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Insights from the Intersection of Childhood and Education

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Snow and Akiba's Many Communities

by Dr. Eliezer Jones
Head of School

Akiba on Sunday, February 11, 2018

I know what many of you are thinking: I am from California, so of course, I called a Snow Day last Friday. That is understandable, and I am not going to lie. Every time I see two or more flurries softly descending from the heavens, I worry if I have enough bottled water and canned goods in the pantry. However, luckily I also have a great team at Akiba, and as we reviewed the weather reports, spoke with our bus company, other schools, and parents, we came up with various options to address all possibilities. Closing school is the last thing we want to do, but I am grateful that my team remained focused on doing what is best for our students and staff in this situation. I also want to thank the mysterious board member who showed up at my house and plowed my driveway. If that is not a sign of board support, I don't know what is!

Onto a warmer topic! On a recent Shabbos, I had the privilege of being in the Lakeview community for Rafi Nagorsky's Bar Mitzvah. I got to daven at Anshe Sholom for the first time with some of our families, spend time with more of our families at Anshe Emet, and experience that which makes our school one of a kind. First, Rafi, if you are reading this, you did a fantastic job! Your davening was inspiring, your laining (reading of the Torah) was perfection, and your speech was meaningful, funny and expertly delivered. Second, I was overwhelmed by all the Akiba students, teachers and families that were there to share in the Simcha (celebration). One might think that because we attract students from all over Chicago that we are only a community at school. As evidenced by that Shabbos, this could not be further from the truth. We come together every day from different communities and backgrounds to learn together in one school, and we come together as one to celebrate and support each other outside of school as well. This is not just an Akiba value, but a Jewish value. It is a value that is clear Rafi and his family share as well as so many of us at Akiba. May we all continue to celebrate and support each other in school and beyond!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Word on Bees

by Dr. Eliezer Jones
Head of School

Our Geography Bee winners:
1st place: 8th grader Aaron Faier (right)
and 2nd place: Ezra Erlebacher (6th)

Eleven-year-old Frank Neuhauser of Louisville was the first spelling bee champion crowned on the word gladiolusto; he won $500 in prize money. What started as a promotional event for the Louisville Courier-Journal and few other newspapers in 1925 is now a world-wide phenomenon that was launched into competitive popularity by ESPN in 1994. The champion now receives $40,000 cash from Scripps, the Scripps National Spelling Bee engraved trophy, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond from Merriam-Webster, $400 of reference works including a 1768 Encyclop√¶dia Britannica Replica Set Deluxe Edition, a three-year membership to Britannica Online Premium, as well as a trip to New York to appear on Live with Kelly. The Bee has come a long way, and I was concerned about this since we have our Spelling Bee this week and just wrapped up our Geography Bee last week.

Learning is not a competitive sport. It should be a collaborative activity that one challenges oneself and is supported by others. I worried that the high-stakes Bee might create an unhealthy atmosphere of competitiveness among our students. I feared that it would overshadow the beauty of learning, the sophisticated syntax that makes up the English language. However, last Wednesday, I watched the Geography Bee, and I realized my fears were unfounded.

During the Bee's final rounds, I saw a group of Akiba students sitting together, answering difficult geography questions and showing support for each other. There was no sense that any child was there to "win" against another. Although each child was on his or her own, there was a sense of support, care, and cooperation. There was a sense of team. There was a sense of Akiba.

Congratulations to Aaron Faier who won first place and to Ezra Erlebacher who won second place at the school Geography Bee. Aaron moves on to compete at the state level, and I look forward to another display of beautiful learning at the Spelling Bee.