Friday, October 18, 2013

"Put yourself in someone else's shoes."

Hello my empathetic 8th Graders,

        During our weekly Homeroom time together (which is so special), we tackled the question, "What does it mean 'to put oneself in another person's shoes and how does one do it?" As I shared with you, Mrs. Cohen, the founding Head of our beloved school, taught me the phrase "put yourself in his/her shoes" and used it regularly when she ran 8th Grade Chavurah (she still says it!). 
        As a class we struggled with the question. Some of you felt that it was easy to relate to the another whereas others of you said that there is no way to truly feel what the other person is going through; that, even if you experienced a similar event (be it achieving a milestone or experiencing a loss), there is no real way to know what the other is thinking and feeling without asking the person - "that you can't read the bubble above the person's head" - as Mr. Waldman aptly put it to us. 
      We then saw a very powerful video on empathy (I encourage you to watch it with your parents and non-KSA friends). Two observations came from it: that feeling empathy toward another is not just for sad times, but for all occasions (the birth of a child, for example); and, that when watching the video, in spite of not knowing any of the people in the video, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU said that you "felt" something toward one or more of the people. That's putting yourself in someone else's shoes, be it just a twinge, just a moment of emotion. That's what Mrs. Cohen, Mr. Waldman, the rest of your teachers, and your parents, believe in. That unique human quality of "feeling toward others" and that characteristic that God gave to Adam & Eve and thus to every human on this planet is in each of you. Yet, what truly makes us empathetic is that the adults in your world teach you from day 1 to feel for others. This is what it means to be created in God's image, for He truly feels for us (He may not show it in an obvious way, but I do believe that God does care for us and we are to emulate that trait with our fellow human beings). 

As we move forward this year, please keep this lesson in mind. When you see a friend, classmate, a Kehillah member, another KSA student smiling or upset or worried - stop for a moment and ask yourself, "If I were feeling like he/she is, how would I want to be treated? Would I want to receive a smile? Would I want to be asked how I was or if something was wrong or why was I so excited?" In doing so, you connect with your fellow human beings and demonstrate the gift of empathy that God gave us and that your parents and teachers help you enhance. And that, is worth more than all the gold in the world.

Shabbat Shalom,

Mr. M.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The last 60 seconds - a note to my 8th Graders

Hello my charming 8th Graders,

        Hope you are enjoying the 3 day weekend!

        On Sunday, my family and I hung out with two other families and we did something for the first time - we cooked together. We occasionally watch the Pats together and we decided to watch yesterday's game and try something new! 

        Now, mind you, we are 6 adults from various backgrounds - a chef who owns his own catering company, 3 teachers (I am in this group in case you didn't know), and 2 lawyers. We each took on different roles - two of us designed the menu, two went food shopping and provided the use of their kitchen, one brought his new cooking tools (a mandolin and a frialator), one took the role of dishwasher, etc. We all took turns cooking. And guess what? We created a rockin good meal - fried chicken, vegetable tempura, roasted potatoes, chocolate chip cookies and apple crisp - ALL FROM SCRATCH AND WITH NO RECIPES. How did we do this? Well, those of us who cook regularly used the skills and information we learned from school and experiences and we TAUGHT one another. For example, I learned from my friend the chef how to make a roux - a French cooking skill to help thicken sauces and soups. But, I didn't learn just the steps; I learned how and why it works - and it wasn't all from him telling me; in addition to my previous knowledge, I also looked up information: a roux - consisting of just two ingredients - butter and flour - requires that the butter be hot enough to cook the flour to break down the proteins glutenin and gliadin yet not too hot that the water evaporates and causes the fatty acids to break apart. 

Why do I share this story with you? For two reasons: 

one is that just like my friends, each of you comes with different strengths - your academic achievements, your out of school experiences, the gifts that you obtained from your parents, and your learning styles. And each of you has something to contribute - whether it's to your own individual assignment in class or a group project. You can learn from one another and compliment one another.

My second reason for bringing it up is that at any point in time and space, you have the ability to learn something new... to become more proficient, more passionate about any subject as it pertains to you. You are exposed to the information and then choose how to apply it and learn more to become more advanced. Just as my friend showed me how to make and the purpose of the roux, I applied my passions of chemistry to it and using my research skills and learning style, I found out how and why it worked. Did it take time? Yes. But with patience and persistence, I succeeded.  Could I have just asked my friend to explain it all to me. Absolutely. But, using my strengths and passions, I learned to become proficient in understanding the concept of a roux and passionate about it through my love of science. 

This is the philosophy I embrace and wish to effervesce into the class. It's ok if it takes you longer to understand a concept. It's fine if you spend time learning a new software. Find it easier to work with someone? Do it! Prefer to learn alone? Fine. Want to apply a concept to something not listed on your IPOA? Fantastic! As long as you are patient, persistent, and passionate - you can do anything! 

See you all tomorrow

Oh... yay Sox and Pats!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Text, Tweet, and Post - Smartly - a note to my 8th Graders

Hello my capable 8th Graders,

        During homeroom today, we focused on internet safety specifically around sending messages (be it texts, images, or videos). The choose your own video  seemed a bit silly, yet at the end, a bit creepy. In addition, my sharing with you of the different "sharing" sites (Pheed, OoVoo, etc.)  {and that despite what the sites say, whatever you post (a) never goes away (b) can be copied and (c) is considered admissible evidence in court} was not to scare you or result in you not texting or posting or snapchatting. Rather, it was to help you use them responsibly. 

      Being responsible means knowing what is posted out there about you.  I told you that I periodically "Google" you guys to see what is out there about you, which surprised some of you as I appear to be "snooping" or "spying" on you. Yet, as I made it clear to you, I am doing these searches NOT to get you in trouble. Yes, I told you that your parents or teachers might be upset or disappointed by what you post. Yes, I told you that high-schools, colleges, and your future bosses do an electronic search and if there is questionable material out there, it can hurt your chances of being accepted or hired.  But the most important reason why I check is to protect you. There are people out there in the world who want to hurt children - boys and girls; younger and older. It's an unfortunate truth. And like your parents, I want to make sure you are safe. As I shared with you, next to my own two children, I see you as my own. I encourage you (and your parents) to Google yourselves and see what you find. If you see something that you don't like, go to the site and remove it. If you can't, ask your parents or me or another teacher for help. 

      Should you post or tweet or text or snap? Absolutely! It's how the world communicates (though it doesn't hurt to actually CALL someone and SPEAK to them directly). But, post, text, and tweet smartly.  The next time before you text or post a pic, ask yourself if you (and others, if you are posting their pictures or words) are comfortable with it being out there for the entire world to see. And if you see a friend posting something that they shouldn't or share with others, tell them to stop. You would want someone to do the same for you.

     See you tomorrow.

     - Mr. M.