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September 11, 2012 / Rabbi Laura

Putting the education back in high school

Tonight was Back to School Night at University High School. As Back To School night spiels go, at first glance it was nothing new. Ten minutes in each class. Teachers talking about their curricula, homework, grading scales. Parents asking the same questions: “Can my son use a calculator?”

What was unique and refreshing was the excitement and passion in the teachers’ eyes. The relative tenures of the teachers crossed the spectrum: some are at the relative beginning of their careers; some have been teaching for 30+ years. Each and every one of the teachers I met though shared a level of enthusiasm for teaching that was infectious. All of them love teaching at UHS – I could see it, I could feel it.

For the first time in a long time I heard well a articulated rationale for how and why the curriculum was developed. I lost count of how many times I heard the teachers say they were trying to teach for “understanding”…not just for facts, not just to standardized tests. My two favorite quotes of the evening:

I practiced music non education for more than 20 years, then I came to teach here at UHS.

We are putting the education back in physical education.

And those were the “less academic” classes – though all classes at UHS are rigorous.

As an educator, I have thought a lot about the kind of high school experience I wanted for each of my boys. I dreamt about a school in which
– he was safe to be himself
– he could be in small classes and build meaningful relationships with his teachers and peers
– there would be diversity in the student body and an appreciation of that diversity
– he would be able to identify, embrace and thrive in developing a passion or a talent
– he would be surrounded by adults who care about him, support him, and are excited to be at school every day (well, maybe most days) with him
– together with peers, teachers and administrators, he would be part of a community built around values of mutual support, respect, appreciation and a commitment to learning.
– he would be excited about going to school and still be excited to tell me about it at the end of the day

I think we have found it.


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