Friday, September 2, 2016

Why do you think God created the world?

I'm looking at a stack of papers on my desk. Each page represents a Davis Academy 4th grader. Each page has their thoughts about why God created the world.

I've just come from our Middle School Kabbalat Shabbat. Today we were honored to have as our guests, Gina and Suzann Cayne. The Cayne's are a bereaved family who lost their husband/father on 9/11. Among the memories I will carry from their visit are Suzann helping us count the passing of the days as well as our students rising to sing Oseh Shalom and then rushing to thank the family for sharing their story.

This morning I had the delight of welcoming our Mechina and Kindergarten children to their first "official" Kabbalat Shabbat at Davis. I was totally blown away by how many songs they already know as well as their deep engagement throughout the entire experience.

Yesterday afternoon I stood alongside a Davis Academy 8th grader as she led an entire Mincha service from start to finish with no advance notice that she would be invited to do so. It was among the most capable and exceptional student-led services I've ever witnessed.

Prior to that I accompanied our entire 8th grade class on our annual 8th grade retreat. During our 36 hours in the North Georgia Mountains I was consistently overwhelmed by their willingness to engage in deep spiritual and personal reflection as well the sense of Kehillah that they showed toward one another. It was a transformative 36 hours for them and their teachers.

Tuesday I watched some of those same 8th graders engaging preschool aged children at a community outreach event. I was inspired by their infectious energy and joyful personalities.

Also on Tuesday I joined our faculty as we held our first faculty meeting of the year. During our time together we watched a challenging ELI Talk about the importance of leading by example and cultivating our own spiritual, moral, emotional, and intellectual lives.

On Monday of this week I had a chance to participate in Middle School Tefilah not as the service leader, but as a participant. This is something I've longed to do for many years and is a direct result of my outstanding colleagues who are working every day to create an empowered Jewish community among our Middle School learners.

And the week began on Sunday with our Back to School Carnival where I watched a middle school student teach my son how to climb the bouncy slide all on his own. Sunday also included our annual MSLTI training (that I wrote about in an earlier post).

Just a typical week for me at The Davis Academy.

Shabbat Shalom!

Ian's Friends Band

It's always heartwarming to get an "alumni update" that so clearly shows how Davis graduates are wedding their passions, talents, and Jewish values to make the world a better place. All the kids in photo below are part of a rock group called "Ian's Friends Band" that raises money for childhood cancer research through live performances. They're a talented group of musicians to say the least, but what's truly inspiring is to see what they do with their talent.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Learning Leadership Through MSLTI

This Sunday we welcomed the 2016-2017 cohort of MSLTI, The Davis Academy's Middle School Leadership Training Institute. This year's cohort is an extraordinary group of 6th through 8th graders who are deeply committed to learning the art of leadership through service to their school and the broader community. Rather than summarize the afternoon's program, here are some leadership ideas that emerged during our time together.

1. Leaders are storytellers who must give a lot of thought to the stories they tell and the morals of those stories.

2. Leadership is a lens that we can put on the view any given situation. We can always ask, "What can I learn about leadership in this moment? What kind of leadership is being exhibited here?"

3. Our life experience is a tremendous source of insight when it comes to developing our own leadership style.

4. "The dog that trots about finds the bone."-- Golda Meir

5. One goal of leadership is to empower others and create empowered communities.

6. You never know the full impact of your action on others.

7. One way to cultivate leadership and personal growth is through self-reflection. Leaders should model self-reflection and encourage it in others.

8. What's possible is a direct outcome of who is in the room.

9. Leadership is "neutral." There are good leaders and bad leaders. There are leaders who make the world better, those that don't, and some that leave the world worse off than before. The most courageous leaders are committed to making the world better.

10. The test of leadership is in the doing.

On a personal note I have to say that I was completely inspired by what transpired during the MSLTI orientation this week and also profoundly grateful to the many MSLTI students that helped my two children have such a wonderful time at this year's Back to School Carnival. They didn't know it at the time, but they helped both my kids learn new skills and grow as people. Not something you can say about every Back to School Carnival!