• March

    Space as the Third Teacher

    Nicholas Cole-Farrell, Director of Technology and Making
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  • Brandeis Families Create Mural with Residents from SFCJL

    Debby Arzt-Mor, Director of Jewish Learning
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  • February

    Brandeis 2023 Today

    What We Lift

    Dr. Dan Glass

    This week, I wanted to share with you the words I shared this morning with our fifth graders at their grade-level tefillah service, which dovetail with the work of Brandeis 2023. Enjoy!

    I first really studied this week’s parshah, Terumah, with Rabbi Adina Allen of the Jewish Studio Project, when she came to our Ethical Creativity Institute a few years ago and taught a group of educators about what the Torah says about creativity. She shared with us about the grand project described in this parshah, of building this sort of mobile temple called the Mishkan. To build the Mishkan, the community is instructed to bring together offerings from all whose “heart inspires them to give.” What Rabbi Adina taught us was that this is a kind of model for Jewish creativity—that each person brings themselves to the work of creating, imagining, together ...
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  • Cultivating Community Using the Seven Ways We Learn and Work Together at Brandeis

    Our Community is one of the six pillars of the Brandeis 2023 Vision.  We strive to:
    •  Cultivate a community where people feel welcome and included, where differences are honored as an essential component of a learning community, and where our diversities—of socio-economic background and status, gender identity, family structure, sexual orientation, religion, race, ethnicity, and more—are secured, celebrated, and supported.
    • Embrace opportunities for sustained conversations about important and challenging topics regarding contemporary Jewish life and practice.
    • Strengthen our connections to our city and the broader community of the Bay Area, through service learning and social action for all constituencies.
    As I reflect upon this vision, I circle back to the Seven Ways We Learn and Work Together, a guide for civil discourse at Brandeis and a vital tool for building community. I’m re-sharing my back-to-school night speech from 2018, also published in Hashavua on October 8, 2018, highlighting the seven ways.  
    I often pick up the guide in my office and read through it in preparation for a meeting, for a conversation with students, or to reframe my thinking. In the spirit of continuing to build a strong community, I give you the Seven Ways We Learn and Work Together. ...
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  • Pathways of Curiosity

    Cameron Yuen-Shore, Director of Special Projects

    “Cam…..when will the electives be posted?” 

    “Cam….what time do you think we’ll find out our electives today?” 

    “Cam....I know they’re not posted yet, but do you know which elective I’m going to be in???” 

    For one week at the beginning of each semester I get to feel like the most popular middle school employee that’s ever walked the halls at Brandeis. After hearing about all of the elective options, students fill out choice forms and eagerly, if not always patiently …  wait. At first I wrote off this avalanche of questions as the status quo approach tweenagers take to anything and everything they’re interested in. If they want it, they want it now. Snack, feedback on a quiz, more snack, etc. Caring about an administrative timeline, process, or protocol is not at the top of a middle schooler’s priorities. However, I’ve started to notice a different feeling around the electives in assemblies and those one-off conversations with students. There is a palpable buzz students feel when given the agency to choose part of their class slate, and each one of those questions is a window into that student excitement. 

    When I read in the 2023 Strategic Plan that “the school gives students agency in their learning by allowing them to design their own meaningful projects and curious pathways through learning,” I immediately think of the middle school electives. Want to learn how to manipulate images in Photoshop? Great! Build a bookcase out of a single board? Excellent! Fabricate a Rube Goldberg machine to set the table for Shabbat? We got it! Screen print on fabric, cook traditional Israeli cuisine, perform or tech crew a musical, publish a zine? Sign up! No matter what your curiosity, there are so many pathways for students to pick, it will make your head spin ... 

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  • January

    A Proud Tradition of Diversity

    David Royal, Director of Finance & Operations

    I remember, when I first arrived here at Brandeis in 2018, being struck by the authentic diversity of our parking lot. Now, a parking lot may seem like an odd place to look for diversity, but I was coming from many years working in independent schools in Los Angeles, and while there I learned that you can tell a lot about a community by the cars the parents drive. I have done crosswalk duty in parking lots where there were more car makes and models I have never seen before than there were ones I had. Those communities valued a kind of performance of newness, of the bright and shiny. In my first crosswalk duties here at Brandeis, I saw minivans, sedans, and SUVs; Teslas, Volvos, Priuses, and Subarus; and yes, some makes and models I had never seen before, too. 

    What our parking lot said to me then and says to me now is that this a community that values many different things: comfort, safety, limiting your carbon footprint, being in the great outdoors. And, it also tells me that we see the value of that diversity itself: that we mean it when we say on our website that socioeconomic diversity is “central to the mission of The Brandeis School of San Francisco,” and that we are “proud of this tradition” of remaining accessible to families from a wide range of economic backgrounds (and vehicle preferences) ...
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  • Why Student Leadership Matters: The Importance of Empowerment and Practice

    Dr. Sivan Tarle, Director of Middle School
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  • Designing Meaningful Work

    Nicholas Cole-Farrell, Director of Technology and Making

    In our Brandeis 2023 Strategic Plan, we’ve outlined our belief in how “the school gives students agency in their learning by allowing them to design their own meaningful projects and curious pathways through learning.” Tucked away in the hallways adjacent to the Beit Midrash, what sounds to the passerby like banging, clattering, and simple white noise, is actually the sound of student voice and agency singing loud and clear here at Brandeis. 
    In research conducted by the Project Zero collective at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for their book Maker-Centered Learning, it was uncovered that the primary outcome of maker-centered learning was “developing agency and building character,” not necessarily “cultivating discipline specific knowledge and skills” for students—challenging previous assumptions about the principal value of maker education. 
    This research supports the pedagogy and approach we have taken here at the Brandeis School of San Francisco, since introducing our Maker Education program with the design and construction of our CREATE and BUILD spaces, beginning in the summer of 2014. Building on the constructivist foundation of the importance of student voice in learning, our team has used hands-on learning as a catalyst for creativity, self-expression, empowerment, exploring Jewish thought and tradition, understanding real-world problems, and the development of social-emotional skills and growth mindsets in our young people ...

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  • Against the Spread

    Dr. Dan Glass, Head of School
    In the Glass household, the winter holidays are full of books. Library books checked out, new books unwrapped, trips to the bookstore for that just right volume, aspirational piles sorted and old favorites revisited. We have the good fortune of living near family, so rather than a break filled with travel and plane connections, we get to visit close to home, which leaves more hours in the wan December sunlight to curl up and read. This year while at our local bookstore I picked up Ben Lerner’s new novel, The Topeka School —another entry in the growing genre of autofiction, fictionalized autobiography, and the third in a series that Lerner has written. I knew Lerner first as a poet, when he visited Davis while I was there as a graduate student—over the course of a long drive from Berkeley to Davis, and over dinner together, he came across as being as sharp and obsessive as his main characters, but humbler than they read in his prose. 
    In The Topeka School, Lerner describes a practice in high-level debate called “spreading,” in which debaters train themselves to speak at “nearly unintelligible speed,” in order to lay out as many arguments as possible, making it difficult for their opponents to negate them all. Lerner connects the spread to other forms of information overload: the disclosures rushed through at the end of prescription drug commercials, or the “terms of service” we regularly click our agreement to without reading ...
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