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All the Rest Is Commentary: Getting Schooled by a Day Schooler


Today I got schooled–by a fifth grader.

A fifth grader.

You see, I’m parked at edJEWcon in Jacksonville, Florida, and I’m feeling more than a little woozy–and not just because I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning or that it’s the end of a very intense, workshop-heavy day. My wooziness owes itself chiefly to a child named Rebecca… who spoke to me, and a sizable number of JDS professionals, of her lucid, reasonable, and ethically minded philosophy on blog commentary.

Rebecca knows things about blogging etiquette some people three and four times and five times her age don’t know.

How does she manage this?

I suspect that Rebecca’s self-assured understanding has something to do with her teacher Silvia Tolisano’s blog-comment checklist, which Rebecca handed out to us. Maybe it’s what happens with all the digital natives here at the Martin J. Gottlieb Jewish Day School (in fact, all the kids who presented today were vastly poised and capable, though none really blew my mind the way she did). In truth, I don’t exactly know.

At first, when I thought of Rebecca, I wanted to say to my fellow edJEWconversationalists: “You should hire this girl!”

Then I decided that I should stop being the social media manager of PEJE and start  teaching  fifth graders

Finally, I understood that the main thing was to learn from the experience. This preternaturally wise kid demonstrated to me that know I can–I must–do a better job teaching JDS people how to socialize.

So,  in the spirit of Rebecca’s amazing presentation, three tips (please follow them, OK):

1. Stop lurking. When you read a good blog post, when you have an authentic response to a piece on online content, take the time to respond in the comments section. As Rebecca suggested: you make bloggers feel good about their work by responding to it in public. That why we call it social media.

2. Be thoughtful. Don’t just write a comment for comment’s sake. Make your words count. Address what’s being said by the blogger. Rebecca detailed for us the multi-paragraph approach she takes in her responses–and talked about including details and being fair and even-toned when you do raise a criticism.

3. Avoid errors. Proofread your stuff to within an inch of its life. Rebecca suggested reading  her stuff aloud, which isn’t a revolutionary way to perform quality assurance, but it sounded, coming from a fifth grader, impressively serious.

In short: Take it easy, and allow yourself to be schooled by Rebecca. It’s not a bad thing, and it’ll improve your social media life.



26 thoughts on “All the Rest Is Commentary: Getting Schooled by a Day Schooler

  1. Jill Goldenberg

    Thank you to Rebecca and to my colleague, Ken, for encouraging me to come out of the lurker’s shadows and comment. Although I know that the substance of certain blog posts helps me, this post made me realize that I can’t keep such knowledge to myself, and need to share more.

    1. Ken Gordon Post author

      Thanks to my colleague, Jill, for jumping into the conversation. I’m very glad that Rebecca did such a great job yesterday–and that I was here in Jacksonville to benefit from her wisdom. Jill: maybe next edJEWcon you can do a session on how endowment building can help pay for 21st century education. –K.

  2. Shira Leibowitz

    Hi Ken,
    Perhaps what Jewish day schools are best at is combining our eternal, enduring Jewish values with our contemporary approaches to creative collaboration and engagement. It sounds as though Rebecca has absorbed the ancient tradition of “sharpening the saw” through reflective conversation around topics that matter; texts, ideas, and values. Thank you for sharing her wisdom and insight!

    1. Ken Gordon Post author

      Rebecca is indeed a very sharp kid, Shira. And she understands the boundaries and nuances of social life very well. I wonder what she’ll be writing as a teenager, as a grownup. I hope she continues to serve as a model to all of us in the Jewish Ed world and to keep engaging, in a fully human way, when others speak. –K.

  3. Jon Mitzmacher

    Watching our students “Speed Geek” yesterday as part of the opening sessions of edJEWcon was something this head of school shed much naches at! Rebecca, and the rest, did a great job, to be sure. I’d like to think any of our Fourth & Fifth Graders could have done just as well as the five we had here yesterday. Credit goes not just to our 21st century learning team, but perhaps equally or more to our teachers – Rebecca learned what she learned NOT in “Technology” class, but by simply being a 5th grader. That’s our vision of 21st century learning in action…

  4. Sarah Blattner

    It was a delight to learn with this young blogger. I wonder if she is available for conferences? LOL

    But seriously, the metalearning that was evident from Rebecca’s reflections on her process for posting thoughtful blog comments and why she is invested in doing so epitomizes what modern learning is all about. She wants to share, reflect and be generous with her comments. She understands the rewarding nature of “paying forward” comments. She also is savvy enough to know that posting on just any blog is not the thing to do, as she is mindful of her online safety and digital footprint.

    And Jill, keep sharing! It helps us all evolve:)

    1. Ken Gordon Post author

      I too was impressed with her understanding of online safety and creating a digital footprint–and social karma. We always get as good as we give, no? It seems, from the evidence, that this is a superb side effect of 21st century learning. And Jill: she’s right! Share away! –KG

  5. Rebecca B

    Dear Mr. Gordon,

    Thank you so much for this post about what you learned from me. I loved and enjoyed how you and some others already started a conversation about it. I can really tell that you learned about how to make quality comments because I have read the conversation that has already been started, and noticed that you and the other commenters did a wonderful job at commenting! All of the kids in my class also do a wonderful job at commenting thanks to our talented teachers. Thanks for your feedback!

    Rebecca : )

    1. Ken Gordon Post author

      You did an outstanding job, Rebecca. It seems like you have a great future ahead of you–online and offline! Keep us posted!

  6. Yechiel Hoffman

    I wonder what other opportunities we can intentionally create to get “schooled” by our students. Showing our youth that we want to learn from them models a great stance towards lifelong learning and empowers them to want to learn more.

    1. Ken Gordon Post author

      I’m sitting next to the great Penina Warburg–of RealSchool fame–about this. I’ll ask her what she has in mind…

  7. Charles


    Love the exhortation to lurkers – come out and play, folks!

    My question is how to make our blog posts more comment-friendly. What can we share that will spark conversations, and allow us to learn from each other?

  8. Sarah Burns

    Ken, thanks for sharing this inspiring story. I found it inspiring as an educator to read about a young person having such an impact demonstrating something she’s learned in such a real and impactful way. As Yechiel Hoffman states, let’s create more opportunities for our students to do that!

    That also means that we need to be mindful of teaching things that are worthy of bringing out of the classroom and into the larger world outside. And that means that young people need scaffolded experiences interacting with that larger world, guided by teachers who can help them make connections to what they learn in the classroom and what they can do with it. How do all of you out there support that mentality in your schools and classrooms?

    Jon Mitzmacher, I’m so impressed by your comment that Rebecca knows what she knows what she knows not from “technology” class, but from being a 5th grader. You’re doing some awesome work in your school!

    1. Ken Gordon Post author

      You know what’s great about your comment, Sarah? That you placed it within the context of our learning community. It’s not just between you and the post, or you me, or you and Rebecca–but between all of us, and all we share–including our connections to Yechiel and Jon. I would love to see everyone emulate your webbed response–and for every post to grow out in many interesting and unusual directions. Awesome stuff! –KG

  9. Rhonda Rosenheck

    Ken or Jon, how can I get or see a copy of the digital citizen rules Rebecca shared? Sorry to miss the conference! Hope to be present next year! Rhonda

    1. Ken Gordon Post author

      Hi, Rhonda: I’m not sure where to find it, but I’ll bet if you tweet your request to @langwitches, you’ll get what you seek. Cheers, K.

  10. Stanton Bubis


    You have worked hard and mastered the skills required to become an accomplished blogger. We have taken pleasure in how you learned from your teacher and proceeded to create more detailed and expressive blogs.

    Pop Pop Stan enjoys reading your blogs and seeing how your blogging talents have developed. I have learned from you how to make my blog posts better with comments from not only my mind, but also my heart.

    Learning how to communicate and share your thoughts is so important. Your school and teacher have done a wonderful job teaching you a skill that allows you to connect with so many others learning together.

    All our LOVE.

    Bubby Ileene, Pop Pop Stan and Aunt Debbie

    1. Ken Gordon Post author

      Dear Stan: As far as I know, this is the first time we’ve had inter-generational commentary on the PEJE Blog! An exciting event. We’re thrilled to have you here and are still kvelling over the great work Rebecca did at edJEWcon. It’s a fine day–a fine time–for using technology to connect people. Best regards, Ken Gordon

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