Our Head of School
Rabbi Lee Buckman
One of my central goals as a school leader is to ensure that GHA is a place that excites childrens' curiosity. It is a truism that we can never teach a student everything of value prior to graduation. What we can do, however, is instill in our students the desire to keep questioning. Our goal as educators should be to help our students develop a thirst for inquiry.
Education, of course, is about learning and knowing, but it is more than that. It should also be about the continual unfolding of one's ignorance. It is about confronting one's ignorance, being excited by it, and discovering the resources to make a dent in it. The role of the teacher, therefore, is to show students that questions are not necessarily a sign of ignorance but the engine that fuels discovery. Knowledge grows out of questions. In turn, knowledge generates new questions.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once paraphrased Socrates and said that the role of the teacher is to be the midwife to the birth of questions. That is the guiding light in my educational philosophy. A teacher's task is not to fill children's minds but to awaken children's minds. We all know that the deadliest classes are not the ones where students are not catching on. Ignorance is not the sign of a poor education. It is passive acceptance of truths, the belief that answers, not questions, count most, or the unfortunate notion that we know everything there is to know about a subject.
In a school where teachers challenge students, pique their curiosity, deepen their knowledge through questions, and foster a love of inquiry, such a school is filled with teachers that approach their own discipline of teaching in the same way. In other words, they, too, are continually evolving. They, too, are lifelong, voracious learners. They, too, are animated by good questions.
Excellent teachers never fall prey to the belief that they are good enough. They do not respond to new ideas with "I already do that." They reflect. They read about education. They seek out the best professional development opportunities. They deepen their content knowledge through ongoing inquiry and derive an abiding sense of happiness from following up on their questions.
Carol Ann Tomlinson, a professor of education at the University of Virginia, tells the story of an older gentleman that attended one of her teacher workshops. The man was deeply engaged in her presentation and at the break approached Professor Tomlinson to ask a question. In the course of the conversation, he happened to remark that he will be retiring soon after 40years of teaching. Professor Tomlinson wondered what he was doing at the conference given his immanent retirement. The man responded, "I promised myself that I would learn something new everyday that I was a teacher. I've kept that promise for four decades and will do so until the day I close the classroom door behind me. How else could I have been the teacher my students needed!"
These are the teachers all students need. This is the culture of learning and teaching that we are creating at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy
Rabbi Buckman is a native of the Midwest, who joined GHA as Head of School in July 2009. He enjoys playing ping pong and marathon training. He is married to Rachel and they have four wonderful sons.
Excerpt from Rabbi Buckman's address to the Graduating Class of 2012
We have shown you how a school can stand for traditional Judaism and yet believe that every Jew, every family, and every Jewish movement has something unique and beautiful to contribute to a mosaic that describes the Jewish people.
Don't let anyone convince you otherwise that Judaism is somehow better off if we all look the same and act the same and observe the same. That's the message that illuminates our approach to Judaism at GHA. Take it with you and let it light your way. The Jewish world needs that enlightenment.
The second is that even though we may not look alike or think alike or believe alike, there exists something we hold in common.
We are part of a sacred family. We have a deep bond with one another and with the country and people of Israel. Now, that may seem obvious, but it isn't. That's because in America, there are at least two trends that work against this sense of peoplehood.
The first is individualism and choice. Group affiliation sounds like a sell-out. It sounds a little un-American. The second is universalism, globalism, and multiculturalism. A special connection to a family sounds tribalistic and maybe even morally problematic.
Read the full text of Rabbi Buckman's address by clicking on the link below:
2012 Graduation Address by Rabbi Buckman