Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Preparing for the School Year - a letter to my new students

My Dear 7th and 8th Graders,
It’s already the end of July! Are you psyched about school coming? Ok, Ok, I know the answer you’d give, but I also know that if you just stop for a second and reflect, you are probably excited about seeing your classmates and friends and starting what is going to be your best year ever here at Schechter!
As your homeroom teacher and advisor, I want to give you a head’s up as to what to expect on the first day and ask each of you to do a tiny bit of work before that special day. So, please take just a few minutes to read this letter and feel free to ask me any questions.  
Our theme for the year is Builders of the World. Our texts come from the Talmud and… Jefferson Starship. (Please click on the links and they will take you to the webpages where you will see to what I am referring). With the interpretation of Isaiah 54:13 by  Rabbi Elazar that “All of your children be students of God”  should be read as “All of your builders be students of God,” and the lyrics from the 1987 #1 hit “And we can build this thing together, stand in stone forever, nothing’s gonna stop us now” we are going to build together what will be an amazing experience for you this year. Each day is a blessing from God – from the moment we wake up until our eyelids shut for the night. Each day brings new experiences, adventures, and the potential to improve oneself and the world around us. Through building opportunities – communal, social, academic, and spiritual – we will push ourselves to grow and improve upon ourselves. We each have the opportunity to leave our positive mark here at Schechter.  
Every day is precious. Let’s take the experiences and meet the challenges of each day.  I am not just talking about academic achievements, though those are important, too. But, I am referring to each of you as individuals who together make up a community, a family (after all, during the school year, we are together for more hours than with our own families).  And let’s take every opportunity that God gives us to build upon what is already here and go from good to great! As a community, we have an opportunity to make a difference and leave our mark. And we can do it together by supporting one another. We will do it together.
And it begins now.
On Wednesday, August 28, when you walk into your new classroom, you may be a bit surprised to see the room not completely set up: the desks and chairs will be in a pile; the bulletin boards and whiteboards will be blank; the walls will be bare. You see, this is your classroom, so you should have a say and a hand in designing what it should look, sound and feel like. We’ll work together to do just that.  But, I need each of you to do the following before school starts:
  1. Please select one personal item that represents who you are to bring into our classroom. It should be something that you are willing to have others see and to share with others why it is meaningful to you. We will then keep it in the classroom so that our classroom has a personal item from each of us. It can be something that can be hung up like a poster or placed on a shelf. Please choose wisely (don’t bring in something that is delicate or that you wouldn’t want to see broken). Also, please bring in something that is tasteful and respectful (i.e., posters of celebrities not appropriately dressed are not allowed). If you are not sure if what you want to bring in is ok, please email me or ask your parents for advice. Oh, and a good rule of thumb is: if you think that I or your parents would say no, then it’s probably a good idea to choose something else.
  2. Create  a google doc titled, (Your Name)’s Homeroom Journal, please write down your thoughts and feelings to the following questions. Please share them with me prior to August 28. We will be discussing them on our 1st day together:
  1. Complete the following statement and include an explanation - Pretend it is the night of graduation. As you are listening to your classmates speak, you say to yourself, “I am so glad that I did ____________ before today.” (8th Grade Only)
  2. What is something that you are hoping to have happen this year? (Both 7th and 8th)
  3. What is a concern or a question you have about this year? (Both 7th and 8th)
Ok, that’s it. I am really looking forward to seeing what each of you brings in and what you write. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me (amargolis@ksa-ne.org). Enjoy the rest of the summer and I will see you all soon.

With much anticipation, I am

Mr. M.