Born to Rise. A Book For Dreamers. For Teachers. For Doers.

You know how certain books seem to speak directly to you?  Where you need a highlighter on almost every page?

This happened to me when I read Born to Rise, Deborah Kenny’s remarkable story of starting Harlem Village Academies.

 “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.

 Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”  [p. 52]

 

Echoes from Summer Camp

You’ll have your own series of resonances with Deborah’s story.  Here are some of mine:

  1. She was inspired by Mel Reisfield at Camp Tel Yehudah.  Every time I sing the song Mel taught us called V’oolai, And Perhaps – written by the poetess Rachel Blustein about her longing for the Kinneret – I am back at camp.  I am back on kibbutz.
  1. Her emphasis on using a variety of tools to focus on learning reminded me of my years at Jefferson Junior High in Washington, DC, during the “experiment” to bring in kids from throughout the city for a new kind of educational experience.  No discipline problems.  Just great teachers and eager students.
  1. In my first year as a grad student teaching French, I bucked the system by amplifying the core (boring) curriculum with puzzles and poetry (and took a little heat for doing that.).
  1. When I taught English composition, I felt strongly that “why” had to be an equal partner to “what” – why is this thing that you’re telling me important to you?

“In every lesson in Japan there is one big statement that is pivotal to the lesson, and it goes on the board.  That statement is not the formula: It’s the concept underlying the formula.  It’s the ‘why’ or ‘how’ – and if a student can understand that big idea, they will understand how to solve the particular problem. (p. 130)

  1. I, too, am a huge believer in the power of music.  Imagine a Sunday school where children enter and leave the building each week to the sounds of Israeli and other Jewish music.  Imagine that this happens over the course of a year, where maybe 4-5 CDs alternate – Debbie Friedman, The Fountainheads, and classic tunes like Hora Medura.  Imagine the range of songs that will be part of their souls.

“I brought in my collection of CDs so our students would be exposed to Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and other classical composers during arrival, dismissal and transitions – so much better than those jarring school bells.” (p. 138)

 My current hope is to latch onto Deborah’s advice for when you have too much to do:

 “Figure out the two or three top priorities and focus on them like a laser.” (p. 55)

Thanks, Deborah, for lesson after lesson.

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