What do the Jewish month of Elul, the start of the new school year, and the learning process all have in common? They all involve reflecting back and thinking ahead to achieve growth.
At the end of each academic year, we take stock of what we’ve done over the past year, we examine programs we’ve run, initiatives we’ve implemented, and do a general review of our professional practices. Our goal is to glean lessons from what we’ve done in the past and build on what we’ve learned, in order to provide our students and families with the best experience yet.
Our teachers and staff also engage in the process of reflecting and thinking ahead. Staff Week (the week before school begins) is an opportunity for our teachers to plan their classes, but we also spend a significant portion of the time together setting the tone for the year. We look back and appreciate our successes over the previous year, and think ahead to how we can build on our strengths and enhance areas that would benefit from improvement. This year we focused on building our professional learning community, our professional goals, and how we can engage students in a learning process that is collaborative, iterative, and enjoyable.
At our opening Town Hall on Monday, we launched our return to school by reflecting on the impact we make by fostering and spreading positive energy. We took a brief look back at each grade's travel experience last year to consider how even small things can impact our school culture in meaningful ways. A warm and friendly greeting in the morning (as our 11th grade Israel tour guide, Yoni, often did after a sleepy ride on the bus), lending someone a hand or random acts of kindness (as our 10th grade Portland travelers engaged in), aromas that evoke thoughts and feelings (like the sweetgrass our 9th graders experienced on the Northern Cheyenne reservation, or the incense from havdalah as we bid shabbat farewell and welcome the new week), or reminders of how wonderful life is, even when we encounter challenges (like the song our freshman learned on their inaugural shabbaton this past weekend), can make a difference to our community and our school culture.
FJA’s all school vice-president, Ethan Grey (FJA class of 2023), and all school president, Evan Weitzman (FJA Class of 2023), expressed in their Town Hall remarks on Monday, at FJA opportunities for learning, fun, and friendship abound. Then, addressing our new students Evan reflected “I’ve spent my years here with that same understanding, that I was safe to rely on the incredible community we’re blessed with.” He then encouraged FJA’s class of 2026 to think forward, “while it may be intimidating at first, you will get to know everyone, you will make friends in other grades, you will do incredible things.”
Thanks to all of you for being part of FJA’s “incredible community.” I too look forward to “incredible things” for FJA, and for our families and students in a year that will be our best yet!
Wishing you all a reflective and peaceful Elul,
Rabbi Azaryah Cohen, Head of School