14 December 2012
Rosh Chodesh Tevet 5773
7th Day of Chanukah
The Contagious Joy of Learning
It has been a week of joy and celebration at Gann as our students have fired up our community with their talent, passion, and creativity. Last Sunday we hosted Kol HaNeshama, the Jewish Day School choral festival. Monday night was our community Chanukah celebration, where many of our student groups performed, including the chorus, chamber music, and dance team. We highlighted the end of each school day this week with a candle lighting ceremony hosted and run by our students, who performed and shared personal stories, thoughts, and divrei Torah about Chanukah. And last night was the opening performance of our Red Curtain Drama Club’s extraordinary production of Romeo and Juliet. I was so impressed by the energy, sophistication, and overall quality of the show and encourage you to see the second performance this Saturday night at 8:00pm.
In addition to all of these celebrations and performances, I had the pleasure of having lunch this week with a group of seniors to learn about their Gann experiences and to hear their feedback and insights about how we can continue to improve the school. (I have scheduled a lunch with every senior advisor group to learn as much as I can from them before they graduate.) The students consistently inspire me with their maturity and wisdom, with their positivity and appreciation, and with their capacity to give critical feedback lovingly and constructively.
When I ask the seniors at these lunches what makes Gann special, they inevitably talk with glowing praise about their teachers. At this week’s lunch one senior told a story about the joy of a collaborative learning community that reminded me what our school is all about.
“I am taking advanced physics, which I find really challenging. One day I was struggling with a problem and could not find my physics teacher in her office. I decided to go speak with my advisor, who teaches math. She has not studied physics formally since high school but was happy to help me since so much of physics is math. All of a sudden an English teacher entered the room. He began helping us decode the syntax of the word problem to ensure that we properly understood the problem itself. A few minutes later the math department chair burst into the room and said, ‘Is somebody doing math without me!?!’ Suddenly, I realized that three teachers were working on my physics problem with me, and none of them even taught physics!”
This story conjures up the image of lighting the Chanukkiah (the Chanukah menorah). Thanks to the initiative and drive of this student, combined with her teachers’ passions for teaching and, more importantly, for their own learning, the flames of the student’s desire to learn transferred like wildfire from one teacher to another.
Like the miraculous oil and energy of the Chanukah candles, intellectual curiosity and the joy of learning are contagious! May they continue to illuminate all of our lives.
Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov, and Happy Chanukah,
Rabbi Marc Baker