmail account, I click “Sign In”…

…and select my preferences for the digest.

If I don’t have a Gmail account, I create a new account and it will then update and take you the page above.

What about class codes?

If you receive a prompt for a class code, something has gone amiss.  Each Google Classroom does have a class code, but if your child was correctly invited as a student with their correct and activated OJCS email address and you were correctly invited as a guardian, you will not need to enter a class code.

What does it all mean?

The student subscription provides you with full, unfettered access to the Google Classroom.  The guardian subscription provides you the choice of a daily or weekly digest of new postings (minus the bells and whistles of pictures/videos).  Therefore, if a parent wishes to see all that is there, that parent must either sit with their child who is logged on or must log on as their child.  Families can decide together what makes the best sense both to instill responsibility and accountability in our children.  As a rule of thumb, parents may want to begin sharing their children’s accounts at the K-3 level and begin to separate into student/guardian at the 4-8 level, but this decision is entirely up to each family.

Why are we doing all of this?

Our goal for this year is to really be sure Google Classroom is the best platform for all that we want to do at OJCS and the only way to be sure is to really use it.  So we are.  Once the technical issues are behind us and we are fully engaged in its use, we are going to transparently decide whether or not the future of OJCS will be on Google Classroom or not.  Regardless, the skills that our students, teachers and parents are learning to use Google Classroom will be easily transferred to any other kinds of online educational platforms, so this training will not be for naught!

I invite you to speak with your child(ren)’s teachers or me should you continue to have questions or issues with Google Classroom. We will be happy to individually troubleshoot what lingering issues we have until we are all 100% up to speed.

And now for something completely different…

unnamedThe Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins next week and is the most well-known of the Jewish “New Year’s” (we actually have four different ones, including Tu B’Shevat). Additionally, since most of us also follow the secular calendar, we have an extra one each year on the eve of December 31st.  And finally, the start of school provides yet another “new year”.  Putting it all together, suffice it to say, we have ample opportunities each year to pause and reflect on the year that was and to hope and dream about the year that is yet to be.

This is the time of year that schools engage in all sorts of creative ways to perform tashlikh – a ceremony in which we cast off the sins of the past with an eye towards improving our behavior for the future.  A common activity for our youngest students has them draw a picture and/or write about a behavior they want to avoid doing again – mistreating a sibling, being disobedient to a parent, not being a good friend. etc.  After they make their project, they crumble it into a ball and throw it into the trash. Bye-bye bad behaviors!

Were it only that easy!

All schools count “character education” as part of their mission. All educators consider it part of their already challenging jobs to help children grow and develop as human beings. Part of what I enjoy about Jewish day schools is that we get to make that part of our curriculum explicit.  We are in the business of making menschen and during the High Holiday season, business is good!

So who will we become this year?  Beyond all our academic hopes and dreams, will this be the year we become who we were meant to be?  Will we live up to our own lofty expectations?  Will we be better children, better students, better teachers, better siblings, better partners, better spouses, better colleagues, better friends – will we be a better “us”?

As the eve of a new Jewish Year approaches, it is my most sincerest hope that this is the year we’ve been waiting for.  To all the teachers, staff, parents, students, donors, supporters, and friends in this special school- thank you for your enthusiasm and your hard work.  5778 is shaping up to be a quite an amazing year! From our family to yours, “Shanah tovah!”

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.