Rare video footage of our Improv Club
This week we mailed out progress reports to all our students. One question that popped up was what is the point of a progress report when we have JupiterGrades and parents and students can see their grades at all times. In fact logging on to JupiterGrades a parent can get very detailed information about their son’s classes. So why do we send out a progress report!
At first glance the question seems very convincing but upon further examination they may even be more than one reason for a school to insist on sending a progress report and even go to the expense of mailing it (in an era of email and other electronic means of communication). Lets start with a good explanation; progress reports promote reflection. In our fast paced world we get bombarded with so much information that it is practically impossible to absorb all of it – getting a piece of paper with a snapshot of where one is holding is a perfect opportunity to pause, reflect, take stock and internalize where one is at and ask ourselves am I on track with the goals I have mapped out for my future. Another good reason is that parents are not taking full advantage of JupiterGrades. Parents can follow their son’s grade; they can also find out what is behind the grade. How much of their son’s grade is based on academics and how much is based on participation and behavior. Parents can also find out what assignment were completed which were not. They can also see what grade their son got for each individual assignment, have they improved or are they regressing.
There is still another explanation and one that I would like to focus on, which I’ll call having “the talk” reason. In Parshas Veyaira we found Hashem having “the talk” with Avrohom about Sedom. The Torah relates how Hashem appeared to Avrohom to discuss his plans with regard to Sedom. Rashi explained that the impetus for this discussion was the fact that Avrohom was to inherit Eretz Yisroel and with it the title of Av Hamon Goyim – Father of many nations – Rashi continues and tells us that Hashem pronounced “Shall I deal with the children without informing the father, especially one who is my friend”. Hashem felt a responsibility to set aside time to allow Avrohom to hear what is about to happen to Sedom and more importantly give Avrohom a chance to do something about it. I believe the analogy is there – the education our son’s get is what they inherit from us, when it is not in order it becomes our responsibility to talk to them about it. We need to let them know what is going to happen if they don’t change course and at the same time we need to listen to them and give then the opportunity to come up with their own solution. Getting a Progress report gives us the impetus to have “the talk”.
Parents should feel comfortable to confront their children about their lives. We should never be apprehensive to bring up any topic and discuss it with them. We may need to use prudence when to have the discussion but we need to have it. Using the progress report (assuming that your son hasn’t intercepted the mailman and destroyed the evidence) as a catalyst for the discussion provides that time – let us try to take advantage of it. On the topic, it should be noted that a critical component of the discussion for us as parents, is to listen and be ready to allow our child to share their opinion. While we may have the sagacity about life in general they do have the first hand experience about their own life.
Growing up in Los Angeles, I have become accustom to seeing the occasional celebrity at my local eatery, cafe and entertainment locales. However, unlike many near me, I generally have had little to no interest in getting their autograph or take a picture with them. This all changed this Monday when I ran up to a celebrity and asked to take a selfie. Here is the picture of myself and Mr. Larry Rosenstock.
Ok. You may be asking what movie was Larry in? Is he an old TV star? How come I never heard of him? Well, the fact is, he is not an actor. He is the CEO of High Tech High, expert in Project-Based Learning (PBL) and as big a celebrity in my mind than any blockbuster movie star.
I had the privilege of being invited this week by the Covenant Foundation to attend a consultation meeting on Project-Based Learning. It was a fantastic day with a wonderful group of educators and, of course, Larry Rosenstock. We discussed Project-Based Learning in Jewish education and how we can all support each other in increasing innovation, creativity and meaningful learning in our Jewish educational settings. I plan on discussing PBL at Valley Torah in future posts, but I did want to share one new initiative that plans on accomplishing these goals.
As part of our vision at VTHS to support more real-world connections with the learning, an increase in authentic learning and the integration of more creative opportunities for our students, the Principal Project was devised and launched! Click here to view the Principal Project site.
The Principals Project is an opportunity for VTHS students to explore and dive deeper into their personal interests and what they are passionate about. The goal is to support our students in discovering, exploring and refining their passions so that when they graduate they stand out to college admission officers, the workforce and find meaning in all that they do!
The Principal Project is a year long independent project, with my support, that begins with each student choosing an interest of theirs within a specific framework for their grade. Then in teams the students will explore their interests and prepare to present on that interest at an end of the year exhibition. The 9th graders will choose a profession that interests them and the 10th graders choose a University that ties into their interests. They will both research their choices and at the end of the year both grades will produce a presentation and host a job and college fair. The 11th and 12th graders will choose a social problem in the world, explore that issue, develop an innovative solution to the problem and at the end of the year host a social entrepreneurship fair where they will present their solutions.
All the students are currently in phase one of the project where they are making their choices by December 8th, 2014. The next phase will involve the deep dive where they research their interest and prepare to gain the expertise needed for the third phase which is presentation and project development. The final phase is the public expedition where they present their interests, research and ideas to the community.
I am excited to see what our students will produce, but more importantly I am proud to be at a school that supports our students interests and helps them explore them deeply. As the great educational philosopher John Dewey said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” We cannot and must not separate the life of our students from their learning and vice versa. This project is one way to ensure that does not happen.
This is the latest segment of the weekly video series from Rabbi Stulberger – You’ve Been Called to the Dean’s Office. It’s a short (four minute) message on a timely Torah topic. This week’s message: “Our Responsibility to our Fellow Jew.”
This week I would like to share with you what I said at our open house. I believe it is important even for parents who have already entrusted their children to us to hear again what Valley Torah is all about. By reviewing the reasons, we remain focused on the goals we want from our children and hopefully we will be invigorated to continue motivating our children to achieve those goals (as well as prepare their lunches, take them to practices and be a source of funds for them etc.) It is very easy to lose focus of our goals and it is critical to find venues to re-energize ourselves.
When Yaakov wanted Yosef to remember to bury him in Eretz Yisroel he made him swear that he would. The commentaries ask isn’t this the same Yosef who put his life in danger to fulfill his fathers wishes by going alone to retrieve his brothers who were just looking for an excuse to dispose of him. Even so the commentaries say Yaakov made him swear assuring that Yosef would never forget and get distracted by other perhaps “holy” ventures and not do his fathers bidding. We see from here that even the most committed people need to look for sources of inspiration and motivation to remain focused on their goals.
So here goes:
I was recently asked what is my 60 sec elevator speech about.
The truth is I was at a loss because you can’t talk about Valley Torah in 60 sec, 60 min or even 60 hours. But then if Hillel was able to capsulize the entire Torah on one foot and in one sentence then I should be able to come up with a 60 sec elevator speech for Valley Torah.
Valley Torah is about balance and connectivity.
I don’t believe that in the city of Los Angeles there is another school that is able to balance a fantastic Torah studies program and an amazing secular studies program. Valley Torah is also able to balance the natural curiosity of a teenager with a structure to help them channel that curiosity correctly. Valley Torah is also able to balance guiding our students towards Middos and Derech Eretz with love and care.
The second component is connectivity. Everything we do at Valley Torah is about making a connection. It is about connecting to Torah to Mesorah to their Rebbeim to their teachers to their friends and to their community. Valley Torah is a school that provides these two components so that our students your children can look forward to their future with the skills, knowledge and confidence to be successful.
PS there is no copyright on this speech feel free to use it on your friends and neighbors, especially the ones with 8th grade boys.
We all need to be re-energized that’s why we look forward to weekends – but as with any good thing if time wasn’t spent in planning, it doesn’t usually go the way imagined. Teenagers are notorious for not planning and add to that, they are definitely not ready for anyone to tell them how to spend their free time. But we can plan for ourselves and we can choose things that the family can do, that will be more fun than just staying at home being bored and we should do them – you never know they may even join us.
Between last weeks post and this weeks so much has happened. I struggled with what to focus my thoughts on as so much of what has happened were truly firsts for me and the school and deserved being spoken about. Then I realized that I can write about anything I want so why not write about it all? So, here it is! There were many excited things that happened this past week and it really highlights how much is going on at Valley Torah. This week was one that made me very proud of our staff, students and parents in so many ways. Enjoy the many firsts!
First trip as a VTHS team to High Tech High
Rabbi Felt, Rabbi Samuels, Mr. David Paradzik and I met up with Mrs. Sabrina Maleh, the Associate Principal and Rabbi Michael Bitton, Director of Educational Technology, from Magen David Yeshiva High School in Brooklyn, NY to tour High Tech High in San Diego which is a school that uses project-based learning as its primary mode of instruction. We toured, got to see classes in action, spoke with students and teachers and walked away with some great ideas to continue increasing the connection between the learning at VTHS and the real-world. Click here to watch a video about High Tech High.
First Freshman Shabbaton for our Freshman and myself
What an amazing Shabbaton we had last Shabbos with our fantastic freshman class. Rock Climbing, an amazing Shabbos with great food, games and learning, Boomers, Sea World and the Party Van (check out the Vine below) !!!!!!!!!! Thank you to the Beth Jacob San Diego community for their warm welcome and a big shout out to Rabbi Semmel for organizing such a wonderful Shabbaton!
First VTHS Vine (Freshman Shabbaton 2014)
We had three vans that drove down to San Diego and I thought I would use vine to highlight the wonderful students in van #3 (click on the volume bottom on the lower right part of the vine to hear it).
First VTHS podcast: The Suggestion Box (A lighthearted satirical show by a Principal and a Student)
The Suggestion Box is a new podcast by myself and Mr. Yehuda Kelmen, a VTHS senior. Enjoy and look out for more shows coming your way!
First Open House as a Principal (that’s me with the arrow over my head)!
This past Wednesday VTHS-Boys hosted our Open House. Last year I sat in there as a parent and this year I attended as a principal. To be honest, despite the responsibility to present well when I spoke, the feeling was the same. Last year and this year, I was looking to see if Valley Torah was the school for my son and the right school to partner with as a parent. My expectations did not change as a principal except that now I was looking to ensure that it is the right school for all of our students and a strong partnership with all of our parents. Well, I walked away with my expectations exceeded as everyone from the staff, students and parent ambassadors did a fantastic job. I was honored to be representing the school with Rabbi Felt when we both spoke about the program here. I was inspired as an administrator and parent when Rabbi Stulberger spoke about our school and its history. I could not have been prouder of Mr. Yehuda Kelman who did a fantastic job as our student speaker and Mr. Paul Cohen hit it out of the park with his parent viewpoint. Our teachers also received top marks for their model lessons and it was also nice to speak with the potential parents and their sons before and after the presentations. It was a great night and I look forward to seeing many of those awesome 8th graders as freshman next year!
This is the latest segment of the weekly video series from Rabbi Stulberger – You’ve Been Called to the Dean’s Office. It’s a short (four minute) message on a timely Torah topic. This week’s message: “True Partnership.”
Since September, Valley Torah Girls Division Mock Trial team has been working diligently preparing and practicing for the Los Angeles County Mock Trial Competition. This year, our school was one of 90 teams registered to participate. This past Monday, November 3rd, our defense team went against Valencia High School and won! Our prosecution will compete again on Monday with the hopes of moving on to the quarter finals competition. The team is fortunate to have Miss Ashley Pony, Mock Trial Coordinator, as their coach. She propelled them to success with her commitment and talent! A big thank you goes out to Mr. Joseph Avrahamy, parent and attorney coach. His dedication, assistance and expertise was beyond valuable for the competition. Another special thank you to Jessica Lidergot, who assisted the students with their questions and statements, while offering her experience as a lawyer, as well. Lastly, thank you to the Ohana family who all came out in support and assisted as drivers at the competition.
The ninth grade boys just returned from a Shabbaton in San Diego.
This is the latest segment of the weekly video series from Rabbi Stulberger – You’ve Been Called to the Dean’s Office. It’s a short (four minute) message on a timely Torah topic. This week’s message: “Unconditional Love.”
On Tuesday, Valley Torah girls participated in an adorable chesed project to benefit the children of Chai Lifeline. The girls paired up, traced each other on paper, and decorated the traced paper dolls and large envelopes to send them in. As part of the sparkle theme of the VT Chesed Program this year, the chesed heads gave out stickers to the girls that said, “I embraced my inner sparkle.” These stickers acknowledge the fact that each VT girl has her own unique talents, or sparkles, and in doing this project, she made an effort to bring forth those sparkles and share them with others. After sealing their envelopes, the girls enjoyed delicious cookies covered in sparkle sprinkles.
We hope the children of Chai Lifeline enjoy the hugs and feel the warmth and love from Valley Torah girls coming their way!