The “From the Desk Of” series is my regular email to the Valley Torah High School community.
Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” As a General Studies Principal this may be an odd statement to get behind, but I could not agree with it more. In fact, it was the theme of the first day General Studies assemblies as I introduced some exciting new programs, electives and an overall vision for what it means to be a Valley Torah student. You see, while knowledge is very important, what you do with that knowledge is what truly matters. Each student at Valley Torah is unique and should never be reduced to a hard drive that we download information onto. They are more than a test score and can’t be described solely by their transcripts. As Albert Einstein’s continued, “Knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” We are limiting our students if we don’t incubate, nurture and support their imaginations.
As a school, we have a responsibility to support the unique talents and greatness of each and every student. At the same time we also have a responsibility to prepare them for their future with various skills sets, academic competencies and core content. The problem is that in many schools the focus begins and ends with the content. Don’t get me wrong. The right content is critical and assessing the acquisition of that content is important. However, that should only be the beginning and never the end. We must use models of teaching and learning that ensures each and every student’s unique abilities are tapped and that the learning is meaningful to them. I wish I could take credit for preaching some profound modern pedagogy, but Shlomo Hamelech was teaching us about personalization and passion-based learning long before I wrote this post. Shlomo Hamelech told us long ago in Mishlei (22:6) that if we “educate a child according to his way, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
So, where do we begin? Well, first we do what Valley Torah has done long before I came along. We hire excellent teachers who are passionate about what they do, care about the students and are experts in their fields. Then we ensure that we use models of education that allow for deeper learning and a more personalized approach when appropriate. Lastly, we create opportunities for our students to explore a wide range of topics and interests while teaching them the skills they will needs to be successful leaders in the 21st Century. This is where the first day assemblies came in and where I introduced a new set of electives as well as a new program called the Principal Project.
The Principal Project
I will share more information with you about this in the upcoming weeks, but this is an independent project that I will be supervising. The 9th and 10th grade Principal Project exists to support our students in exploring their personal interests and what type of professions and Colleges align with those interests. The 11th and 12th grade Principal Project is focused on social entrepreneurship and highlighting their ability to impact positive change in the world. This year long research and development project will culminate with a Job and College Fair put on by the 9th and 10th graders and a Social Entrepreneurship Fair put on by the 11th and 12th graders.
The Creative Electives
Improvisational Arts: Improvisational theatre is a form of theater where most or all of what is being performed is created at the moment it is performed. Student are taught the creative skills, guidelines and techniques to make spontaneous theatre look effortless while increasing their collaborative abilities to work together. We have teamed up with ComedySportz Los Angeles who will also be coaching our improv class as we form the first ever Improv Team at VTHS and join the ComedySportz High School League.
TED-Ed Club: As part of the Improvisational Arts elective, we will have a speech component in the form of a TED-Ed Club. VTHS has been approved to be part of a global community of schools that supports students in discussing, pursuing and presenting their big ideas in the form of short TED-style talks. The student talks will be filmed and uploaded to the TED-Ed website to be shared with whomever the student chooses.
Writing Lab: This is a creative writing and technical course for the digital age. Students from all writing levels will learn new skills, strengthen old ones and integrate digital tools to enhance their writing. Student will produce and learn how to write effective persuasive arguments, descriptive essays, social media posts, podcasts, scripts and much more. Student will become stronger writers while connecting this critical skill to real-world applications.
The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (S.T.E.M.) Electives
CIJE-Tech:This is a hands-on course in Scientific and Biomedical Engineering aimed to prepare students for careers in engineering and advanced technology. Developed by the Center of Innovation in Jewish Education (CIJE) and in partnership with the Israel Sci-Tech educational network, this course is an interactive, discovery-oriented high school engineering curriculum that is based on innovative pedagogical approaches which develop analytical, systemic, critical and creative thinking skills.
Business Math: Remember when you asked in math class why you need this? Well, while we think all of our Math courses help you in life, this elective is all about your day to day financial life. The purpose of this course is to provide students with basic math skills useful in solving issues with real-life business and real-world finance. Student will explore and understand personal finance, investing, mortgages, credit and more.
Start-up Club: As part of our Business Math elective, students will have the opportunity to think about, develop and present a new startup business idea. They will explore and gain deeper understanding of entrepreneurship while being given the opportunity to plan and budget to bring an idea to the marketplace.