PoP Educator Update
Welcome to our winter update! In this issue, we are excited to showcase PoP’s impact on learning at multiple levels across a school—from the leadership team, to the faculty, to the students. You can read through to hear about the ways PoP supports the development of critical thinking skills and deeper learning and how it helps us slow down and notice more in the text. Plus, get a peek into how PoP supports the cultivation of listening skills and collaboration across faculty and students alike. And make sure to treat yourself to a little pick-me-up and watch Lisa Blumenband’s second-graders talk about what part of havruta learning they are working on!
Kol tuv, All the best,
Interview with Zvi Weiss, Head of School, SDJA
PoP Senior Coach, Devin Villarreal spoke with Zvi Weiss, San Diego Jewish Academy’s Head of School, to learn how their team is infusing PoP in their school. Zvi reflects on how PoP inspires faculty to slow down and think together and how it builds community and collaboration across grade-level divisions. At the student level, it builds collaboration and critical thinking skills and creates intrinsic motivation among learners.
Devin: What is PoP helping you accomplish at SDJA? What do you think the teachers are experiencing that inspires them to use PoP?
Zvi: We’re constantly talking about the importance of collaboration and of critical thinking, which PoP leads us to. That’s what this all is about. Before we brought in PoP, many teachers were already revising curriculum to focus on skills rather than just knowledge in an age where, really, you can Google anything. PoP is exactly designed to build those skills of collaboration and critical thinking. That’s what I’m attracted to, and that’s what the teachers are engaged by.
On top of that, I’m also looking to build a community among the faculty. The school was very siloed—teachers didn’t really know each other. Granted it was Covid, but we also experienced a lot of growth in recent years. By opening this up, we’ve also started building a tighter community and it’s been an important piece in chipping away some of the silos.
Devin: Can you paint a picture of what the SDJA staff is doing with PoP?
Zvi: The leadership team itself has had at least two of its meetings devoted to text study in havruta (partner), and we leave them feeling very energized. We’re also doing these approximately monthly sessions with all of the faculty, and everyone has their assigned havruta where they learn using PoP text learning protocols and source sheets. One time we also purposefully didn’t use a Jewish text so that general studies teachers could see that it applies to them as well. My intention is for us to always be doing this as a staff so that we can experience the kind of learning we are trying to create for our students and build our staff community.
I can already see some of the effects of PoP in the classroom. For example, I was in an English class where they were reading something and the teacher was directing students that they would be continuing this work in partnership; she was using the PoP text learning protocols to help students notice and wonder and making sure that the text had a voice! Then I saw it in a math class. Kids had their partners and were standing in front of whiteboards with math problems written on them, and they had to talk about it first and then write down their answer and how they got to it. My goal is for it to become natural for the kids because it's such a powerful approach to learning; it's the Jewish approach to learning.
Devin: How do you see PoP supporting a shift in educational leadership more generally?
Zvi: There’s a huge potential if we can get the message across that it’s not just about Jewish studies. That it’s an approach that can help transform all study at a school. It would bring a unique value to the whole Jewish Day School landscape and would make them all more Jewish because the way in which students would be learning would be Jewish no matter what. You’re learning how to learn “Jewishly.”
Devin: If you had to take away one thing from PoP, what would it be?
Zvi: The most powerful thing for me is the practice of Noticing and Wondering about the text and about our human learning partners. Taking that moment to reflect; taking that moment to think; taking that moment to slow down- to me, it’s almost like the Torah on one foot. If you can truly do that, the rest is commentary. That’s really at the core of it all.
Devin: Do you think that practice is so powerful because it helps build internal motivation in learners?
Zvi: That’s my whole shtick! Intrinsic motivation: that’s what I believe in. I feel that that’s really what effective learning is. It needs to be relevant and meaningful, and for that to happen, you have to give learning space and relate it to your life, and that’s what PoP does.
“What part of havruta learning are you working on?”
Lisa Blumenband, second grade teacher at Oakland Hebrew Day School, has been working on partnership learning with her Chumash class. In reflecting on her student’s development using PoP, Lisa shared, “PoP really helps them listen to what the other person is saying, rather than just waiting for their turn to talk. It helps them have a conversation that keeps going and isn't just: I say something, and now you say something, and now we're done. Rather, it gets them responding and looking for more evidence, which is one of my goals."
Watch as OHDS 2nd Graders answer the question “What part of havruta learning are you working on?”
Samantha Toljanic, Middle School General Studies Teacher at Hillel Torah
“One of my favorite things, which I noticed right away with the very first PoP Listening and Articulating exercise, is that I had an exceptionally quiet student who was very smart, but just not very vocal. Once she had the PoP speech prompts to use and also realized that her partner had learned to listen, she started to speak up more naturally, even outside of the PoP lessons. I think she felt that she knew how to present her ideas, and knew that the other kids in the room had learned how to listen.”
Truly listening to all learning partners—yourself, your human partner, and the text—leads to extraordinary learning. Looking for a way to emphasize this to your students? Look no further than our tool: Listening to my Peer Partner.
Vayikra is Amazing! Finding Meaning with Devash Magazine
Calling all Jewish educators! Learn how Devash can help children and grownups discover new ideas, values, and sweet morsels in the weekly Torah portion.
Wednesday, March 2, 8:00 PM Eastern / 7:00 PM Central / 5:00 PM Pacific
PoP Swap! Experienced PoP Educators
Enjoy an evening of sharing and discussing your classroom artifacts with other experienced PoP teachers.
Tuesday, March 8, 8:00 PM Eastern / 7:00 PM Central / 5:00 PM Pacific
Foundational Webinar Series
Challenging, Supporting, and Celebrating! Introducing Unit 3
Monday, March 21, 8:00 PM Eastern / 7:00 PM Central/ 5:00 PM Pacific
Save the date! PoP Online Introductory Institute
Translate your learning into practice and meet the upcoming school year with renewed energy and new tools and materials. This 3-day online program is suited to both Jewish studies and general studies teachers. If you are interested in participating please contact [email protected].
Monday, June 27 through Wednesday, June 29, 1:00-5:00 PM Eastern / 12:00-4:00 PM Central / 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM Pacific
Be in touch if you want to share a glimpse of PoP in action in your classroom or school in future updates!
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