Wednesday, October 23, 2013

500 voices in my head

What is the next phase of our work with congregations? We've held community conversations across NY to get smart people's input.

We've also listened to what we've accomplished:
50 congregations engaged in creating new models
3000 children in new models
17 new models that are alternatives to x hours in a classroom
97% of congregations with an average of 13 hours a year of professional development
All the congregations are using 21st century design principles to shape learning
93% created second tier leadership (e.g. advancing teachers into leadership)
14 congregations used Coalition Educators..full time staff shared among congregations

We've listened to the data:

Relationships are not the enemy of new models content and relationships are present with equal vigor

New Models are worth the effort--when traditional Hebrew schools with excellent reputations are compared to new models --more powerful learning (21st century best practices) are more present in new models.

Change takes time and you can do it quicker: the most developed models (ones that look less like a program and are the commanding experience) have been developed over 4-9 years, so not surprising we've learned time matters in what appears to be evolutionary change..this stuff doesn't happen over night. And yet, we've see that once the new pioneers create new models, it takes less time to adapt those models. We've seen this quicker change in Express Innovation Congregations.

We've listened to the limitations:
Most congregations have approximately 35% of their children enrolled in the new models. That means they are running more "traditional Hebrew Schools" for the remainder of their population.

Most congregations are still in the developing phase of their new models (we have  developed a rating system for the 8 characteristics of what distinguishes)

Change has happened and what comes next to reach the tipping point?

The question now:
Since we want to reach that tipping point where the majority of children are experiencing more powerful learning in what are proven to be more powerful models
WHERE IS THE POWER to tip this cow over?

Four thoughts
1. The commanding congregation
Would models tip to be the majority experience if the larger congregation were also re-imagining?
Are there congregations that have the urgency of now to reshape in a way that is coupled with work of children and parents? I've heard for example of a rabbi on Long Island that is working to re-imagine his congregation as a place for Wholeness and Wellness. Wow what is the educational model for children in that congregation?

As long as the congregation is holding on to we can't take risks, we are in to tweaking to please, the school can't be shape shifted totally.

2. The grassroots power of parents
I've heard from a number of directors who say  "I get that our work is about growing the whole person. But as long as parents still think our work is prep for bar mitvah, we are not going anywhere." The power of parents has been explored at the Jewish Education Project in the day school initiative Parent to Parent and by the early childhood department who has held focus groups with young parents. The power, and the genuine desire of parents to raise their children wholly has not been unleashed yet in a grassroots kind of way (not committees) to change the congregational learning experience.

3. The content of Jewish learning for Real Life
There is a disconnect between mission (e.g. grow a whole child) and content (language skills, history, life cycle rituals). The purpose of Jewish learning is ahead of the materials, big ideas for content. Jim Rogazin from United Synagogue  recently called for a curriculum of kehillah. Wendy Grinberg from HUC just called for learning for children's lives now. Eden Village and Hazon have created content that brings a learner close the earth. And there is much more content that needs to be made available that puts the emphasis on today's real world.

With a new language, with clearer big ideas that are accessible and relevant the congregation can better express its new vision (e.g. Wholeness and Wellness) and parents can see more clearly the link between their hopes and dreams and the experience of Jewish education.

4. It's all about relationships
I know this power and so do you. So what is the work to enable young people to be in relationship with someone who cares about them, knows them and animates their spark? We've been sitting with Birthright Next  to plan out how to get Birthrighters who have a passion (e.g. music, art, technology) and are people people to take a year like Citi corps to build relationships with let's say 6/7th graders (that bridge year). And how would we support the Birthrighters in a full time job, with mentoring ad learning to help them grow on their persona/professional journeys.

We'll spend the next two days locked in a room making sense of the 500 voices we've collected. Everyone has a great idea--truly. And to ready myself for this sense making I've had  to listen to my own voice. Today, this is what I hear. I'll share what emerges.