Friday, September 30, 2016

B'tzelem Elohim and Developmentally Appropriate Practice

B’tzelem Elohim is a Jewish value that means we are all created in the image of God. To me, this means that if God is unique, then every human soul is unique; if God is holy, then every human soul is holy; if God is to be celebrated, then every human soul is to be celebrated.

In teaching, remembering and practicing B’tzelem Elohim is essential. Every child is unique, holy, and to be celebrated. Every child comes to school with their own likes and dislikes, beliefs and opinions, quirky habits, family situation, physical traits, and stories to tell. As educators, it is our job to get to know each child, figure out where they are in their growth and development, and then help them move forward along their path.

In early childhood education, there is a name for this approach: developmentally appropriate practice, or DAP. DAP is not easily defined in a few short sentences. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) position statement on developmentally appropriate practice says, in part:
  • “Developmentally appropriate practice requires both meeting children where they are—which means that teachers must get to know them well—and enabling them to reach goals that are both challenging and achievable. 
  • All teaching practices should be appropriate to children’s age and developmental status, attuned to them as unique individuals, and responsive to the social and cultural contexts in which they live.
  • Developmentally appropriate practice does not mean making things easier for children. Rather, it means ensuring that goals and experiences are suited to their learning and development and challenging enough to promote their progress and interest.”
By teaching children in ways that are developmentally appropriate, we are practicing B’tzelem Elohim. When we infuse best practices in education with Jewish values, our teaching takes on new meaning. I genuinely believe that teaching children – of all ages – in a developmentally appropriate way is something of a sacred responsibility, especially when you think of DAP in relation to B’tzelem Elohim. Thank you for granting me the privilege of working with this community’s children and enabling me to practicing this value.

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