Throughout my career as Head of School, three core beliefs have guided my commitment to teaching, learning, and school leadership.
#1 Intelligence and ability aren’t fixed.
I believe that students become what they believe they can be. I reject the notion that a student’s academic capacity is innate and fixed, that intellectual and emotional skills are static and unchangeable. People get better, stronger, and smarter through effective effort. When we work at something, we strengthen their capacity to do it.
At TanenbaumCHAT, courses are challenging, and teachers are demanding. However, our teachers also stand ready to push students to recognize that they possess more potential than they give themselves credit for. If students have confidence in their ability and apply themselves to the task, they can master even the most challenging academic work.
#2 Students learn best when they feel a sense of belonging.
When students feel safe, they open themselves up to learn. They take intellectual risks, ask questions, share an opinion or expose a belief. The result is deeper learning.
TanenbaumCHAT teachers understand this: When kids feel that they belong, they learn better, do better, and are more likely to achieve the goals that they set for themselves. That’s why our teachers invest so much time in building healthy relationships with and among students in the classroom, on stage, and on the ball field.
#3 The best schools address the whole child.
Most schools nurture students’ academic, athletic, and artistic self. The beauty of a school like TanenbaumCHAT is that we cultivate those three aspects of our students’ identity and do more: We nurture every child’s Jewish self. We do so on shabbatonim, at holiday celebrations and ceremonies, and in Israel. We do so in informal conversations with teachers. We do so, most regularly, through Jewish Studies classes, which are a seamless part of what students do every day. Students learn Bible with the same level of depth as they do Biology. They learn the laws of tsedakah as naturally as they learn the laws of physics. They learn to be knowledgeable and responsible members of the Jewish community and loyal and knowledgeable members of Canadian society. A TanenbaumCHAT education is not only preparation for university, it is preparation for life.
I’ve worked in three schools in my career. I founded a high school similar to TanenbaumCHAT in a suburb of Detroit in 1999. I helped revitalize an elementary school in Atlanta a decade later. Now, I am here at a large, stable flagship Jewish high school. Students of all sizes and in all places proved that they can accomplish anything they work hard to accomplish. They will learn even more to the extent that they feel a sense of belonging; and they will be the ones to stand up for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and Jewish tradition even when it’s uncomfortable or unpopular because we have educated them to do so.