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Starting from “Together”

Guest Blog Post by Jane Taubenfeld Cohen

I have the privilege of working directly with many school leaders throughout North America.    As we look through the lens of the future, we see the vaccine arriving and herd immunity a true outcome in the next six to nine months.   As we look deep inside today and tomorrow, we see more positive tests, more fear and anxiety, more exhaustion, and more economic uncertainty. There is a light at the end of the tunnel but we are still in the tunnel.   

There are many ways that our day schools have led the education sphere in their response to the pandemic.   The doctors in our communities partnered with the schools so that many schools were able to open, some right from the start of this year, and others easing into opening.  While hybrid learning is incredibly difficult, the teachers and leaders have shown true courage and resilience, looking for ways to improve an almost impossible circumstance.  I have seen schools build community and balance the real needs of students, parents, and teachers.   There is no perfect way to do that and there are still those who feel unnoticed or like a school did not take their needs into account.  Yet, in the long run, there are many success stories.

What is remarkable to me is that in some communities there is a beautiful partnership between the school and home. The support from the Board of Directors and the parents has been extraordinary.  One day last week, I read posts on social media to a Head of School thanking her and her staff for their hard work and creativity and expressing true gratitude for being a part of the school community, particularly in these times.  The Head of School felt seen and deeply supported, as did the rest of the staff at the school.

And in some communities, dissatisfaction is the prevailing voice.  Exhausted leaders feel alone and scared.   A Head of School I work with received a note from a Board Member admonishing him for the internet crashing and the impact that has on the students at home. The Head of School felt abandoned by the very people who should be holding him up.

We are blessed that leaders throughout the world have banded together which has been critical for how we got to the end of 2020.  What would happen if, in the world of Jewish education, we all assumed best intentions, approached problems as partners, and showed gratitude?  I believe we would sustain our leaders and teachers and to begin to rebuild the schools for the post-pandemic world.   

I am, in no way, assuming that there have been no mistakes.  I am, in no way, suggesting that we should not ask the schools for help when those mistakes are made and even express our disagreement.   I am suggesting that we begin from a place of all being in it together.   Our leaders will benefit, our teachers will benefit, and, most importantly, our students will benefit.

Jane Taubenfeld Cohen

Jane is a leadership coach who works with leaders in Jewish day schools to leverage their unique talents and skills. Previously, Jane was Dean of the Leadership Academy at Prizmah, the Executive Director at YU School Partnership, and before that, she served as head of school at the South Area Solomon Schechter outside Boston for 22 years.  Jane is also the senior mentor for the Day School Leadership Training Institute and for You Lead, a Prizmah leadership program, and is working with the school leadership group at TalentEducators.

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