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Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Coming Soon – Jewish CultureGram 2016

September 28, 2016


Peace cannot exist without justice, justice cannot exist without fairness, fairness cannot exist without development, development cannot exist without democracy, democracy cannot exist without respect for the identity and worth of cultures and peoples.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum

(Guatemalan Indigenous Rights Activist,
1990 UNESCO Prize for Peace Education, 1992 Nobel Peace Prize Winner)

Thank you again this year to our guest blogger and colleague, Kelly Steiner. Kelly shares her culture and advice with her colleagues in her school and district. Thank you for including us in your email.

The two biggest days in the Jewish calendar are coming up. Rosh Hashanah is Monday and Tuesday, October 3 and 4 and Yom Kippur is Wednesday, October 12.  I wanted to provide information about how it relates to you in your work and also what’s happening for some of our kids.  Since I’m a part of the majority culture most of the time, I know how easy it is to assume that all kids have similar experiences.  Being a part of the minority culture in this one instance lets me experience how frustrating it is to not fit with what an institution expects.

Are there any days that kids may miss school or not be able to do homework?

Yes. Most Jewish students will miss school on October 3 for the first day of Rosh Hashanah.  Some Jewish students will miss October 4 (second day of Rosh Hashanah).  Almost all Jewish students will miss October 12 for Yom Kippur.

Do I have to do anything?

No, you don’t have to.  I can tell you from experience though, it’s really hard to just be trying to figure out what’s what and how things work and to feel out all of your teachers and figure out what works for you AND miss two or three days of school 10 days apart.  Please do whatever you can to help them navigate what they miss and still merge into your classroom culture.

Can they do their homework?

Probably not.  Rosh Hashanah starts on a Sunday night, but many kids will either be traveling to be with family or have houses full of family which can make the practicality of homework challenging.  During Rosh Hashanah they are probably in services all day, and doing work is expressly forbidden.  Yom Kippur during the day they are in services, forbidden from working, and for students who’ve already been bar/bat mitzvahed they will be fasting.  It’s unlikely that their homework/ classwork will get done that day.  Please, again, try to help them navigate this.  If there is anything that you can condense or excuse, I’m sure it would be very much appreciated.

Why are the kids missing school?

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the two High Holy Days.  Think of them like the importance of Christmas and Easter, but only 10 days apart.  They are super serious, generally solemn, and big deals.  Different denominations observe different numbers of days for Rosh Hashanah.  Some celebrate only the first day (Sunday night to Monday night – all Jewish holidays start and end at sundown).  Others celebrate both days (Sunday night to Tuesday night).  Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year” and it is the new year.  Instead of a big party day it is a serious holiday which starts the 10 days of awe in which you need to ask for forgiveness for sins from the previous year before your fate for the coming year is sealed.  Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement- the last chance to pray for forgiveness before fates are sealed.

Why isn’t it at the same time/ day of the week as last year?

Because Jewish holidays are on the lunar calendar, they’re a slightly different time in our solar calendar each year.  Many school districts in our area are closed for the first day of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

What should I say to them?

If you’d like to say something to your Jewish students, you can say “happy new year” although it’s a thoughtful tone instead of the party tone of December 31 since it’s such a serious holy day. If you work with older students you can ask them if they are fasting for Yom Kippur or wish them an easy fast.

Kelly teaches science at Shorewood Intermediate School in Milwaukee, WI. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and an adjunct professor at Cardinal Stritch University.

I’m including some resources that you might find useful as you learn more about these holidays.

If you have other sites or resources please share.









Getting Ready for Your Best Year Ever

July 31, 2016

I know from social media that many of you are actively planning for the upcoming school year. (Some of you have already started or are in “year round” schools.) Master teachers organize and plan AND use all available resources to ensure a successful school year.

Many of you know that Surviving to Thriving LjL has an online store at TPT. If you are interested in utilizing our products or any of the other countless resources there, I wanted to let you know that on August 1 & 2, TPT and we are throwing a back to school sale. We know how important it is to save your $. While I am careful not to commercialize this blog, I wanted to share this opportunity with you.

Best Wishes for THE BEST YEAR EVER.


Surviving to Thriving LjL is throwing a SALE!! August 1st and 2nd, our entire TPT Store is on sale.  Stock up on all your back to school needs now while they are on sale!! Don’t forget to use the code “BESTYEAR” to get 28% off your purchases!


Visit our Store or our Blog to read about our products.


Using Literature to Appreciate Diversity in the Classroom During the First Days of School

July 25, 2016

Providing a safe and welcoming classroom is vital to building relationships and community in the classroom. Getting to know students, celebrating who they are and where they come from, and providing needed social and academic supports are essential to student growth and achievement. Our students come from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds. It is up to educators to get to know and understand students and give our students opportunities to get to know and appreciate each other.

During the first days of school, master teachers focus on building a classroom community. An effective way to do this is to use literature. Two of my favorite books  focus on diversity, inclusion, and building relationships of respect. These books can easily begin conversations around getting to know and appreciating classmates, building classroom community, stopping bullying and getting to know each other as unique individuals.

I have used this book, The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane DeRolf, with my pre-service teachers for several years. (Click here for a review.) I still love it. crayon box


An excellent companion text was recommended by a colleague, The Color of Us by Karen Katz. (Click here for a review.)

color of us

Consider using these as you plan for the first days of school.


If you are interested there are lesson plans created by Surviving to Thriving LjL available at Teachers Pay Teachers.



10 Things Every Teacher Should Do This Summer

July 6, 2016

It’s July 6. The fireworks are (mostly) over and it’s time to take on the remaining summer. In a time when we hear of teacher shortages and more educators leaving the profession because of stress, burn-out, unrealistic expectations, or a loss of the passion for teaching, what do we do to rekindle our energy and prepare for coming school year? TAKE TIME FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. Master teachers give so much of themselves to their students, their colleagues, and their school communities. During the next few weeks its time to give to yourself, your family, and your friends.

Checklist for Summer – Personal

  1. Make appointments for yearly exams—medical, dental, vision
  2. Organize personal living space: closets, garage, basement, kitchen, storage areas
  3. Set dates to reconnect with family and friends
  4. Make a plan for exercise—consider golfing with buddy, walking with a friend, taking yoga classes on your own, or working with a personal trainer
  5. Make a plan for nutrition—visit a local farmer’s market, take a cooking class, or just try some new recipes
  6. Check out local resources in the community—library, museums, organizations, new restaurants and shops, athletic facilities, nature centers, parks
  7. Treat yourself to a manicure, pedicure,  and/or massage
  8. Lunch at a new restaurant or take an evening cruise with friends
  9. Join a book club—check out the library or local bookstores for clubs in your area
  10. Plan a vacation—whether it is two days or two weeks, plan time to get away

From Surviving to Thriving: Mastering the Art of  the Elementary Classroom

I’m on my way to the gym! Enjoy the summer and rekindle your spirit.



We Love Bookmarks!

June 14, 2016

Thanks for the great ideas and free product!

Surviving to Thriving LjL

We love bookmarks. Students love bookmarks.  And so, in many of our products, we include bookmarks.  We even offerIvan Bookmarks free bookmarks to teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers.

7 Ways to Use Bookmarks

  1. Form pairs, trios, and/or quads. Distribute the number of different bookmarks equal to the number of pairs, trios, or quads you want to form. For example, to form quads, reproduce four copies of each individual bookmark. Distribute bookmarks and direct students to form a group of four by finding three other students who have the same bookmark they have.
  2. Use as a writing prompt. Distribute bookmarks. Direct students to read and ponder the quotes. Next, ask students to write a short reflection on what the quotes means to them. Invite students to share their reflections with an elbow partner.
  3. Investigate the speaker. Use the bookmarks to form student trios. Direct trios to read and ponder the quotes…

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Teacher Appreciation Week

May 2, 2016

NTD-2013-FB-profile-3.jpgI hope you are all as fortunate as I am, and that you are able to look back on your years in school and remember a teacher or teachers who made a difference in your life. If you can do that…..then let them know. During national teacher appreciation week, send a teacher a note, an email, or Facebook message and let them know that they are important to who you are today. Good teachers are invested in the success of their students. And while we say we “touch the future” we often are not quite sure of that. Take time this week to let them know. Thank a teacher!

Presidential Proclamation — National Teacher Appreciation Day and National Teacher Appreciation Week, 2016

Just as we know a student’s circumstances do not dictate his or her potential, we know that having an effective teacher is the most important in-school factor for student success……

Our future is written in schools across our country. It is likely that the first person who will go to Mars is in a classroom today. Our students are our future teachers, scientists, politicians, public servants, and parents — a generation that will steer the course we will take as a people and make possible things we have not even imagined yet. We look to the women and men standing in front of classrooms in all corners of our country — from cities to reservations to rural towns — to vest America’s daughters and sons with the hard skills they will need to put their dreams within reach and to inspire them to dream even bigger. On National Teacher Appreciation Day and during National Teacher Appreciation Week, let us ensure our educators know how much we value their service in the classroom, how much we appreciate all they do for our students and families, and how thankful we are for their contributions to our national progress.


April 22 – Earth Day

April 19, 2016

April 22 is Earth Day.  I’m hoping we are teaching environmental awareness throughout the year. If you plan to touch on Earth Day in the coming days, below are some awesome resources for you and your students.

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