That long sigh some of you may have heard this week was the sound I released as I – finally – moved into my new office in the JCC. Not that I’ve minded working out of an apartment on a sturdy-and-lightweight (it says so in the ad) fold-up table from Costco, but there’s just something about… nesting. I have a long way to go to create the space that will be appropriate for Oasis and right for me, but these first few boxes were a good start.
Anyone who has moved – moved houses, moved places of work – goes through a mental exercise to determine what’s truly important. In a new kitchen, how many and which gadgets do we need (as opposed to “want”), and which ones are given priority counter space? Taking over a new garage, will the stuff we don’t use but can’t throw away be stored on the right or the left?
As I’m putting together my workspace, I thought I’d share what you’ll see when you visit (contrary to conventional legend, you’re not in trouble when you go to the Head of School’s office). There are many – many! – more boxes of books coming from Ohio, but one shelf is already filled. Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (in ’93 he was a prophet – today, most of us are very well aware that there are many ways to describe and define and measure “intelligence”); Emotional Intelligence (Brandon Goleman, 2019); Democracy and Education (John Dewey in 1916 – and it’s remarkable how brilliant he was over one hundred years ago); Teaching is a Subversive Activity (love the title).
So many books, so little shelf space. There are my dog-eared copies of The Homework Myth, The Principal and Visions of Jewish Education – a Tanach with post-it notes of every color sticking out from passages I should know by heart by now, and an invaluable commentary on Pirke Avot.
The walls are so far unadorned, but waiting to be hung are my framed copy of Israel’s Declaration of Independence and a series of photographs of children with ear-to-ear smiles, listening intently to teachers whose joy of education is infectious. One wall hanging that won’t be going up in Scottsdale is one of those sayings-on-a-faux-wooden-plank I found years ago, which has trailed along with me to a number of offices. I don’t have it anymore because, as I left the Mandel School after seventeen years, I bequeathed it to one of our extraordinary teachers who always commented on it when she met with me in my office. The large, bold letters read, “The question isn’t, ‘Are our ideas crazy?’ The real question is, ‘Are they crazy enough?’ “ For me, that was a reminder that we need to keep aspiring, keep reaching; the moment we start to coast, the moment we say that our ideas are “crazy enough” – that’s the time we begin to shortchange our schools, and worse, our students.
Another box waiting to be unpacked will reunite me with figurines of Rabin and Herzl – and Yoda. I’ll also be able to assign my coffee mug pride of place, the one with the inscription, “Proud father of a lone soldier.” Our daughter no longer wears the Jewish People’s uniform, but try taking that mug away from me.
There will be files (not e-files – old-school, Manilla files with paper in them) of programs and lesson plans and history outlines. There will also be the names of dozens of colleagues and teachers and mentors and former students, because our Sages brilliantly reminded us nearly two millennia ago that, “I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues and most from my students.” After thirty-plus years in Jewish education, my smartest acts are often knowing which incredibly smart people to call.
Ask yourself, Which book, which picture, which quote speaks to you? We are the inheritors of thousands of years of wisdom; and we have been given the gift of a community of scholars and teachers and leaders. We, all of us, stand on the shoulders of giants.
שבת שלום – Shabbat Shalom,