Schrodinger’s School at Prizmah
Imagine a sealed box with a cat and a small tube with potentially radioactive material inside. If the material is indeed radioactive, the tube is shattered, releasing the poison. According to one take on this situation, the cat is simultaneously alive AND dead, but if you look inside the box, you’ll clearly see that the cat is either alive OR dead. Which is it?
This thought experiment is known as “Schrodinger’s cat,” and it is often used while describing moments in time during a complicated phenomenon.
What does this have to do with anything? And is the cat still in danger?
Prizmah: Centre for Jewish Day Schools organizes a biennial conference. This year, over 1,100 Jewish lay leaders, Federation heads and school leaders from across the USA and Canada gathered in Atlanta to discuss the present and future of Jewish education.
We intended to come and present our “blended Jewish” model as well as all our thinking, planning and backstage work at Prizmah this year. But then we paused to consider: When is a school not a school? Or, to better capture this moment in a complicated phenomenon, when is a not-yet-school a school? ADRABA will only welcome its first cohort in September 2019!
In Schrodinger’s case, the answer would eventually be evident. In ours, it’s not so clear. We have a desired outcome, but we are not the sole deciders.
So I went to Atlanta to listen, learn and share. I heard the weather in Atlanta was lovely this time of year. I didn’t experience it for myself, but the climate control at the Marriot was on point.
It was heartening to begin with George Couros, a Canadian educator and “Principal of Change,” as he presented and represented “the innovation mindset.” As I listened to his keynote, I was encouraged. He seemed to be making the case for ADRABA in a tight, lively presentation. Would I have to say anything more over the next three days?
I had many conversations before, during and after the presentations. I handed out a lot of business cards and surreptitiously placed ADRABA postcards on various coffee tables and bartops. The sessions introducing blended learning (BL) capably presented BL’s potential to revolutionize not only teaching, but student engagement as well as the school’s bottom line. Curious lay-leaders, school heads and Federation officials filled the room. The early-adopter school heads and practitioners showed-and-told about their work, the ups-and-downs of change and their outcomes, which, like their challenges, were impressive.
The folks I encountered were very excited to hear about ADRABA, about our potential to bring Jewish education in Toronto not only into the present (i.e., the 21st century), but prepare our students to seize the future. They envied that we were starting from scratch. They were covetous of our ability to design the ultimate learning experience without any preconceptions or limits (except, obviously, a financial one). Their words of encouragement equally acknowledged our bravery and insanity for taking such a bold step forward in a field that is so resistant to change.
As the hours turned into days, I continued to hope that my time in Atlanta amongst thinkers and doers would help ADRABA think and do better. Conclusion: IT HAS. (And I could go on about my lessons learned. Perhaps in subsequent newsletters, I will… or we can simply meet for coffee to discuss…)
We were all in Atlanta because we are committed to the Jewish people and a Jewish future. I realized that ADRABA is a different stage of building that future. Unlike the cat, we are not simultaneously alive and dead. If you look at us, you will clearly see that we, like the Jewish people, are very much alive.