I recently was asked what my vision for the future of Akiba is as we embark on a new journey with a new leader. This question did not put me on the spot, as I have been thinking about this for months going through the process of becoming your new Head of School. My vision is one that is likely larger than many educational leaders, but one that I believe is commensurate with what Akiba has been, currently is and will continue to be as we challenge the status quo. So here it is:
Nearly 3000 years ago, King Solomon suggested that if we “educate a child according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Sadly, this wisdom is often quoted, but rarely seen. This is further exacerbated by the fact that we have a history of innovation in Jewish education, yet the field has become stagnant as of late. Many claim a tradition of teaching that can’t change when in fact it has often shifted to ensure Jewish education remains the highest priority. There are many that call for educational reform, but that is not enough. We need a revolution, not evolution.
When I visited Akiba-Schechter as a Head of School candidate, it became apparent to me that the school was preserving the tradition of teaching King Solomon advised. At Akiba, we teach students, not subjects. This mindset is years in the making and is a credit to my recent predecessor Mrs. Miriam Schiller and the fantastic team of Akiba educators. It is this mindset of excellent personalized education that has laid the solid foundation on which the bright future of Akiba will stand. This bright future will be one where Akiba leads the revolution and, unlike as the poet Gil Scott-Heron suggested, the revolution will be televised.
Akiba is positioned to be a model of education for Jewish Day Schools around the world. Our multi-age classrooms, inquiry-based learning, Reggio inspired preschool, and personalized teaching and learning are just a few aspects that have helped revolutionize Jewish Day School education at Akiba. We recently announced the development of the Akiba Research and Development Department which will guide future innovation at the school and be shared with the field. We also have an incredible resource in our teachers who remind me of Robert Frost’s statement, “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” I want to ensure they have every opportunity for growth and positive impact in and outside the classroom. Of course, in the end, it is our students who matter most. We must continue, as we have for decades, to celebrate and preserve their childhood because the future lies with them. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks so eloquently put it, “while we can remember the past, we cannot write the future. Only our children, the future of our community, can do that.” They are the reasons Akiba exists, and they are the reasons we must continue to lead the revolution.