We’re back! I am writing near the end of an amazing Faculty Pre-Planning Week that has us poised for our biggest and best year yet! We have a large group of amazing returning teachers and a small group of talented new teachers and the combination is almost too wonderful to name. A school is only as good as its teachers, so…OJCS is in good hands, with all arrows pointing up. Enrollment is still coming in, but it is safe to say that we will be over 190 for the first time in a long time. But the best part of the week? It was about SCHOOL and TEACHING and STUDENTS, and not about COVID and COVID and COVID.
Do you ever wonder how we spend this week of preparations while y’all are busy getting your last cottage days or summer trips or rays of sun in?
I think there is value in our parents (and community) having a sense for the kinds of issues and ideas we explore and work on during our planning week because it foreshadows the year to come. So as you enjoy those last days on the lake or on the couch, let me paint a little picture of how we are preparing to make 2022-2023 the best year yet.
Here’s a curated selection from our activities…
The “Getting Our Mojo Back” Cafe
Each year (15 years, 6 at OJCS and counting!), I begin “Pre-Planning Week” with an updated version of the “World Cafe”. It is a collaborative brainstorming activity centered on a key question. Each year’s question is designed to encapsulate that year’s “big idea”. This year’s big idea? Getting Our Mojo Back!
After the last two and a third years, we are eager to get back on the exciting trajectory we were on BC (Before COVID) – back to being the school that did big things and tried new ideas, back to being the school where students dreamed big dreams and teachers unleashed their passion, back to being the school where parents were present and engaged and involved. Etc. Here’s one (of many) example of our brainstorm:
Implementing OJCS Homework Philosophy
One conversation that we are excited to be picking back up is a more fulsome implementation of the OJCS Homework Philosophy we created and shared pre-COVID. This conversation includes questions teachers should answer before deciding whether or not to give it as homework, like…
- Is it necessary?
- Is it inspiring, creative and authentic?
- Have I personalized it?
- Have I explained it well? Can students complete it independently?
- How much homework is being assigned across the team? Will it cause unnecessary stress?
Parents can look forward to more information on that and more to be shared during Back To School Night on Tuesday, September 21st.
Book Tasting: The OJCS 2022 Summer Book Club
I think you can tell a lot by the books a school chooses to read together. Here were the selections for this summer, which culminated in a “Book Tasting” session where lessons and wisdom were gleaned and shared:
- Bittersweet by Susan Cain
- Because of a Teacher by George Couros
- Adaptable: How to Create and Adaptable Curriculum and Flexible Learning Spaces that Work in Any Environment by AJ Juliani
- Empower: What Happens When Students Own their Learning by John Spence & AJ Juliani
If you want to know more about the big ideas that shape our work, feel free to read one or more of these books and tell us what you think!
Reintroducing the OJCS Makerspace
Of all the BC (Before COVID) programs to be shut down before having a chance to truly take to life, the short-lived soft launch of the OJCS Makerspace (built with a gift from the Congregation Beth Shalom Legacy Fund) was one of the most truly disappointing. I have blogged may times already (most recently here last spring) about all that the Makerspace was and is intended to be, but now – finally! – we are taking steps to ensure that it begins to live up to its promise. I often say that the best measure of a school’s (or any organization’s) priorities can be found in their budget and their schedule. How you choose to spend your money and your time means more than any marketing collateral (or blog post!), and this year we have put our money and our time behind making the OJCS Makerspace the true “hub for innovation” it was designed to be. We have created a Makerspace Team of faculty, led by Makerspace Lead Josh Ray, who have dedicated time for teaching, coaching and facilitating Makerspace experiences; and we are dedicating specific time for each grade (as part of their Science blocks) to explicitly work in the Makerspace.
To get us off on the right foot, the OJCS Makerspace Team facilitated our first OJCS Faculty experience in the Makerspace! (This work is a direct result of an Innovation Capacity Grant from the Jewish Federation of Ottawa!) We got to play with Tinkercad and compete with each other to design “classrooms of the future”! Oh to finally be in the space to tinker, make, play and learn! I am so excited to no longer having to be writing about the Makerspace because your children will be coming home sharing their experiences and hopefully the fruits of their labors.
Did I do one of my spiritual check-ins on the topic of the “Biblical Paradigms & Imposter Syndrome”? Sure did!
Did Mrs. Thompson, Morah Lianna and I do great differentiated sessions on use of classroom blogs and student blogfolios? Yup!
Did Morah Lianna & Ms. Gordon help us understand how we can get our mojo back through Student Life at OJCS? Yessiree!
Did Ms. Beswick lead a session on “Setting Up Your Class for Behaviour Success”? You bet!
Did Ms. Gordon go over all the guidelines and protocols and procedures and rules and mandates to keep us all safe? No doubt!
Did our teachers have lots of time to meet and prepare and collaborate and organize and do all the things needed to open up school on Tuesday? And then some!
All that and much more took place during this week of planning. We are prepared to provide a rigorous, creative, innovative, personalized, and ruach-filled learning experience for each and every one of our precious students who we cannot wait to greet in person on the first day of school!
Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday weekend and a successful launch to the 2022-2023 school year…