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September 18, 2014

The Sounds of Learning

by Dr. Eliezer Jones

If Simon and Garfunkel were hanging around VTHS this week they may have changed their despondent 60’s anthem to the “sounds of learning” from….well if you don’t know what song I am talking about this reference was clearly a mistake. Unfortunately, Simon and Garfunkel were not with us and so the students only had the sweet jams that Rabbi Samuels and I (ok, really just Rabbi Samuels) were making from my office during breaks.

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However, it was these sounds of learning that have started to resonate throughout the school.

This was the third week of school and things were moving and shaking. Students were getting into their groove, the add/drop period ended and it seemed like there was a certain electricity and excitement for this wonderful year. For me though, this seemed like the noisiest week. I don’t mean that the students were running through the halls yelling and I am not referring to the howling that was coming from the new VTHS improv troupe as they warmed up for class. I am talking about the noise you have to take a step back to truly notice because it is a purposeful noise. It is the noise of learning and something I have been paying attention to this week. Here were some examples.

The sound of VTHS


Each day we start our VTHS day with Tefilla. It is a sound to savor. It is silent when respectful quiet is warranted and filled with the boom of unified Amens, Shema and words of psalms when needed. I can’t think of a better way to start my day than Davening at VTHS.


My office wall


Ok. This is not really the sounds of learning, but I can assure you when I finally got this quote up on my wall I heard the sound of a choir of angels go “Hawwwwwwwwwww.” This was no easy task. It involved masking tape, razors and a hair dryer. If you are not sure why that quote is on my wall you can read my post from a previous week by clicking here. As I was putting it up, I overheard a couple of students talking about it. One asked the other, “what is that?” Then the other one said, “Come on! Dr. Jones has said that like ten times!” Glad someone is listening.

The sound of CIJE-Tech

I had walked into Mr. Joseph’s science lab to ask him a question which was at the end of our CIJE-Tech elective. While I intended to go straight to Mr. Joseph I was immediately struck by what I saw on the lab table. It was a cardboard robotic arm! If you know anything about me, you should know that when I see something made out of cardboard I go nuts! Mr. Zisblatt was kind enough to show me how it works and the video above is exactly that. I did take some liberties with the sound effects. However, while the sound effects were loud, the creativity here was deafening. It may seem like a simple cardboard construction, but if you look at it closely you can see some real detail to the design. Bravo!

The sound of history

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I began doing classroom observations this week and my first one was of a history class taught by the wonderful Mr. Safi. I chose him because I wanted to know what all the hype was about as students seem to rave about him. Well, I was not disappointed. It was not that the classroom was silent by any means. In fact, there was a lot going on. The students happened to be working on preparing for an exam, but they were asking questions, helping each other out and Mr. Safi was managing multiple discussions and questions from different students with ease. There was a buzz in the class, which at first glance may have sounded disruptive. However, if you paid attention, as I did, the noise were discussions and work related to the class at the various levels the students were at. It was music to my ears.


The sounds of silence

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I had walked into Mr. Hoffman’s AP English Language class to give him a message when I suddenly realized I walked into something special. There was no classroom buzz per se. In fact, it was pretty quiet except for one student speaking. However, the words that were coming out of his mouth were anything but quiet. They had feeling, depth and meaning. The class was engaged in a discussion about the scarlet letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The student was telling Mr. Hoffman what he felt Hester Prynne was conflicted about  in the story and the critical thinking displayed by this student was like listening to a symphony. Then another student jumped in giving over his thoughts and there was an intellectual exchange in the room between Mr. Hoffman and the students that was palpable. The room was far from noisy and the students who were not speaking were quiet. Yet, the silence in the room was loud as was the learning.

I am looking forward for the school to get louder and louder with the noise of learning!

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