In many ways, returning to Moriah feels like a homecoming for me. I remember fondly the unique hustle and bustle from when I worked here as an educator nine years ago, the hive of activity that is so characteristic of our school. Moriah is truly the school that neither sleeps nor slumbers.
Walking through the campus, in and out of the different learning and play spaces, the memories of the powerful ‘beast’, the pulsating energy, the unbridled potential, the excitement and the world of opportunity that characterises Moriah, fills me with awe.
What really stands out in Moriah is the calibre of people, the higher moral code, ethics and behaviour, the microcosm of a society illuminated by menschlichkeit.
Wandering through the staff meetings and training on the staff development day, I was struck by a common theme: all of the professional learning centred around enhancing all Moriah relationships, thereby creating a richer experience for our children.
The Primary School staff members were continuing to strengthen their school culture through the embedded values, expectations and behaviours that comprise the Primary School and all the interactions of the people therein.
The Early Learning educators workshopped ‘How to be a Leader’, to take initiative and lead in all areas of their personal and professional lives.
The High School staff participated in a Mental Health Awareness and First Aid workshop becoming more attuned to our own mental health and the mental health of those around us.
Just walking through the corridors of Moriah and observing the learning and teaching, at the risk of over simplification, we can divide our teaching endeavours into three main areas:
- Teaching knowledge
When focused on teaching knowledge, sometimes a simple distribution model can be employed. Knowledge can be viewed as a commodity, and its transmission can be quite binary. It can be ‘delivered’ by a teacher and ‘received’ by the learner, and if it is important and engaging enough, that knowledge may even be committed to long-term memory.
- Teaching skills
Skills acquisition is more than just delivery. You cannot hand over to a young person the ability to mend a relationship, to throw a ball, analyse a passuk, hold a conversation, balance priorities, daven with meaning, play an instrument or complete long division. Teaching skills requires persistence and practice in the pursuit of mastery.
- Teaching values
Teaching values is the most abstract, and sometimes elusive, form of instruction of all. In fact, the more explicit the teaching and preaching of values, often the more ineffective it can be. In the past few decades, Australian schools and educators seem to be obsessed with teaching values, like respect. Yet, many feel that we have abysmally failed to inculcate these values into our youngsters.
Values must be more than demonstrated. They need to become the ‘cultural norms’. This is simply the way we behave and conduct the business of learning. It needs to become our ‘operational language’; this is the way we do things around here.
We can make labels of our values as they become our motto, our refrain with which to live by. Trying to force or demand that our students show a value like respect, without the embodiment of it in ourselves as respectful people, is doomed to fail. Respect is something we need to carry as part of our identity, not just to deliver in a lesson.
Values require the relentless act of role modelling. They are difficult to teach, but life-changing when they become part of our school culture and our children’s lives. Gifted educators synthesise knowledge, skills and values, seamlessly into every lesson, every activity and every interaction with their students.
This is what I remember most about Moriah. It’s a place where children are empowered with knowledge, where they acquire lifelong skills and are inspired with the core values that enable them to succeed in life. We are truly blessed, as our children cross the threshold into Moriah, to have such a high calibre culture, so much so, that the Moriah trademark remains with our students years after they leave school.
Wishing you and your children a Term of nachat and joy as they learn and grow as young Moriah menschen.
I am looking forward to meeting your children and each and every one of you, and once again becoming part of the lively, fun and one-of-a kind Moriah family.
About the Author
Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler is the College Principal at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.