Not too long ago, the most popular soap in America was Colgate’s Irish Spring with its deodorizing green stripes. Some of  you might remember this commercial. Proctor and Gamble, the competitors, found themselves spending month after month trying to develop a green striped soap to compete with Irish Spring. Each attempt met with failure when market tested.

Enter a young designer, Min Basadur, who with a simple question changed the focus. Instead of asking, how to make a green striped bar that people would prefer over Irish Spring, he shifted their thinking by asking a question that they had  ignored: “How might we make a more refreshing soap?” Asking this question opened the designers’ minds and eventually led to the creation of the soap Coast, still a top selling brand.

Lovely story, but what does this have to do with Gross Schechter Day School. Earlier this week, we posted a series of  pictures on Facebook of the staff during our opening faculty meeting. If you looked closely, you saw groups of Schechter employees diligently trying to build towers out of paper bags, spaghetti, string, and masking tape that would hold a marshmallow up in the air. This design challenge encouraged our staff to take risks, rethink their assumptions, and then assess the steps needed for project design.

As we talked about our experience with this activity, we explored the values that are important in continually improving  Gross Schechter Day School, such as enthusiasm, innovation, collaboration, transparency, and respect. We then began asking our own ‘how might we’ questions. For example, how might we be more reflective, how might we be more adaptable, and how might we encourage creativity. To help answer the last question, staff offered answers like creating  more open ended assignments for students where there may be no “correct” answer and incorporating more inquiry-based  education across the curriculum. Others suggested finding ways to let kids determine how something will be done.

The essential question of ‘how might we’ will inform our work as a staff throughout this year. Stemming from the larger question of how might we enhance and grow Schechter, the staff will be working in smaller groups to innovate and improve our school, grow a school that our parents our proud of, that our community kvells about, and that achieves our  goals of educating students who can meet the challenges of the 21st century as mensches for life.  I will keep you informed throughout the year as we ask these ‘how might we’ questions and come up with some next steps.  And I will look forward to having some similar conversations with you at my regular Bo N’Daber (Come Talk) sessions.

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