Remembering our “Why”

Welcome to Term 4!

I trust that you had some glorious R&R and family time. We are so lucky to live in Australia, and in particular NSW. We were one of the few Jewish communities in the world that were able to celebrate Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, as well as Sukkot, by going to Shule and sitting in the Sukkah – albeit with some restrictions and social distancing to keep ourselves safe.

This Term is definitely the home stretch before the summer holidays. Our challenge is to keep our children engaged and learning through the warm summer months.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish our Year 12 students tremendous Hatzlacha, as  they commence their HSC examinations on 20 October 2020.

Term 4 is also the start of a new year in the Jewish calendar. Now that we have finished Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and all of the festivals, it is time to start to put our resolutions in place. I do have to confess that after the eatathon throughout the Yamim Tovim, a cleansing diet and new exercise regime is not a bad idea.

Throughout our lives, it is always good for us to pause, reflect and refocus on our ‘purpose’. Or as author and TED talk sensation, Simon Senik puts it, to remind ourselves of our ‘Why’. As humans, we work best, we feel inspired, and are able to inspire others, when we feel fulfilled, when we know why we are doing what we do. Often, we get caught up in the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, and we forget to revisit the ‘why’. The ‘why’ informs our actions and decisions. In fact, when we remember our ‘why’, we feel motivated and energised, despite long days and full weeks. We aren’t worn out, but we are actually energised.

What is our ‘Why’?

To explore our ‘Why’ at Moriah, let’s look at one of Senik’s famous experiences that illustrate effective organisational ‘Why’s’. He describes his experience as a keynote speaker at a Microsoft Educational Summit and an Apple Educational Summit. At both these forums, the top executives from each of the tech firms were there to refocus and strategise for their educational offerings and their niche in the market.

Senik describes the bulk of the presentations by the top executives at Microsoft as being 90% centred around how to beat Apple; how to reclaim their market share; how to compete with their main competitor. At the Apple forum, the top executives did not mention beating Microsoft whatsoever. They were busily focused on: how can we impact learning; how can we empower educators to facilitate deep tech-rich learning?

Apple’s mantra is ‘Think Differently’. Unlike a regular computer retailer who says, “We make quality and beautiful computers, would you like to buy one?”, Apple says, “Everything we do is about challenging the status quo. We believe in ‘Thinking Differently’. We prove this by making beautiful, user-friendly products. Oh, and would you like to be part of this ‘Think Differently’ movement and buy one?” It works well. Apple appeals to people’s beliefs, makes them want to be part of a movement. In fact, Apple is not just a market disrupter, they create new markets where previously they didn’t exist.

As a school, we need to regularly revisit our ‘Why’. Yes, our Essence, as is very clear on our Essence and Mission Board, is ‘Belonging’. A deep sense of connectivity and belonging, which is very powerful for children. Often, Belonging can be more about ‘what we do’ or ‘how we do it’ and less about our ‘Why’. So what is our ‘Why’ at Moriah College?

As Principal, I think of our ‘Why’ as follows: ‘To empower proud and knowledgeable Jewish children, equipped with the skills and values to face the future with confidence and boldness.’

We each have to seek out our own ‘Why’. When I was a Judaic Studies and Hebrew teacher, my ‘why’ was relatively easy. My ‘Why’ was to ‘empower children to discover the true depths of Judaism’. I wanted them to be ‘curious, and ask thought-provoking questions and use their Jewish knowledge to inform their behaviours and to shape their values’.

Today, my professional ‘Why’ has evolved. The majority of my time is no longer spent in the classroom. My role is more big-picture and strategic, as I carry a greater collective responsibility. I can sum up my current ‘Why’, in a mantra with two words – ‘Inspirational Staff’. My ‘why’ is to nurture and recruit inspirational staff across our school for all our children.

When I hire somebody, besides expecting them to be an absolute expert in their field, I ask myself the following three questions as I sit across from them: “Are they inspired?”, “Are they growing, learning and evolving as a person and a professional?’, and “Will they inspire our children to grow?”.

If the person sitting in front of me inspires me, then chances are they will inspire the children. If they don’t inspire me, they won’t inspire our children and aren’t for Moriah.

Throughout our school, we have created a culture of feedback, a culture of acknowledgement, of celebrating our successes and accomplishments, yet at the same time, never being satisfied and sitting back on our laurels. We always seek to improve and to achieve even more.

It would suit us well to ask ourselves, what is my ‘Why’. Our ‘Why’ informs so much of our behaviour and what motivates us. One of our ‘Why’s’ as educators is that we are able to ‘shape the lives of young people as they move toward the future’. What an unbelievable gift, opportunity and responsibility.

All the research shows that adults of significance can have a huge impact on children’s lives. Here at Moriah, across the school, our educators are not just there to perform a role, to undertake a duty, to teach a subject, or series of subjects, we are here to help shape the growth and future of our children. A tremendous gift, a tremendous responsibility and a tremendous calling.

As we progress through Term 4, as we focus on the blessings in our lives, as we use the challenges as opportunities, and as we embark on the home stretch of learning for the academic year before the long summer break, may our ‘why’, may our calling, continue to inspire and motivate us to in turn inspire our children.

Wishing you and your children a tremendously successful term.

Copy of Copy of Untitled (20)About the Author

Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler is the College Principal at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.

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