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MIFGASHIM  December 2015

MIFGASHIM December 2015

Subject:

Mifgashim Volume 8 Issue 353

From:

Lee Buckman <[log in to unmask]>

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Date:

Thu, 10 Dec 2015 12:32:31 +0200

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Mifgashim Volume 8 Issue 353


Contents:


1.	Origins of the Dreidel

2.	The power of a pre-school Jewish education

3.	Improving morale

4.	Success and emotional intelligence 

5.	Marshall Memo: Advice for Ivrit teachers on increasing student fluency


~~~~~~~~~


1.	Origins of the Dreidel


Jordan Kutzik, in the December 9, 2015 issue of the Forward, traces the origin of the dreidel to Germany via Ireland during the late Roman period.  

According to the author:
Men would gamble with a top known as a “teetotum” in bars and inns. Originally the letters on the teetotum corresponded to the first letters of the Latin words for “nothing,” “half,” “everything” and “put in.”

In Germany the teetotum evolved into the “trendel,” and soon featured the German letters which corresponded to the game’s rules. When the Jews adopted the trendel they transliterated the letters into the Hebrew alphabet to represent Yiddish words: shin, for shtel arayn (put in); nun, for nit (not, i.e., nothing); gimmel, for gants (whole, i.e. everything); and hey, for halb(half)….

When dreidels reached non-Yiddish-speaking Jewish communities, these Jews did not understand the meaning of the letters and began to seek explanations. Some felt that the four letters might correspond to the four ancient nations that tried to destroy Israel — Babylon, Persia, Greece and the Roman Empire. Others noticed that the value of the four letters according to gematria, Jewish numerology, was 358, the same as the value for the four letters in the Hebrew word Moshiach, or Messiah.

Neither explanation became as popular, however, as the explanation that the four letters were an abbreviation of the Hebrew words nes gadol haya sham (a great miracle happened there). This explanation didn’t become popular until after the game had begun to be associated with Hanukkah. The linkage of the four Hebrew letters on the top to the story of Hanukkah is apparently the origin of the legends about the dreidel being used to hide the study of Torah shortly before the Maccabean revolt. 

Read more: http://forward.com/culture/326379/the-true-history-of-the-dreidel/#ixzz3tuTW3Cno

 
~~~~~~~~~


2.	The power of a pre-school Jewish education


An unusual story about two non-Jewish parents who enroll their child in a Jewish preschool shows the power of early childhood Jewish education.  In a December 4, 2015 article in the Washington Post, Kate Spencer describes how her daughter came to the conclusion that, despite her lineage, she was Jewish.  Why?


But she was enrolled in a Jewish preschool, a warm, cozy place filled with songs, a sensory playground, and shabbat celebrations every Friday. The second we walked in for a tour it felt like the perfect place for her. My husband and I skew agnostic, but had no problem with her learning about religion. “It will be songs and stuff,” I reasoned. “She won’t even know what’s going on.”

Read this fascinating expose at 
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2015/12/04/my-4-year-old-thinks-shes-jewish-and-its-changed-how-i-see-my-own-faith/


~~~~~~~~~


3.	Improving morale


In another Wharton School of Business Nano Tool for leaders (http://wlp.wharton.upenn.edu/category/nano-tools/), Shawn Achor argues that we think that success leads to happiness, but in fact happiness leads to success.

That helps explain why companies like Google, Yahoo!, and Virgin cultivate work environments that help their employees experience positive emotions on a regular basis. As Richard Branson said, “More than any other element, fun is the secret of Virgin’s success.” This isn’t because fun is, well, fun. It’s because fun also leads to bottom-line results.

Even short bursts of positivity have been shown to increase happiness and provide a serious competitive edge.  Positive results emerge from simply asking members of the workforce to write a three positive emails to someone at work everyday.

Action Steps:

1.	Infuse Positivity into Your Surroundings. Physical environment can have an enormous impact on our mindset and sense of wellbeing. Encourage people to personalize their workspaces with pictures of family, pets, favorite places, or hobbies; add plants, their children’s artwork, or holiday decorations…. 

2.	Exercise. Most people know that exercise releases pleasure-inducing chemicals called endorphins. But it also improves motivation and feelings of mastery, reduces stress and anxiety, and helps us get into the flow — the feeling of total engagement we get when we are typically at our most productive….

3.	Use a Signature Strength. Each time we use a skill we’re good at, we experience a burst of positivity. Even more fulfilling is using a character strength, a trait that is deeply embedded in who we are. A team of psychologists led by University of Pennsylvania Professor Martin Seligman catalogued the 24 cross-cultural character strengths that most contribute to human flourishing, and developed a survey to identify an individual’s signature strengths. Ask each person on your team to take the free survey at www.viasurvey.org. Encourage people to share their strengths profiles and to list ways they can practice their top strengths at work. Find opportunities for them to work on company projects that leverage their strengths and you’ll see both positive attitudes and greater engagement.

4.	List Three Gratitudes. More than a decade of empirical studies has proven the profound effect that gratitude has on the way our brains are wired — even if it sounds simplistic or hokey. Follow the practice used in several top companies by setting aside a specific time each day to keep a Gratitude list. By taking just 5 minutes to write or share 3 things that made you feel grateful over the last 24 hours, you’re training your brain to tune into the positives and opportunities around you. This positive outlook not only helps people be more successful, it also helps them stay healthier and live longer,

5.	Commit a Conscious Act of Kindness. A long line of empirical research shows that altruism decreases stress and strongly contributes to enhanced mental health. Each day, send a short email to someone praising, complimenting, or thanking them for something they have done. Leave a card, a miniature chocolate bar or a flower on a colleague’s desk. Assemble a group of people to help out at a local charity.

See more at: http://executiveeducation.wharton.upenn.edu/thought-leadership/wharton-at-work/2014/03/positivity-habits#sthash.qYougVHz.dpuf


~~~~~~~~~


4.	Success and emotional intelligence 

Harvey Deutschendorf, an author who writes extensively on emotional intelligence in the workplace, published an article “Why emotionally intelligent people are more successful” in which he brings the latest research suggesting that people with high EQ are more likely to succeed than those with high IQ’s or relevant experience.  The corollary is that the three main causes of executive derailment involve deficiencies in EQ, specifically, the ability to handle change, inability to work well in a team, and poor interpersonal relations.  Research also showed that people would rather do business with a person whom they like and trust rather than someone whom they don’t, even if that person is offering a better product or lower price.

What are the key components of EQ in an organization?  The author writes:

Self-awareness. The first thing that is essential for any degree of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. People with a high degree of self-awareness have a solid understanding of their own emotions, their strengths, weaknesses, and what drives them. Neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful, these people are honest with themselves and others. These people recognize how their feelings impact them, other people around them, and their performance at work. They have a good understanding of their values and goals and where they are going in life. They are confident as well as aware of their limitations and less likely to set themselves up for failure.

We can recognize self-aware people by their willingness to talk about themselves in a frank, non-defensive manner. A good interview question is to ask about a time that the interviewee got carried away by their emotions and did something they later regretted. The self-aware person will be open and frank with their answers. Self-deprecating humor is a good indicator of someone who has good self-awareness. Red flags are people who stall or try to avoid the question, seem irritated, or frustrated by the question.

Ability To Self-Regulate Emotions. We all have emotions which drive us and there is nothing we can do to avoid them. People who are good at self-regulation, however, are able to manage their emotions so that they do not control their words and actions. While they feel bad moods and impulses as much as anyone else, they do not act upon them. People who act upon their negative feelings create havoc, disruptions, and lasting bad feelings all around them. We feel before we think and people who constantly react from an emotional state never wait long enough to allow their thoughts to override their emotions.

People who self-regulate have the ability to wait until their emotions pass, allowing them to respond from a place of reason, rather than simply reacting to feelings. The signs of someone who is good at self-regulation are reflection, thoughtfulness, comfort with ambiguity, change, and not having all the answers. In an interview, look for people who take a little time to reflect and think before they answer.

Empathy. Empathy is another important aspect to look for when hiring. Someone who has empathy will have an awareness of the feelings of others and consider those feelings in their words and actions. This does not mean that they will tiptoe around or be unwilling to make tough decisions for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. It simply means that they are aware of, and take into consideration the impact on others. They are willing to share their own worries and concerns and openly acknowledge other’s emotions. A good way to look for empathy in an interview is to ask a candidate about a situation where a co-worker was angry with them and how they dealt with it. Look for a willingness to understand the source of the co-workers anger, even though they may not agree with the reasons for it.

Social skills. Social skill is another area of emotional intelligence that is highly important in the workplace. To have good social skills requires a high level of the other skills aforementioned as well as the ability to relate and find common ground with a wide range of people. It goes beyond just friendliness and the ability to get along with others.

People with social skills are excellent team players as they have the ability to move an agenda along and keep focus while at the same time remaining aware of the emotional climate of the group and possess the ability to respond to it. These people are excellent at making connections, networking, and bringing people together to work on projects. They are able to bring their emotional intelligence skills into play in a larger arena. To look for social skills in an interview, ask questions related to projects and difficulties encountered around varying agendas, temperaments, and getting people to buy in.

Read the complete article at http://www.fastcompany.com/3047455/hit-the-ground-running/why-emotionally-intelligent-people-are-more-successful?utm_content=&utm_campaign=&utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Facebook%3A+Center+for+Creative+Leadership


~~~~~~~~~


5.	Marshall Memo: Advice for Ivrit teachers on increasing student fluency

	
In this article in The Language Educator, Nicole Sherf (Salem State University) and Tiesa Graf (South Hadley High School, Massachusetts) examine the kinds of assessments used by world language teachers. “The easiest data to collect and analyze are those that are objective and clear-cut,” they say – for example, filling in a missing word in a sentence, choosing the word that correctly conjugates a verb, or listing the right possessive adjective. A typical item:
	Elena _______ alta.
a.	está
b.	es
c.	tiene
d.	hace

The correct answer is (b), and the item accurately assesses a fragment of Spanish grammar and is quick and easy to score. But, say Sherf and Graf, “the fill-in offers no way for the student to express a message that is meaningful or communicative, or to elaborate on Elena’s other physical characteristics and personality, if, in fact, Elena even exists to the teacher and students.
“[W]e have historically placed far too much emphasis on precision,” they continue. “We have valued correctness over communication, which has led to a focus on form rather than on communication in teaching… If the profession continues to rely on assessment through completion of disconnected, abstract and decontextualized sentences to practice or assess discrete grammar or vocabulary, students will not understand that the ultimate purpose of language learning is communication.” 

Language educators can change the traditional dynamic, say Sherf and Graf, “by encouraging our students to have less fear in creating with the language and telling them that errors are a natural part of language learning. If they are not making mistakes, they are not trying hard enough. Taking risks is an important part of language learning… The data we collect and analyze to determine evidence of student growth must be connected to what our students can do with the language.” 

For ideas on escaping the quick-and-easy assessment trap, Sherf and Graf harken back to the 2010 ACTFL goal of 90%+ classroom interaction in the target language. There are three key steps in making this happen:
-	The teacher speaking as much as possible in the target language, focusing on content related to unit objectives. 
-	Getting students to speak only in the target language and not responding or reacting to them if they use English. In other words, class discussions are in the target language, not about it. 
-	Getting students interacting with each other in the target language (asking each other follow-up questions on a presentation, reporting or commenting on their partner’s responses, or providing summaries of their group’s conclusions), with the teacher circulating and monitoring the quality of discourse. 

The four criteria used to describe proficiency in this type of exercise are (a) the functions or tasks that are being completed, (b) the various contexts or curriculum content, (c) the text type or level of production, and (d) the level of precision or accuracy. 
	Sherf and Graf take the third, text type and level of production, and give examples of two levels of proficiency: 
-	Novice – the learner relies on memorizing words and phrases;
-	Intermediate – able to create with the language at the sentence level.

What’s essential is getting students to respond at the sentence level. “From Day One of language learning,” say the authors, “we should be teaching our students how to expand on what they communicate, pushing them to do so, and rewarding them for their efforts at elaborated responses. If they are not encouraged and supported from the very beginning of language learning to include more information and provide strong, solid responses, they will have a hard time moving up the proficiency scale to the Intermediate level.” Students can be encouraged to think about who, what, when, where, and how to add details and use linking words like and, or, with, because, for, then, and next to extend their thinking. In the early stages, quantity is paramount; as students develop proficiency, they can begin to think about how to vary sentence types. Sentence starters like these are also helpful:
-	My best friend is ….
-	My best friend has….
-	My best friend needs….
-	I like my best friend because….
-	I am with my best friend when….

To assess, teachers can record the number of words written and the amount of time students can talk with each other, and track progress as a unit progresses. 

Another way to develop fluency is to have students write a weekly journal entry for a given number of minutes, answering an open-ended question on the context of the unit (for example, in a unit on the family, writing about a favorite family member, a celebrity family, or a made-up family based on TV characters). Students should keep their pencils or pens moving without worrying about correctness, not using dictionaries, and focusing on the message. Students can keep track of their word count, focusing on quantity of writing, and gradually transition to assessing and improving the quality of their entries – for example, the number of connected thoughts, extensions, and elaborations.

To measure students’ oral proficiency at the beginning and end of a unit, Sherf and Graf suggest having students take out their cell phones, dialing a number attached to the teacher’s Gmail account, and using Google Voice to speak for one minute in response to a prompt (for example, in a vocabulary unit on houses, they might be asked to describe their ideal house, or describe what is special about a specific room in their house). Students’ messages are recorded in easy-to-access files in the teacher’s Gmail account. “Amazingly, the recordings are clear and easy to understand even though all students are speaking at the same time,” say the authors. “It is best to give the task to the students and ask them to call immediately during class, offering no time to think through their answers. This trains students to speak spontaneously and to respond to the assignment quickly, an important skill in interpersonal communication.” (Sherf and Graf add that it’s important to remind students to say their names at the beginning of their message.) If cell phones can’t be used, students might use Google Voice, Audacity, or some other voice recording application in the school’s language lab. 

“Evidence of Student Learning: A Starting Point for Collecting and Analyzing Data Related to Communication” by Nicole Sherf and Tiesa Graf in The Language Educator, October/ November 2015 (Vol. 10, #4, p. 40-43), http://bit.ly/1SsYBM7 
 

The Marshall Memo is a weekly digest of important research in K-12 education. Individual subscriptions are $50 for the school year at
http://www.marshallmemo.com.

 

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