Dr. Gereboff's Head Notes
Did we pass our test? Our school promises more than high levels of literacy and numeracy.
We promise graduates who know how to:
- think – analyze, weigh evidence, understand multiple perspectives.
- advocate for themselves and for social betterment.
- collaborate to create something greater than what one person could accomplish.
- express gratitude.
- celebrate their accomplishments.
- speak more than one language.
In grades K-7, we can see those promises budding. But the ultimate evidence that we’ve met our goals appears in the accomplishments of our graduating class.
The graduates’ final assessment to proving that they met these objectives began in earnest last year when they presented their Tzedakah projects. It continued throughout this year as students assumed leadership in Chavurot, as they demonstrated their understanding of the Civil War, as they created their models of atoms, and when they presented to the sixth and seventh graders their analyses of various social/political/ economic trends that they studied and observed in Israel, and when they communicated with their Israeli peers. The final steps in this assessment process is the portfolio presentations that took place last week.
I want to linger for a moment on the portfolio assessments. The eighth graders are charged with creating a portfolio that provides a glimpse of their best self as a reader, a writer, and a critical thinker. Each student selects four artifacts drawn from three years in middle school and from core subjects and electives. In their reflective writings about these artifacts, they consider a quality, trait or practice that had become important in their growth in middle school. Their portfolio reflections demonstrated how that quality was exemplified in the artifacts they selected. Each student presents their work both in written form and in a public presentation.
The clarity of thinking and writing in the reflections, and the quality of the artifacts this year were astonishing for thirteen and fourteen year olds – A credit to our teachers and to the students’ hard work. The range of artifacts was also notable – science fair projects, a carefully wrought ceramic vase, a“TED Talk”, a dance video, a 7th grade Islam Documentary, a bridge project, an English poetry slam poem, a Tzedakah project, a Hebrew dictionary, and so many more.
In each portfolio, we could see clearly each student’s pride in finding his/her voice and passion. Each 8th grader talked about the skill or value that became most important in realizing success – eight chose critical thinking. They spoke about critical thinking in terms of collecting and knowing one’s evidence and digging below the surface to be able to analyze that evidence. Other students focused on perseverance – the importance of pushing to some goal even when struggling with that goal. Three students selected the skill of advocacy, while four others attributed their successes to having learned time management. Collaboration, growth mindset and creativity were also chosen.
The portfolios demonstrated all that we promise – critical thinking, collaboration and advocacy. The portfolio experience holds lessons for each of us – it serves as a paradigm for the sort of life that we hope our graduates will live…a life framed by these four ideas:
- Look back – to consider where you came from…what you began with....so you can see how far you have come.
- Seek public feedback for your work – allow yourself that vulnerability and trust in others to help you become your better self.
- Reflect honestly about what you’ve accomplished and ask yourself about what you still need to do.
- Remember to edit – get to the essence of life, let go of the extraneous…and let the successes rise to the top.
I wish you all a refreshing summer break.
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