Summer has set in. Some students are at camps. Some families are enjoying travel. There’s a change in the rhythm of the lives of our staff and faculty as well. Administrative staff work somewhat reduced hours and take some time off for respite. Teachers are also enjoying much needed time off, although most keep more than a toe in the educational water, participating in professional learning opportunities, reading professional literature (we have teacher book clubs!) and beginning to plan lessons for the start of the year.
As is the case every year, I began my summer by attending the California Association of Independent Schools’ Annual Meeting. I look forward to this three day meeting every year where I connect with my colleagues – heads of independent schools from across the state to learn together and discuss relevant issues.
One of the main topics of discussion this year were the Varsity Blues – the college admissions scandal that I joked about in my Purim calendar. It is, of course, no joking matter. Is the scandal about a few bad people using their wealth to bribe their way into elite institutions, or is it a greater issue of societal inequity? What part do our schools play in this? Some independent schools build their admissions on a selective model, and perpetuate the concept of finer education as the privilege of the elite. When schools sell themselves by advertising college admissions of their alumni they perpetuate this. When schools give preferred admissions for students whose families donate buildings, how does that contribute to the atmosphere of bribery?
As a school that bases its curriculum and practice on morals and values, while also depending on the generosity of community for its continued existence, it is important that we continue to separate fundraising from educational practice. I am more aware than ever of the need to promote the importance of hard work and perseverance. At the same time, I feel the need to be cautious about stressing competition with others, and that we continue to emphasize cooperation and compassion. As taught at Yavneh, Derech Eretz, a Hebrew term for proper behavior (literally, way of the land) focuses on caring for ourselves, caring for others and caring for our environment. These statements assume that our children would want to care, or would know how to care. Teaching our children to care is at the heart of what I feel we should be doing as a school, and will be a major theme of our faculty learning as they return in August, and a continued emphasis in our practice in the new year. Wishing you a summer filled with many moments of care and compassion. Shabbat Shalom -Zvi