As we wind down the 2020-2021 school year, it feels invigorating to be able to plan ahead for the future. With the Pandemic receding in the rearview mirror, we are able to refocus on our school journey of continued growth and improvement. For the past year, in between COVID testing and constantly maneuvering to keep the school and our Kehillah safe, we have been working on our strategic plan and I have been communicating with our Kehillah on the rationale for why schools must continually adapt and improve to best meet the needs of our children in this rapidly, ever changing world.
Equally important is the responsibility to recognize and preserve that which should not be changed. Over the past few months, I was honored to have had seven conversations involving nearly 150 voices to learn what we all hold sacred about Schechter Bergen that should remain a constant for our Kehillah. While there was a lot of passion and there are a variety of elements that people hold sacred about Schechter, a few points emerged as the fabric that brings life and texture to the uniqueness of Schechter Bergen.
Excellent and Caring Teachers: The teachers themselves spoke of a collaborative community where their voices are heard, risk-taking is valued, and there is an atmosphere of collegiality and support. Alumni, parents and board members focused on the caring nature of the teachers and how well they know each child. Excellent teachers who are supported and adaptable are sacred at Schechter.
Learning Process and Skills: Our Kehillah values our approach to education. There was an emphasis on an environment that is considered a safe place for students to question and to be themselves. Everyone values that the student voice is heard and considered. The school’s commitment to differentiation and the focus on thinking deeply to ignite curiosity and to foster a love of learning was voiced over and over again. In all, our community holds sacred excellence in learning, curricular flexibility and the equal status Judaic Studies holds in the learning process.
A Caring Community: Over and over again, people spoke of our warm community; one that is kind, caring and inclusive for a diverse population of both students and families. Schechter Bergen is viewed as a happy place and this is certainly held as sacred.
Social and Emotional Learning: Schechter is seen as a school that has rightfully taken the lead in social-emotional learning, and this past year has demonstrated why this is so important. Caring for the whole child is seen as a priority and is also recognized as essential in helping children develop non-academic skills which will serve them even more powerfully in life as they encounter both opportunities and challenges. Social and emotional learning and support is most sacred at Schechter.
A Focus on Character: Our community cares deeply about what kind of children we are raising. Our community wants the school to leverage our Jewish values and expectations to help children to grow into being good people who care beyond themselves and develop empathy to care for friends and loved ones as well as to extend their perspectives and good work to the larger communities, both near and far.
Sacred Jewish Learning: I placed this last, not because it was least important (the list is not in any order), rather because this sacred aspect of Schechter Bergen should be self-evident. After all, Schechter exists primarily for Jewish learning. Without this need and desire, the school would never have been founded. Our Kehillah wants to make sure that we continue to hold sacred the focus on teaching,Torah, Middot (Jewish values), traditions, mitzvot, Hebrew language, and a love of, and support for, Israel. Of great importance is our commitment to the time we allot to Jewish studies. This is tangible evidence that we truly hold deep Jewish learning as sacred.
It was so inspiring listening to the many people speak about what they hold sacred about Schechter Bergen. While gratifying, it was not surprising what rose to the top as the most sacred elements of our school .
With these sacred guardrails in place, we can travel, in confidence, on our educational journey to continually challenge ourselves to improve and adapt our educational programs and experiences for our students. This never-ending commitment to excellence through reflection and growth is what the Schechter Bergen professional staff holds sacred for the benefit of our children!
I look forward to resuming my blogs in September. Have a wonderful summer!