Reflections on 2022

Thursday, 17 Nov 2022

Today’s Newsletter is devoted to some reflection which is rare for me but timely as we wind down for the year. I often find myself wishing I could bottle the outsiders’ comments I hear from those who visit Mount Sinai – experts in their field who travel worldwide visiting schools. Just this semester, we have had the Director of Worldwide Product Marketing for Apple Education, the worldwide education leadership and strategist at Apple and three others from Apple Australia and numerous leaders from other schools and systems all of whom commented on the incredible innovation they saw in the classrooms. 

Furthermore, Tal Gale from Hebrew at the Centre – an institution that aims to revolutionize the effectiveness of teaching and learning Hebrew in all educational settings worldwide and who our Hebrew / JS staff and I had the pleasure of hearing at the ZFA Conference – was in awe of what she experienced as she walked around talking Hebrew to the kids. 

I so often hear praise from others when our children attend excursions. These objective comments from people who have never been to the school but who travel to many schools are marketing nuggets without marketing.  It really does make us all feel proud.

However, as the mother whale once reminded her son – it is when you get to the top and start blowing that you get harpooned. I always believe that we should feel pleased with our progress but never satisfied – something I imparted to the many football teams I coached over the years. 

I don’t always get the chance to call out the excellent work being done by many people around the school or to be able to discuss the reasons why there is a high level of functioning. 

In relation to the visit by Tal Gale, many of us had the opportunity to hear Tal speak at the recent ZFA conference. She was a captivating speaker – learned, wise and down to earth and she imparted the latest research on teaching Hebrew. I can safely say that Mount Sinai was the only school well ahead of the pack. Rozanna has taken her staff through two years of the proficiency approach and hence, when Tal visited, she was in awe of the work the team has been doing. 

Similarly, to have such prominent people from Apple visiting the school and acknowledging the creativity and innovation is a credit to David Colville (Director of IT and Innovation) and his support (James Paterson). When we employed both Jess Segail and Toolie Fester in the library, they had a clear mandate to also impart their knowledge and expertise in supporting technological innovation. Both will be undertaking an extensive, weeks-long coaching course through Apple which will empower them to guide staff (new and old) as they embrace the new technologies, ways of thinking and various innovations. 

This year, we have been fortunate to dive deeply into the school improvement plan as Emily Levenson has taken on the role of Curriculum Development. She has been ably supported by Aiden Levy and both have been delivering quality professional learning to staff in the afternoons and morning sessions. Arianne Burnie attended the cross-jurisdictional education network meetings to also support the team in understanding the evolution of the new curriculum.

Janine Sussman has been remarkable in driving the changes to the new Individual Learning Plans and ensuring her qualified team are able to support students particularly in relation to the acquisition of early literacy. 

Few parents realise the enormity of the accreditation process not just in and of itself but the evolution of it. Amanda Eisman has been the driving force and mentor behind this process ensuring staff have access to, and knowledge of high levels of attainment but also ensuing newer staff can progress smoothly from Provisional to Proficient teacher with her guidance and support. 

Jesse Black has been a strong advocate for and a ‘researcher in residence’ teacher who has guided staff in knowing how to meet the needs of talented and gifted students. It was his initiative which saw us all trained at the beginning of the year in the Certificate of Gifted Education. 

Finally, it has been my experience that no school can function smoothly without having a deputy principal who acts as a vital conduit to staff and parents. Garron’s work in the wellbeing space and his commitment to the leadership aspirations and staff has been exemplary. His devotion to and leadership of sport is also praiseworthy. The role of ASISSA president is a substantial one and his grasp of the complex, labyrinthine world of sporting progression is truly advantageous. His institutional knowledge is, and will be, of great value particularly when I step down. 

Sometimes, it is important to stand back and acknowledge the great work. Whilst we may debate amongst ourselves, it is almost culturally imbued in us to forget the good as we become consumed in discussion. The following quote from Amos Oz humorously reminds me of our need to be equally focussed on all those things that drive success, over the deflections that often consume us.

‘Jews are an argumentative people. We say “The Lord is my shepherd” but no Jew was ever a sheep. I remember once having a dialogue with the late and great Israeli novelist Amos Oz who began by saying, “I’m not sure I’m going to agree with Rabbi Sacks on everything, but then, on most things, I don’t agree with myself.”

Ours is the only civilisation I know whose canonical texts are anthologies of arguments. The prophets argued with God; the rabbis argued with one another. We are a people with strong views – it is part of who we are. Our ability to argue, our sheer diversity, culturally, religiously and in every other way, is not a weakness but a strength. However, when it causes us to split apart, it becomes terribly dangerous because whilst no empire on earth has ever been able to defeat us, we have, on occasions, been able to defeat ourselves’.

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