Because Counting Our Blessings Just Isn't Enough

Archive for January, 2013

Who is Wise?

Ben Zoma says:
Who is wise?
The one who learns from every person…
Who is brave?
The one who subdues his negative inclination…
Who is rich?
The one who is appreciates what he has…
Who is honored?
The one who gives honor to others…
(Talmud – Avot 4:1)

Sometimes ancient wisdom becomes new again.

Although blessed with an alphabet soup of degrees – BA, MA, M.Phil, Rabbinic Ordination, and Ph.D – along with years of experience, there came a point several years ago that I found myself painfully unprepared for the demands of contemporary educational leadership: higher standards, fewer resources, new technologies, and a rapidly changing world to which to adapt. It’s not that I wasn’t trying. Indeed, I was in process of implementing a strategic plan more ambitious than any of us initially involved in drafting it had understood. At heart, the plan was reaching at a notion we could not yet clearly articulate – a paradigm shift from a focus on what is taught to evidence of what is learned. We were becoming a truly student-centered school, although we didn’t yet know it.

Image from Tony Gurr, and Tom Whitby,

Image from Tony Gurr, and Tom Whitby,

I had reached a wall; glimpsing a vision of more for our students, yet unclear as to how to articulate that vision and uncertain as to how to provide our teachers with the very significant supports they would need to make the shifts we strove to accomplish.  I set out in search of wisdom.

Through engaging with educators throughout the world via social media, primarily twitter but other venues as well, I discovered more than I ever anticipated; I found not only wisdom, but also bravery, riches, and honor as Ben Zoma defines the terms. I found Ben Zoma’s ancient wisdom within the very contemporary notion of a PLN (professional learning network).

When reaching out to learn with others I anticipated finding educators who would share practices, recommend readings, and answer questions. Yet, I hadn’t dreamed of  the creative collaboration and problem-solving with which I was embraced. Through the learning, I gained the strength not only to acknowledge, but to celebrate the fact that I’m not an expert. I’m a learner. And that wisdom has made all the difference.

Paradoxically, embracing what I did not know enabled me to develop the trust and credibility to lead other learners on-line and in my own school. I didn’t have to have the answers, I didn’t even have to have all the questions. Yet I was open and attentive.

Image from Tony Gurr,

Image from Tony Gurr,

I learned not to strive to “fix” teachers, or even myself. Instead, I strove to focus our school system to build on strengths, transform dreams to high expectations, and foster joint responsibility for the success of all our students. I found bravery in overcoming the inclination to tell others what to do; discovered riches in appreciating the greatness within my own school; and attained honor in honoring others.

As I learned, I gained the opportunity to lead, or more aptly, to facilitate. As a co-moderator of #educoach, a community on twitter dedicated to instructional coaching, I’ve deepened my understanding of providing robust job-embedded professional support for teachers. As a facilitator of YU2.0, a Community of Practice invested in learning, collaborating and integrating technology in Jewish education, I’ve  engaged with other Jewish educators interested in the connections between ancient, enduring values and contemporary paradigms of learning and growing.

My recent participation in #etmooc, a connectivist mooc (massive open on-line course) on the topic of educational technology and media makes me wonder about the future of professional learning both on-line and off. Through my participation in #etmooc, I’ve learned that within connectivist moocs participants set their own learning goals and  strive to create knowledge together. Perhaps that’s the essence of contemporary learning – setting meaningful learning goals and creating the knowledge necessary to achieve those goals together.

As I prepare to teach a course next week for the C013 Connecting Online Conference titled  Learning and Leading In Online Community I reflect on ways learning and leading in online community may be evolving. What have been some of the benefits and insights you have gleaned from learning and leading in online community? What do you anticipate the future may bring for learning and leading in online community? What questions do you have? What wisdom have you gleaned?

On My Time; In My Space; At My Pace

I’m learning and loving it!

Take a look at my first assignment for #Etmooc,  an online learning experience, part course, part community.

The task was: “Create an introductory post, video, podcast, slideshow, etc., of yourself.  Tell us a little bit about yourself – perhaps, where you’re from, what you do, or what you want to be when you grow up – and let us know what you’d like to gain from #etmooc? A few paragraphs of text, or preferably, a form of visual or auditory media lasting between 30 seconds and 2 minutes is ideal. These are very rough guidelines – feel free to break every one of them if you wish.”

I took the challenge and decided to try to have some fun in the process; creating a voki and finding a way to present an introduction in 60 seconds. It took some thinking and tinkering, but I am proud of what I accomplished.

And, I’m enjoying the learning. For the first time since I finished my doctorate almost 15 years ago, I’m back in class as a learner. Only this time, it’s not a brick and mortar classroom; it’s on-line courses I can engage with on my own time, in my own space, and at my own pace. I’m participating in: Charting a New Direction for Online Learning with Online School for Girls#Etmooc, coming soon Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application and recently completed #Leadership20Series.

I’m also learning regularly with two very special on-line communities of practice with which I am involved: #educoach and YU2.0.

In our #educoach chat on January 9th, 2013, we discussed: Moving From Knowing To Doing, inspiring me to move from “knowing” that one can easily podcast or vodcast without great levels of technical expertise, to actually “doing” and creating my first voki.

I have similarly been motivated to learn and expand my skills by some recent robust conversation on YU2.o on podcasting and vodcasting including: Why Not Use Avatars to Create Vodcasts by Cindy Zemel, Podcast in the Classroom by Amy Bond, Changing My Ideas About Podcasts and Vodcasts by Elyse Haber, Podcasting in Education: @TeacherCast – A Great Resource by Rebecca Penina Simon, Uses for Podcasts and Vodcasts by Elana Schwarzberg, and Advantages of Podcasts/Vodcasts by Chagit Alpert. All of these conversations on YU2.0 stem from the Yeshiva University Institute for University School Partnership Educational Technology Certification program taught by Rabbi Meir Wexler.

So, in celebration of my steps forward into a new world learning, I want to thank all who are part of my learning journey!

Celebrating New Bloggers

Today is the first anniversary of Sharing Our Blessings.

I celebrated, in the past several days, in a way I could not have imagined possible when I wrote my first post: Introduction of a Reluctant Blogger. I celebrated new educational bloggers. I remember my own excitement and gratitude when Edna Sackson (, @whatedsaid) and Cristina Milos(, @surreallyno) commented on my first post. I didn’t imagine that the just one year in the future I would be welcoming new bloggers, not as an “expert” but rather as an accessible role model and guide, providing encouragement, support, and gratitude for the learning and insights these educators are sharing.

Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 5.03.17 AM

Sunday I commented on new blogs by  Joey Sagel( – What Keeps Your Engine Running,  @principaljoey)  and Rabbi Michael Bitton – Rabbi Mike’s Edtech Blog – How To Blog (,  @RabbiMBitton).

In addition, I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing a good number of educators, many of whom at least do not yet blog, reflect recently on blogging on a Community of Practice I am privileged to facilitate YU2.0 ( These include: Welcome To Blogging by Chagit AlpertResearch Projects And Blogging by Molly HazanBlogging Concerns by Miriam StrulowiczThe Power Of Blogging – It’s Much More Than The New Persuasive Essay by Rebbeca Penina Simon, and Not All Who Could Should Blog by Rabbi Pollock. I love engaging and learning with the skeptics as well as the committed bloggers.

Why do I blog? I blog because I long to learn with others, contributing what I can, reflecting in order to stretch my thinking.

Happy Birthday Sharing Our Blessings! Looking forward to the learning the coming year can bring!

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