The Hebrew common greeting on Rosh Hashanah is Shanah Tovah (pronounced [ʃaˈna toˈva]), which translated from Hebrew means “[have] a good year”. Often Shanah Tovah Umetukah, meaning “A Good and Sweet Year”, is used. But wishing people Shana Tova, and meaning it, is complicated. If we sincerely wish doctors a good year, does that mean that they will have more patients with flu and other ailments? For lawyers, more law suits? For auto mechanics, more cars with problems to diagnose and fix? And so, does a sweet and good year for one person have negative implications for another? Certainly, everyone must earn a living. And yet…
As we wish everyone a happy new year, using the traditional Jewish greeting Shanah Tovah – a good year – we might pause to reflect what that means for a teacher. Wishing teachers a good sweet year is a win/win situation for everyone: teachers, students, parents, administrators, and the larger community. Most teachers consider a good year as a productive, successful one for their students. They begin each new school year with two months of summer planning time: reading new resource guides, planning lessons, taking graduate courses and attending workshops to help them imagine infinite possibilities.
A good year for teachers is helping all students develop their identities as readers, writers, and learners. They hope their students will learn to reflect on process as well as product. A good year means that students have ownership and believe that their voices are heard and can make a difference. A good year means our students take charge of their learning, make wise choices, and take responsible risks. In this way, our students are energized and empowered at the same time.
We help students find new mentors in students, authors, and people in their everyday lives. We want them to know when they are ready to take on a new mentor and when they are ready to be a mentor for another classmate. The learning community is goal-oriented. Learners set their own personal goals (sometimes with the guidance of the teacher). We learn to share our beliefs and values and at the same time, let other people’s thinking in. Our classroom hums with wonderful conversations instead of Q & A sessions. A good year for teachers means everyone in our classrooms has a place and is valued.
Shanah Tovah – a good sweet year to all teachers!