Friday, June 16, 2017

Shabbat Around the Table -- Shelach

In parsha Shelach, Moses sends the twelve spies into the land of Israel to do a reconnaissance mission. They come back talking about a land flowing with milk and honey, but also inhabitants the size of giants. The scouts had felt like grasshoppers in their presence. Upon hearing this report, the Israelites are terrified.

I imagine that some of our students entering kindergarten next year might feel like grasshoppers when they walk through the doors of a school much bigger than the one they've just left. 

It's hard to do something for the first time. And going to kindergarten -- all by yourself, without mommy or daddy or a caregiver to walk you to your classroom door -- is a big first. But it's also one you'll never forget. 

I hope that your child's first day of kindergarten, whether it'll be this September or a fews years from now, is beautiful and meaningful. Your child might go in feeling like a tiny little grasshopper, but on the way out, full of pride and accomplishment, they'll feel like a giant.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Looking Back on a Wonderful First Year

It’s hard for me to believe that my first year as preschool director is coming to an end. It was right around this time last year that I started thinking seriously about applying for the job, and I have Mirza Lopez to thank for planting that seed of an idea in my mind.

I’d been part of the small working group that initially met about twelve years ago to imagine what a preschool at Agudas Achim could look like, and I’d been watching the preschool grow since then. I’d even spent the spring of 2008 subbing for one of the pre-K teachers on maternity leave. But I hadn’t thought seriously about returning to the preschool until Mirza started whispering in my ear.

If you know Mirza you know I mean that literally. At first she asked me if I knew anyone for the job. I thought about it but told her that, unfortunately, no, I didn’t. Then she leaned in, and with a glimmer in her eye she asked, “How about you?” I was surprised at the suggestion. At that point in my career I hadn’t imagined going back to preschool. I laughed a little and gave Mirza a hard no. That just encouraged her.

At virtually every Shabbat kiddush for two months she would approach me with a big smile on her face, give me a hug, and tell me why I should consider the director position. Her arguments were (obviously) quite convincing. She can be tenacious when she has an idea, and that’s part of what’s made her such an effective executive director.

Mirza has been right about everything. The professionalism and collegiality here at the synagogue have sustained and encouraged me. I am blessed to have a dedicated staff of teachers. I adore the families and feel privileged to have watched close to 85 children grow tremendously in mind, body, and spirit over the past ten months.

I’ve been able to bring change to the preschool in ways big and small, and I have Mirza to thank for that as well. Every request of mine leads to a discussion about resources and impact, but every discussion inevitably ends with Mirza saying: “This is why we’re here. This is what we do. This is why we have a synagogue and a preschool and a religious school. We are here to educate the next generation of Jews. Otherwise, nothing we do matters.” Mirza has been a passionate advocate for the education of this community’s children in ways that many people will never fully realize.

Mirza, thank you for your doggedness and for whispering in my ear for months and for not listening to me when I said no. Thank you for mentoring me and guiding me as I learned the ways of the synagogue (from the inside). Thank you for believing in what I do and knowing the education of young children matters. Thank you for your passionate love of our school. Thank you for your dedication, your years of service, and your friendship. We will all miss you.

Outdoor Magic

Early childhood educators have long known the   benefits of outdoor play . To name but a few, outdoor play improves physical and mental heal...