Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Lesson in Poverty

The Girls High School Debate class took a field trip downtown last week to visit the Memphis office of Seedco.  Seedco is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to help low-income individuals and communities move toward economic prosperity.

The eight girls in this elective class are participating in the national high school debate program whose resolved this year is that "The United States federal government should substantially increase social services for persons living in poverty in the United States."  In what is known as policy or cross-examination debate, the girls are paired into teams of two and together they must prepare to argue for and against this resolved.  Before the debate they will be assigned either the role of the affirmative team, in which case they have to argue for the resolved, or the negative team in which case they have to argue against it.  As the affirmative team, though, the girls not only have to convince the judge presiding over the debate of the need to increase social services to the poor, but that they have feasible plan for doing so.  The team on the negative side, then, has to be prepared not only to argue against an increase to federal social services in general, but need to be somewhat familiar with the myriad programs out there and the way in which they work, so as to be able to poke holes in the affirmative team's proposal.

There are few people in the city of Memphis better equipped to start our girls on this journey than Laura Seidell and her team at the Seedco office in Memphis.  Seedco, after all, is a funnel which directs federal funds to a variety of organizations and institutions which help those living at or below the poverty line.  As such, they were able to explain to our girls the details of how various federal programs work, what their strengths are and what challenges they face.  They were also able to explain in real terms just what it means to live in poverty and how real the problems facing the American people are.

From the handouts, powerpoint, and various oral presentations made by the Seedco staff, it was clear that they enjoyed bringing the girls into their world of working with the poor.  From talking to the girls on the drive back, it was clear that they had learned more than they could have from any textbook and that they gained greater appreciation both for the enormity of the problem and for the efforts of the people who have dedicated their lives to trying to solve it.

New Heights in Hebrew

Now that we are a few years into our Lower School Hebrew immersion Judaic Studies curriculum, the seeds that we've been planting are beginning to sprout.  There was no clearer indication than in yesterday's 5th grade play.  Under the direction of Morah Yehudit and Moreh Shimshon, our 5th graders put on a masterful performance about a mother and daughter recounting the story of their family's history -  from Frankfurt to Warsaw and eventually to the Land of Israel - and the importance of their Jewish faith and their Jewish pride in keeping the family together throughout the generations.

More impressive than their acting, though, was the fact that, with the exception of brief narration, the entire play was performed in Hebrew.  Have a look for yourself...

From 5th Grade Play

From 5th Grade Play

From 5th Grade Play

From 5th Grade Play

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rosh Chodesh Adar

Rosh Chodesh Adar at the Academy is one of my favorite days of the year.  It's not just the incredible ruach generated by 207 dancing students along with their teachers and faculty, but it's the way the high school students take the 1st graders on their shoulders, the way the 5th graders dance with the Kindergarteners, the 10th grade rebbeim hold hands with the 3rd graders, and so on and so forth throughout every division and every grade.

It is a family simcha in the every sense of the word.

From Movies

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Weather Man comes to MHA

As part of their unit on atmospheric science, Mrs. Henry's 5th grade science class had a special guest teacher today: Channel 3's Chief Weather Anchor, Tim Simpson.  Mr. Simpson spoke to the kids about the various components of weather and the tools we can use to predict it.  He also drew his own weather map and explained to the 5th grade what the various signs and symbols represent.  Perhaps most exciting for our kids, though, was the little "shout out" he gave them on this evening's news:


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mrs. Schmitt

Last week we lost a long time member of our faculty, Mrs. Karin Schmitt.  If you knew her, please share your memories with her family by posting something either on the Commercial Appeal's memorial page or on the Legacy.com guestbook .

Here are the words I wrote to our school community immediately after hearing the sad news:

Dear Students, Parents, and Faculty,

I was just informed of the sudden passing of our beloved Math teacher, Mrs. Karen Schmitt earlier today.  As you know, Mrs. Schmitt was a fixture in our Junior High and High Schools for decades.  Her no-nonsense style was complemented by a tremendous heart that wanted nothing more than to see her students succeed.  She would meet with students in class and outside of class,  she'd take on extra sections and create sections within sections, just to give our students that extra boost they needed to taste success. 

In recent years, her declining health forced her into a wheelchair and one only had to watch the way in which our students would gently wheel her from place to place, out to her car, or into the building, to see that our students cared for her as much as she cared for them.  Indeed, our Girls High School had announced that their upcoming Girls School Dinner would be dedicated to honoring Mrs. Schmitt for her years of unwaivering dedication to our school.  Sometimes, though, G-d has other plans. 

Our thoughts and sympathy go out to her family today as they mourn this terrible loss.

Mrs. Schmitt was a teacher who touched the lives of countless students here at the MHA / FYOS and we, as a school, will forever remember her as such.

Sincerely Yours,

Rabbi Perl

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Round-table on Kids & Sleep

The Early Childhood Program sponsored a breakfast Round-table discussion for parents this past Wednesday on the issue of children and sleep. Pediatrician Dr. Ellen Stecker,Child Psychologist Dr. Kip Parrish, and our own Early Childhood Director, Mrs. Charna Schubert, offered expert advice to parents on topics ranging from bed-wetting and bed-times to daytime naps and children who don't sleep through the night.

The feedback was quite positive and we hope to host similar forums for parents on issues of interest to them in the near future.  If you have a suggested topic feel free to let Charna know.

Siddur Play

The first graders did a terrific job in their Siddur play this past Sunday.  Under the direction of Morah Chavi Katz, they showed off all the Hebrew they have learned through singing and speaking while demonstrating their growing love for davening and Jewish life.  At the end of the program, Rabbi Greenblatt handed each child the special siddur which their parents worked hard on decorating, followed by a wonderful celebration organized by the many volunteers who helped out.  Thank you to everyone for making it so special and we look forward to watching as these 1st graders use their siddurim for many, many years to come!

From Siddur Play