As we began the school year, it was also a time of reflection and stock-taking for the Early Childhood Department. We looked at our classrooms and tried to assess in what ways they might be improved as the new school year commenced. We focused on making changes, both to our physical spaces and to the ways in which we engaged your children. Some changes are external and easily apparent- numbered classroom doors, cleaner and more spacious hallways; classrooms with more intentionally defined learning centers; a greater focus on creating a print-rich environment in the classroom; improved sensory experiences (sand tables, easels, new furniture) in many classrooms, etc. Other changes are more subtle- the in-service learning opportunities the days of closure provided staff; the community-building as we embarked on the school year with many new teaching teams and a new director.
As Jewish tradition teaches, while individual soul-searching is very important, reflecting in and with community is both enriching and ultimately necessary. We learned new ways to communicate with each other and with your children, as we learned about some of the latest research in children’s brain development. We can help children begin to develop self-regulation and manage their “big feelings” through the practice of Conscious Discipline. You may hear them talk about S.T.A.R. (Smile, take a deep breath, and relax), or blowing a pinwheel, or perhaps using the quiet space we have created in each classroom. As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we recognize that all of us, children and adults alike, can benefit from the transformative power of reflection and change. We are given a wonderful opportunity to correct past practices and move forward and grow in new directions.
Lastly- Tzom Kal and G’mar Chatimah Tovah! (An easy fast and may you be sealed in the Book of Life for a Good Year!) for those observing Yom Kippur.
The following quotation is a short section from a longer Yom Kippur poem written at her synagogue by slam poet Sarah D. Lawrence. Regardless of what holiday one observes, in the challenging times in which we live, her words, inspired by the following quotation from writer James Baldwin, have a universality that might apply to anyone:
We have all had the experience of finding that our reactions and perhaps even our deeds have denied beliefs we thought were ours- James Baldwin
…No, this year, I don’t just want to just hold my beliefs
I want them to hold me too
The way an ocean holds a tide
The way High Holiday prayer books are held-
For some, the comfort of an old friend
For some, a new and scary path.
But my hope for us all is this
May the moments we have not spoken upNow be filled with our music
May the times we are soft be calcified
May we always find the words to say the things
That mean the most to us
And if we cannot find words
Let us find action
If we cannot find action, let us find learning.
Let us find for every crack
Discovered in our foundation
That we already possess the mortar
For a new beginning.
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