A Message from Dr. Starr
Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb,
but how well you bounce.
— Vivian Kamari
By Deborah R. Starr, Ed.D., Head of School
In just the last decade, the world as we know it has changed and we need to be cognizant of those changes and how it impacts on education.
When schools first began in America, we were an agrarian economy and schools knew that world. Most students just needed what came to be known “as the basics”: reading, writing and arithmetic. We then became an industrial economy; education shifted slightly with the addition of social and work skills, such as punctuality, focus, following directions and production. Notably, the majority of students did not need to, and did not, graduate from high school. Moving forward, as we broadly became a service-based, professional economy, schools and subject-matter shifted, again. Many more subjects were taught: foreign language, higher math, government, art, music and philosophy. Students were not only expected to graduate from high school, but a majority were also expected to earn college diplomas. But now, we are faced with the digital age, and this greatest disrupter since the invention of the printing press, is shaking the ground beneath us.
Preparation for this digital age, and the resulting education needed, is vastly different from previous models. Much is unknown. But, at every educational conference I have gone to, this much I have learned:
• We are preparing students for jobs that do not exist, yet.
• One-third of our students will self-invent their own employment.
• Most adults will change jobs 5-7 times over a lifetime, and it will not be from one law firm to another; it will be entirely
different professions and roles.
• Robots will be everywhere – they have greater memory capacity than humans, and they follow directions better.
• Which does tell us, someone will have to program those robots — welcome to the world of algorithms and coding.
If we do not know the exact employment fields of the future, what we do know is the characteristics necessary of the employees of this future world we are already in. Future employees will need to be:
• Critical Thinkers
• Excellent Oral and Written Communicators
• Active Listeners
• And Know How to Access and Evaluate Information — because information is ubiquitous, free and rarely scrutinized.
Temple Beth Am Day School has heard the clarion call that “the landscape has changed and the organization needs to shift,” and indeed we have been. We are emphasizing and reinforcing these so-called, identified 21st Century skills in our curriculum and instructional practices. Even our administrators and teachers are learning to practice and model these new modes of behavior and learning. It is not easy to follow the new tenet:
“Life is no longer about how fast you run or how high you climb, but it is about how well you bounce.”
I am afraid, no, I know, that those who are not able to bounce, who remain inflexible, who lack creativity and imagination, may surely get left behind. The good news is, with the guidance of their teachers, and the support of you, their parents — we will forge this future, together.
This is why we overhauled our science curriculum, adding STEM and collaborative work. Even in our Early Childhood ECHOS (Early Childhood Hands-On Science) and Creative Curriculum, the children are doing investigations, working collaboratively and using critical thinking. Our children are doing coding, robotics and competing with other Jewish day schools in those areas. We have added Chess (strategic thinking and problem solving), one-to-one iPad deployment in grades third through fifth. Our art program emphasizes individual creativity and project-based learning is part of our social studies curriculum. Our extensive field trips foster broadening our students’ horizons, which leads to imagination, creativity and further exploration.
However, while establishing this kind of necessary education for our students, we must not lose sight of why else we are here. It is not just about the world of employment. It is about the world of people — and in that world, we want our children to identify as Jewish. They need to know our torah, history, culture, ritual practices and support the State of Israel. Also, we want them to be good people. We want them to clothe the naked; feed the hungry; visit the sick; pursue justice; protect the environment; be industrious; have grit; honor their parents; and know when to make war and when to broker peace. Even our families of other faiths have chosen us, because they, too, want these attributes and values for their children. As quoted from the book of Isaiah, “I shall submit you as a light unto the nations.”
Do our students recognize dangerous and destructive situations? Do they know the difference between getting an adult involved and tattle-tailing? Do they know that there are four components to bullying and anti-social behavior? Those being: the victim, the perpetrator (or bully), the adult and the bystander? Do they know how to move from being a bystander to an “upstander,” otherwise bullying never goes away.
Have our children been taught all these things? The answer is yes — through our 3-year cycled Middot curriculum and Open Circle program. Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) and Tzedakah (Righteous Giving) is intentionally practiced here. Any student may propose a Tzedakah initiative to the Student Council. Then, under the guidance of Rabbi Rachel Greengrass and Student Council advisor Craig Mankoff, Tzedakah initiatives are reviewed, discussed and debated by the Student Council, which then determines which proposals will become school-wide initiatives. This past school year, the initiatives included:
• Tikva House
• American Red Cross
• Give Miami Day
• United Way of Miami-Dade
• Wounded Warrior Project
• Dunks for Diabetes
• Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
• Nature Conservatory of Florida
• Patches PPES Medical Daycare
• American Heart Association
• Victor Center at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
We are commanded to teach our precepts diligently to our children. We recite it daily in the Shema. That is what we do here. That is what our parents have wisely chosen for their children. A Temple Beth Am Day School graduate will be those people who think, care, inspire and lead, because Temple Beth Am Day School is an academically rich Jewish day school that is preparing students through nurturance, academic rigor, personal accountability, exploration and high expectations to be productive and giving leaders in today’s (and tomorrow’s) world. They will be the bedrock of the future Jewish community and those contributing American citizens that we all want for our impending world.
The administration and faculty are excited about the upcoming 2019–2020 school year. We know we are at the forefront of today’s world’s educational needs. Although much remains unknown, we are addressing what we do know. And, our students’ future is one of promise and preparedness. Have others join us — especially once our new Beyond the Curve campus is completed. Then, we can move from “waiting pools on some grades,” to room for all.