Planning, Planning


At this time of year we more or less know what groups we’ll teach next year. I’ll still teach my two business classes as well as a group of 10th graders (the first year of high school in France) and one group of 12th graders.

While I am supervising exams I am also trying to plan a few units for that group. Their textbook is a bit old-fashioned so I need to read other books, visit websites and collect ideas for next year.

Here is what I have come up with so far:

– One unit on recent black history through articles, memoirs and an NPR recording. I have chosen to focus on the following issues. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, The Little Rock Nine, the painting The problem we all live with by Norman Rockwell and Rosa Parks. Maybe we’ll read an extract fom The Help.

– A few stories taken from True Tales of American Life. The selection is divided into various sections – animals, objects, families, slapstick, strangers, war, love, death, dreams and meditation. The idea is to get the student to read a couple of stories from the object section and then to get them to write their own about an object that is dear to them.

– An episode from The Wire, season four, an article about the series and one blog post by Rabbi Fink

I’d also like to work on the Jews who emigrated to the USA after WW2 through personal stories and/or fiction. Can anyone recommend books I could read and where I could find excerpts to share with my students?

Jewish Thinkers



As you may remember if you are a regular reader of this blog, I am a fan of Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and have read most of his books. I have particularly enjoyed the first two volumes of A Code of Jewish Ethics. Two authors that have also inspired me are Blu Greenberg and Eliezer Berkovits.

Yet, in the past few months I have not read anything that could compare to these authors. I am considering getting Torah Umadda by Norman Lamm which has just been reprinted for the 20th anniversary of the first edition (with an afterword by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks) and was wondering whether any of you had read it. More generally I would love to know what Jewish thinkers and writers inspire you the most.

Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm and Torah U’Madda, a post by Harry Maryles

Torah Umadda Is Better Than Ever, a review by Rabbi Gil Student

Fishing for Ideas


A former student of mine, now aged 26, is leaving for the US soon. She just got a two-year contract and is going to Norfolk to work for Nato. She certainly is a bright young woman and reading her essays, when she was younger, was always a pleasure. I remember that I once photocopied a piece of work on an American painting since I found it so good.

Her parents are my colleagues and I have been invited, along with another English teacher, to a little farewell party on Thursday.

Therefore I am looking for ideas of something to give her she could take with her. I was thinking that a book that would be set in Virginia would be a fine idea but really can’t think of one.

Any suggestion anyone?

Latest Musings


– I am very busy again. Our school is being audited this week and I have been asked to participate in two informal talks: one about the projects we have (because of the exchange we have had with a Swedish high school for 11 years) and one because I am on the school board.
Unfortunately two other meetings had been planned prior to the audit – a parents’ evening and a school board meeting. They have neither been cancelled not postponed, which means going back to the school every evening of the week, except Fridays.

– The parents’ evening was last night. I saw just over half of my students’ parents (only one class was concerned,) which is not too bad for a language teacher. French and maths teachers are the stars. Parents often seem surprised at hearing how accurate our perception of their children are. Do they think we only see the grades and not the personality behind the results?

My trainee will be unofficially inspected next Tuesday and I am beginning to feel the pressure too. The “real” thing will take place in May once she is supposed to have learned the trade.

– I ordered and received Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn by Ayala Fader. I hope to read it soon and write a review on this blog.

– How is your week?

After Work Thursday Musings – Updated


– The new cooktop will only be fitted next Tuesday. I now need to find Shabbat recipes that can be done in the oven or the microwave. It’ll probably be a fish dish.

– So much for discipline; I started What I Talk About When I Talk About Running but find it very tedious. I have no time for boring books so I think I’ll switch to something else.

– A colleague lent me The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Although people have mixed feelings about this book, I think I’ll give it a go.

– I can also read The New Book of Israeli Food by Janna Gur which I received this week. I will tick the recipes which inspire me and start once the cooktop is fixed. The photos are stunning and since I love cookbooks this should be fun.

– Last night, on the wonderful French Jewish website Akadem (a non-denominational digtal campus), I heard a fasinating lecture about the divide between secular and religious Jews in Israel. The lecture was given by Marius Schattner a Franco-Israeli journalist who wrote a book on the subject. A secular Jew himself, he started by explaining that he had undertaken this task after his daughter became ultra-Orthodox. The lecture was very nuanced and made me want to buy his book.

– I definitely needed new glasses. So I went to the optician last week, chose them, underwent a number of tests and will eventually get them tomorrow. They’re my first pair with progressive bifocal lenses so wish me luck.

Thursday Musings


– After reading a review of Day After Night by Phyllis I have decided to order the book. I have also just realized that Jewwishes reviewed it too last month.

– I got an email about Buy Nothing Day (which is scheduled to occur on a Saturday) as some French teachers seem to think it is great to teach our students about this (and why not). Interestingly enough though nobody on their site seems to realize that Judaism invented a weekly version about three thousand years ago and that millions of us still observe it today.

– As the head of the English Department in my school (a task which is not paid in this country), I wonder how I can communicate efficiently with my younger colleagues. Indeed they are aware that I send them emails but don’t seem to actually read them. They then ask me what I wrote and what they are supposed to do about a particular situation – our language assitant’s schedule being the latest example.

– Our language assistant, Abigail, has just arrived. She is from Southern England but studies French and English at Leeds University. She seems keen and friendly which will be a great asset for our students. It will also be nice for us teachers to have her around. Last year our assitant never turned up and never even told us she didn’t want the post. I only found out when I found her phone number (thanks to the Internet) and got in touch directly.

– Abigail didn’t take A levels, like most of her British peers, but took the International Baccalaureate instead. In addition to being tested in 6 subjects (one of which has to be a foreign language), a candidate must fulfill three “core requirements: Extended Esssay (something like or Project Work), Theory of Knowledge and CAS (Creativity, Action and Service). As an educator I like the idea of a rounded education based on both formal and more flexible learning and teaching.

Is this the kind of education you would have liked to have or something you would like for your children? Are you happy with what you were taught or what your kids learn?

Thursday (Quick) Musings


– I am currently reading Beyond Survival by Shimon Apisdorf with a view to preparing for Rosh Hashanah. It is a useful ressource but I am reading it slowly because I spend a lot of time working for school at the moment.

– Claude Lanzman, the French filmmaker who made the film Shoah, recently published his memoirs. A colleague has just lent me the book and I hope to start reading it soon.

– My brother went back to Honk Kong last Sunday but his wife and daughters are still in France. I saw them again yesterday. My two-year old niece loves looking at photos and books. She is such a lively and cheerful little girl. that it is always a pleasure to see her.

– Last but not least: I am meeting my first class today, three hours in a row. Wish me luck!