The Authentic Face – part I

Buzz Words

Buzzwords come and go. We could dismiss them as passing fashions or recognize that they reflect societal concerns. Last week at two different professional conferences I attended, the word that dominated all conversations was: authenticity.

In today’s politically charged climate, the thirst for authenticity is not surprising. As Purim and its themes of masks, unmasking and Jewish identity and survival approach, I invite you to consider how authenticity applies to your school.

That might seem strange. After all – how could you not be authentic if you are a Jewish school? Isn’t honesty a core value? Sure, but… from a messaging perspective, you might be surprised.

Let me “share.” During the past month I’ve spent too much time perusing “Jewish women’s” Facebook sites. The wildly divergent responses to posts inquiring about schools committed to specific priorities in specific areas shocked me. (Of course, as a person who has been labeled yeshivish, modern-machmir, and left wing orthodox on the same day, I know that labels are in the mind of the labeller.) Yet, it seems clear that, in an effort to be all things to all people, many schools are not getting a clear, authentic message out.

Click here to read The Authentic Face – part II

To learn more about compelling video marketing tools or any of my other day school marketing and development services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Authentic Face – part II

Unmasked, Authentic Face

So – what should a school do? Be transparent! Explain your priorities. How? Well, I know of two single sex-schools that proclaim their Zionism proudly. One prides itself on the floats that students spend months creating for the Salute to Israel parade; the other excuses students who cut school, with parental permission, to attend the parade. To use Facebook vernacular: what’s up with that? School number two does not want its boys to socialize on Fifth Avenue with the girls from school number one (or any girls from any school). That core value surpasses attending the parade. Both schools should have marketing messages that make their priorities clear. One pluralistic school I worked for professes its inclusive welcoming of all families. Yet, it schedules mandatory family activities on Shabbat – granting shomrei Shabbat students who don’t live in walking distance of the school a pass. Authentically welcoming?

Your messages must be honest. It is not disingenuous to highlight certain priorities to specific parents and stakeholders. Of course, you need to address each parent’s concerns. In terms of unmasking, one constituent may need to see your eyes, another your mouth and a third – your ears (or your Ivrit b’Ivirt, STEM, and learning disabilities program). But, ultimately everyone must see your whole unmasked, authentic face.

Explore Purim! 

A few links to Purim Resources.

Lookstein Center

JTeach, (You may need to register.)

Jewish Agency

Click here to read The Authentic Face – part I

To learn more about compelling video marketing tools or any of my other day school marketing and development services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Masks We Wear – part I

Mishenichnas Adar! Even though we celebrate Purim in Adar II, we’ve certainly had Purim and simcha on our minds for some time. Other than all the fun and calories, Purim makes me think of two themes: overcoming obstacles and masks/hiding.

Sometimes, the obstacle we face is actually the mask we wear. Certainly, we all know the importance of “putting on a good face.” But when the school day, or term, is over – it’s important to shed the mask and look in the mirror. If the public image you portray is not in keeping with the school you run, it may be time to make some changes.

Some schools profess to be pluralistic, but they really aren’t. One school I worked with wanted to be both a mesivta and a college prep program but their college advisor didn’t know the deadlines for the SAT. Others proclaim that parents are their partners but don’t really know that more than half the parent body not only feels disenfranchised but publicizes this discontent to present and potential parents.

Click here to read The Masks We Wear – part II

Should your masks need a re-haul or just some tweaking, please reach out to me. Feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Masks We Wear – part II

Purim Resources: Many wonderful Purim resources are available to you at no cost.

As always, the Lookstein Center provides remarkably
in-depth Purim resources.

Gateways is a Jewish Education site which features several Purim resources specifically designed for children with special needs and educational challenges.

The Jewish Agency for Israel offers a comprehensive menu of resources including activities, history and geography, feminist perspectives, a summary of specific Purim customs practiced in different countries, and innovative educational activities.

The National Library of Israel’s Purim resource pack contains historical gems from the time of the British mandate – Purim celebrations, pageants, discounted railway tickets to encourage attendance at holiday festivities, and a somber cancellation of a Purim party due to the Warsaw Uprising. It also features personal insights from a collection of letters home from Jerusalem and activity suggestions.

Click here to read The Masks We Wear – part I

Should your masks need a re-haul or just some tweaking, please reach out to me. Feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Ready, Set, Go! – part I

Five-year-old Bella’s stream of consciousness remarks upon returning home from kindergarten: Savta – do you know the parsha? It’s Va’eirah. Do any parshiot that rhyme with it? We made three pages in our Hagaddah today. Pesach is not until three months from now, February, March, and April when it’s my birthday and Jett’s. But the story is in the parsha, so we are making some pages now and maybe more next week for ten plagues, even frogs. (And we sang Pesach songs, and the frog songs, but not dayenu… what other Pesach songs do you know, Savta?) Then we will not work on our Hagaddah but we will start again before Pesach. Our Hagaddah will have lots of pages and I will bring it to your house for the Seder and will we spilt the sea and will cousin Alex dress up as Eliyahu again?”

While digesting this information, I thought about the teacher’s time management brilliance. After all, those haggadot, afikoman bags, Kiddush cups, jumping frogs, baby Moshe baskets, and matzah covers do not rain down from the shamayim like man! The multitude of projects is only one part of any kindergarten teacher’s pre-Pesach to-do list. Teaching the Exodus narrative and the story of nation building, on a kindergarten level, takes dedication, creativity, and time!

Click here to read Ready, Set, Go! – part II

As you look ahead to Tu b’Shevat, Purim, and Pesach – I wish you a calendar full of dynamic learning experiences. Should you wish to discuss ways to plan effective, creative, marketing calendars – or even a pitch or two, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Ready, Set, Go! – part II

Which leads me to two ideas to share.

1. We think in terms of the calendar but how often do we seize the opportunity to do April’s work in January? How do you shake up your marketing messages so they don’t get stale? What do you do about recruitment in November? What about hakarat ha tov – not around Thanksgiving but in February? If you are the only school in town you don’t want to bore editors. If you are one of four local day schools pitching the same reporters, you need to pitch creatively and differently. Consistent marketing should never be boring!

2. Life-skills: Your parents want to know that their children will be ready to forge their way in the world. Stellar time management skills are crucial. And… all the apps in the world can’t teach them! I will never forget the very sad day when – after driving a car pool in which young ladies claimed to have studied nine, ten, and even twelve hours for a Navi quiz – I asked a school administrator to help them master time management and study skills. He showed me an impressive age-appropriate time management workbook and said, “We don’t have time.” One super-effective marketing theme – that can include several different narratives – can be pitching your school as one that teaches students critical life skills. Think about it – if you have time!

Click here to read Ready, Set, Go! – part I

As you look ahead to Tu b’Shevat, Purim, and Pesach – I wish you a calendar full of dynamic learning experiences. Should you wish to discuss ways to plan effective, creative, marketing calendars – or even a pitch or two, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Got Questions? – part I

Do you have a question?

I’ll bet you do! After all, on Pesach, we are mandated to re-experience the Exodus. For educators, that demands innovative, creative pedagogy guaranteed to evoke questions. With older children, we elicit and explore deep questions about the Exodus narrative, the hagaddah liturgy, and the lasting lessons both can teach us. With younger children, we use costumes, props, and dramatic reenactment.

Got matza? Got wine? Got gefilte fish?
My sedarim – which always featured locusts, blood-like water, and ma-nishtana puppets along with meaningful divrei torah – have become a bit less intense, but much more fun, since we’ve started parting the Nile (a blue, ocean-themed, shower curtain hung up in my dining room archway), welcomed Eliyahu (my good-natured, costumed nephew), and discovered wiggly, green jello frogs perched on our plates. These recent additions evoke not only squeals of delight but also a myriad of questions from the more recent additions to our family!

However, right now I’m thinking about a different type of questions – ones that your parents yearn to ask. I suggest that this year, in the goal of true partnership and transparency, you invite your parents to question you. But don’t just play lip service to the concept: really open it up! This takes a bit of daring.

Want to learn more? Click here to read Got Questions? – part II.

Please feel free to call me at 516.569.8070 or send me an email to learn more about how to turn your present parents and stakeholders into loyal ambassadors and supporters. I’m also happy to discuss special projects as well as annual retainers. Chag kasher v’sameach!

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Got Questions? – part II

Parents’ questions will yield:

 Enhanced relationships
 Important, actionable data

How you invite these questions depends on your school’s culture. Possibilities include:

 Open school-wide town hall meetings
 Small parlor meetings
 
A physical question box that children decorate or build (in a preschool class or a high school woodworking class)
 
A user-friendly online form

Follow up is key! Of course, you must respond to each query in a personal and timely manner. More important, you need to analyze the queries. The questions may show you areas that need slight tweaking or larger overhauls. Questions may motivate you to open up clearer lines of communications, revamp your Ivrit curriculum, revisit tenure polices, or just pat yourself on the shoulder for an A-plus job. Either way, opening up lines of communications will show parents that you value them. How can this Pesach be different for your parents than any other chag? Let this be the one that is transparent, inviting, and demonstrates that parents are your partners!

Click here to read Got Questions? – part I.

Please feel free to call me at 516.569.8070 or send me an email to learn more about how to turn your present parents and stakeholders into loyal ambassadors and supporters. I’m also happy to discuss special projects as well as annual retainers. Chag kasher v’sameach!

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Treasure of Trees – part I

It’s Time to Celebrate!

While some people I know and love are counting down until Pesach, I’m thinking about birthday parties. Truly, I’m thinking about one in particular – the one that occurs on the 15th of Shevat.

My mom and I share an annual laugh recollecting buxser – that inedible fruit that PTA moms, for some inexplicable reason, distributed to us each Tu b’Shevat. Perhaps they were dentists. Thankfully, my children were presented with sweeter, easier to bite, fruits and even participated in meaningful Tu b’Shevat sedarim. (Turns out that buxser is actually carob – but not those chocolaty chips I sprinkle on my frozen yogurt while pretending virtuously that I am eating a healthy, low-fat treat. Buxser is also noticeably absent from the list of biblical fruits that includes olives, dates, grapes, figs, and pomegranates.

Tu b’Shevat presents many easily implemented opportunities for marketing messages. In fact, this morning, I received a LinkedIn offer for a free poster from Aishdas. I must say that I was quite attracted to its marketing message, “We often complain that we spend so much time on the halachic trees, we lose sight of the forest. Hoping this helps you remember.” Why not take advantage of Tu b’Shevat to publicize how you keep your eye on both the trees and the forest – nurturing children, planting seeds, and reaping lasting, nourishing, wholesome, results?

Reach out to your stakeholders using these themes of planting, sowing, and reaping.

For a comprehensive list of resources, click here to read The Treasure of Trees – part II.

Should you have any questions about implement a Tu b’Shevat plan, marketing, resource development, assessing present materials, crafting compelling stories, utilizing data-driven research to present your case, or about any of my cost-effective day school services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Treasure of Trees – part II

Resources to Explore

Lookstein Center
The Lookstein Center compiles an extremely comprehensive annual list of resources including creative teaching activities, projects you can recommend to families, and Tu b’Shevat sedarim.

Hazon
Hazon’s shmita project
 expands awareness about the biblical Sabbatical tradition.

The Jewish National Fund (JNF)
JNF details the values represented with shmita.

Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL)
The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) website provides creative resources about the Jewish approach to the environment.

Click here to read The Treasure of Trees – part I.

Should you have any questions about implement a Tu b’Shevat plan, marketing, resource development, assessing present materials, crafting compelling stories, utilizing data-driven research to present your case, or about any of my cost-effective day school services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman