Nobel laureate Isidor Rabi was famously once asked why he became a scientist rather than one of the many other career options available to someone of his intellect. He is quoted as saying that his mother was responsible for making him a scientist. Instead of asking him what he learned in school today, Dr. Rabi’s mother would ask him, “Izzy, did you ask a good question today?”
Dr. Rabi’s mother was less concerned about filling her child with knowledge and more concerned about fanning his growing curiosity. Knowledge would come with questioning, but better questions would yield the kinds of information that you need. Last Wednesday’s parent open house at school was a success because of the kinds of questions that were asked. Our conversation ranged over a wide number of topics from my adjustment to Cleveland to promoting the school to the teaching of tefillah to building leaders.
Two major themes emerged from the conversation. The first echoed some of the conversations that I had with parents back in May during one of my whirlwind visits to Schechter. Our parents want to know what is going on in school and we need to do a better job ensuring that information is sent out in a timely and useful fashion. This is more than just letting you know when the next evening program is, it means turning our classrooms and programs inside out (figuratively, of course) and sharing the incredible learning that makes Schechter an experience for life. It means creating opportunities to connect learning to home life and the world around us.
When I think about this school, I also think about how it connects to the families. To that end, we want to strengthen our partnership with our parents. We’re looking to see how we can make our programs more accessible for families with multiple children.
The second theme focused on dealing with the oft quoted phrase “Schechter is a hidden gem”. Parents, staff, and community members are fiercely proud of the school, but often follow up with comments about how too few people are aware of who we are and what we do. We need to work on building Schechter’s reputation through a variety of channels. We need to improve our “curb appeal” by increasing our signage on Fairmount. We all need to have more conversations about what makes this a great school and keep a positive buzz in the air. We all need to click ‘share’ on our Facebook status messages to help get the word out. We need you to kvell about what your kids are doing in school and how they are become mensches.
In addition to those external steps to raise our profile, we need parents to engage internally. As you learned about when you enrolled your children for this year, we have added a requirement of 15 parent engagement hours per family. We will be rolling out a volunteer website in the coming days to help coordinate volunteer efforts. Stay tuned.
Your questions help guide our work to create an experience for life for your children. I want to hear your creative ideas and last Wednesday’s session is only the first of many that I will be hosting throughout the year. Learning, as Dr. Rabi noted, is about asking questions.
In Hebrew, we would say Bo N’Daber. Come and let’s talk. So join me for the next conversation on.