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Rosh Hashanah Reflection and Renewal

Dear Bialik Community Members,

The first thing that many of us do when we open the calendar for a new school year is to check the dates  of the High Holidays — Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. We want to know if they come “early” or “late”, and when we will be able to get together with family and friends. We wonder how the Chagim might help us ease into the new school year.  

This year, of course, Erev Rosh HaShanah falls on Labour Day and 5782 will already be underway when we return to school. As one who has spent his life in educational settings, I’ve always found the proximity of Rosh HaShanah to the beginning of a new school year to be meaningful. The common themes embedded in both the Jewish and academic calendars seem to reinforce one another, creating a powerful synergy of renewal, reflection and goal-setting.

I see Cheshbon Nefesh as one of those Rosh HaShanah themes that also resonates strongly in our educational context. With its literal meaning of “soul math,” Cheshbon Nefesh is the process of examining ourselves as individuals. It is our opportunity to reflect honestly on our strengths and weaknesses, our successes and failures, and the impact we have had on others. As we    look forward to the new year, we are given a renewed opportunity to work on ourselves and to put our best selves forward.

Just as Cheshbon Nefesh is a meaningful process for the individual, so too is the institutional soul-searching integral to Bialik’s annual new year’s preparations. We ask how our school has fared in the past year and what we hope to improve upon and achieve in the year to come. Given the impact of COVID on our lives, Bialik’s reflections could easily be dominated by the pandemic and matters of health and safety. We have certainly done much in that realm. But Bialik is so much more than cohorts, masks and hand sanitizer.

As students return to the school buildings after such a long hiatus, we know we need to focus on the needs of the “whole child,” ensuring that we take care of our students’ social-emotional well-being and are ready to help everyone feel safe and protected. COVID has heightened our awareness of how closely students’ academic growth is related to their lives and school experiences. We must make Bialik an ever more inclusive, caring and welcoming environment for children with a wide range of learning profiles and individual identities, and we have to equip students of all ages with the digital literacy tools they need to navigate a world so heavily influenced by social media and other online communications. 

Our administrators and faculty are also thrilled to be returning to the buildings, and to being able  to interact with our students in-person. There is a buzz of energy as faculty prepare their classrooms and get together for professional development and collaborative planning sessions. 

We are opening our school doors with optimism, excitement and creative plans for Bialik’s upcoming year. 

We will be taking care to address students’ learning gaps while also introducing innovation to our programs. Knowing how challenging remote learning has been for many students, the introduction of our new reading specialists will help those students needing a boost with their English literacy skills. We will also continue implementing the new Ontario Ministry of Education math curriculum, introducing new curricular highlights of financial literacy and weekly coding lessons. In Grades 1-5, we will be adding weekly specialty lessons in art as well.   

In Jewish Studies, our focus, in all grades, on oral Hebrew proficiency will be supported by our collaboration with Hebrew at the Center, an organization dedicated to excellence in Hebrew language instruction and fluency. We are excited to introduce Hebrew-speaking assistants in every SK classroom so the children will have the opportunity to hear and speak Hebrew throughout the day. This year will also mark the introduction, in Senior Division, of a new English-language Moreshet program, creating theme-based learning units tracking Jewish identity, culture, ritual, and nationhood — from ancient times through to the 21st century.  

As we prepare, simultaneously, for Rosh HaShanah and the new school year, I am excited by the many opportunities that lie before us. It will be so wonderful to see the children back in the school buildings. Our health and safety planning will meet the challenges that COVID presents. And our outstanding faculty will support our students emotionally and academically as they readjust to life in school.

May 5782 be a year of health, sweetness and prosperity for the entire Bialik community. 

Shanah Tovah U’Metuka!

Benjy Cohen

Head of School