Putting it All Together

What a week!  I want to use this week’s blog post to add some closing thoughts to recent weeks’ blog posts, tying some threads together, as we officially open school on Monday.

Thread #1:

I blogged last week, here, about what we would be doing this week in our annual Faculty Pre-Planning Week and writing on a Friday afternoon, it has been a tremendously positive, energizing, motivating and informational week culminating in Thursday’s “Meet & Greet” for Grades K-5 and today’s “Middle School Orientation”.  We are ready to go!

Here we were on our opening World Cafe (click here for more info):

The lead question was about “mentoring” and here is one sample of how our conversation unfolded:

We collected all the creative output of our cafe and uploaded it to our faculty ning for further conversation and collaboration.

Another highlight was an opportunity to gather with our Galinsky Academy colleagues in the DuBow Preschool for some team-building activities:

We had a fantastic week and cannot wait until Monday!


Thread #2:

I blogged a few weeks ago, here, about our amazing cast of new and returning faculty & staff.  There were a few gaps that I updated through postscripts in future blogs, but one gap had until now been left unexplained.  While I was on vacation, Jessie Roman, who had served ably as our secondary support staff person in the Day School for over seven years, informed me that she had accepted an opportunity too important to her family’s well-being to pass up.  We understood and continue to wish her well in her new endeavor.  She is missed.

We have quickly gone through a search and interview process to find a capable replacement.  I am pleased to announce that we have identified a new employee and have signed her to a contract.  Technically we are still awaiting background data to confirm her employment, so I cannot, as of now, share her name.  But pending a surprise, she will begin her work a week from Monday.  I will share her name as soon as she clears!

Recognizing we have been one person short in our office this month and next week, we appreciate your patience.  We’ll be back to full speed soon.


Thread 3:

I blogged more recently, here, about the official launch of the first Galinsky Academy initiative: Creating a Community of Kindness.  It began this week with our teachers, and continues next Monday at our annual PTA-sponsored “Back to School” brunch for Preschool and Day School parents with information sharing on the new project.  [NOTE: This will be repeated for teachers and parents in the Bernard and Alice Selevan Religious School at their upcoming Faculty Orientation and PTA-sponsored “Back to School” brunch.  All Makom Hebrew High teachers also work in another Galinsky Academy school and received their information there.]

In the spirit of transparency, I wanted to share with you the overall vision for that program as has been worked out by the professionals of the Academy, the clergy of the Jacksonville Jewish Center, and our partners at Jewish Family & Community Services.  It is a starting point – a work in progress – not the entirety.  As data is collected (surveys in September across the Academy), we will revise to keep the project moving forward in the right directions.  Here, however, is at least where we will begin:

Outline for Curriculum for 2012-2013

Galinsky Academy

The purpose of this program is to create a community of kindness amongst students, teachers and parents within Galinsky Academy. This curriculum is intended to support what is already being taught with the message of Chesed throughout the religious institution.  The plan would be to kick-off this program prior to the beginning of the school year with teachers during pre-planning week and we would be available to do similar with parents.

For the DuBow Preschool:

  • Facilitating classroom activities based upon the themes of the monthly Character Words.  Examples of activities include assisting teachers in creating a monthly classroom bulletin board and leading an activity that corresponds to the monthly reading of a PJ Library book.
  • Utilizing the book Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky A. Bailey as a resource to develop classroom activities to support teachers plan/agendas
  • How to take home what is being learned and processed in school: Examples include facilitating conversations with parents and teachers about how to create a community of caring, implementing specific projects that can be done at home with their children and brought back to school, classroom projects with teachers  (i.e.; creating Tzedakah boxes)

For the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School:

  • School-wide projects  (part of this will include engaging the student council—attending the monthly meetings with them to encourage their support and involvement in activities) Examples include: creating themed bulletin boards about definitions/examples of caring, implementing peer to peer support groups, implementing a school-wide award system/acknowledgment of students acts of kindness, an award system for teachers, implementing a system/plan for parents to recognize teachers/staff
  • Classroom workshops and projects— would include an activity (with processing upon completion), then leaving teachers with worksheets/mini-projects for follow-up to do in classroom and/or send home with kids

For the Bernard & Alice Selevan Religious School & Makom Hebrew High:

  • Teacher workshops.  Possible topics include: how to facilitate communication with parents and with students, how to recognize special needs and emotional issues in children, how to encourage peer to peer support amongst students, assertiveness training, bullying prevention ideas
  • In-classroom projects with follow-up activity for child to bring home and do with parent(s)
  • Teacher coaching–initial meeting with teacher about classroom issue(s), then observe classroom and make suggestions (behavioral management)

Examples of possible workshops for students

  • Value of friendship–how we choose friends
  • Hands-on sensitivity training—“walking in their shoes” (bring in guest speaker to help understanding physical and emotional disabilities—have students walk blindfolded, etc.)  Focusing on accepting differences and strengths, what makes each of us unique
  • Self-esteem/empowerment topics
  • Communication—how to talk to your parents or those in authority
  • Why do we bully? (classroom and cyber)—what to do when you see bullying occur
  • Dealing with conflict
  • Healthy boundaries/healthy relationships
  • Assertiveness vs. aggressiveness
  • Role-playing—practicing kindness—what to say to peers, processing discussion
  • Classroom project/team-building—how to make the classroom a safe place

Examples of possible workshops for teachers and parents

  • Recognizing signs of bullying behavior (including cyber and classroom); threats to our children
  • Recognizing possible mental health issues/needs
  • Coaching on how to talk to parents about sensitive topics (for teachers)
  • How to talk to student/child in a way they will understand

Putting into Action/Other learning opportunities

  • Field trips and Mitzvah projects: 1-2x a year kids will go off-site to volunteer with another agency which provides services to children (Sulzbacher, Community Connections, etc.)
  • Availability to meet with parents and teachers—before or after school day, during summer, before holidays, etc.
  • Acceptance of referrals for short-term counseling and/or crisis intervention
  • Availability for classroom management intervention/suggestions per request from staff
  • Availability for specific interventions with child and/or family related to bullying issue
  • Follow-up sessions with aggressors or victims of bullying on an on-call basis
  • Pre and post tests/evaluations of knowledge and resources available to students


Books by Dr. Becky A. BaileyShubert series and Conscious Discipline

Employee certified in training of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits

Stephen CoveyThe Leader in Me


Tying those three threads, along with others, together helps create the fabric of what will surely be an amazing year in the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School and the Galinsky Academy.

Off to enjoy a restful Shabbat and to get ready for an amazing week!



About Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of Galinsky Academy [which includes the DuBow Preschool, the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School (a K-8 Schechter), the Bernard and Alice Selevan Religious School, and Makom Hebrew High] located in Jacksonville, FL, and part of the Jacksonville Jewish Center. He is the Executive Director Designate of the Schechter Day School Network. Jon has worked in all aspects of Jewish Education from camping to congregations and everything in between.
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