Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Three Reasons Why This is One of the Best Years Ever

The 2020-2021 school year, which we approached with a lot of uncertainty and a degree of trepidation, has so far proven to be one of the best years ever. Parents and teachers alike have said numerous times that there's something special about this year. While we truly missed helping the children prepare food to share with their families at our annual Thanksgiving feast, and we've missed gathering as a whole school every week for Shabbat, there have been benefits to this school year that few of us were expecting.
We've slowed down.
Ask any teacher what they wish for most and I guarantee the majority will answer "time." Teachers never have enough time. 

This year, because we're cohorting, the same two teachers stay with the same small group of children all day long. In a more typical year, a child who is in school from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm might engage with ten different teachers and 20 different children in three different classroom spaces. Thanks to cohorting, the classes this year are more cohesive, and there are hours more opportunities every single day for the teachers and children to learn together. There are far fewer transitions during the day which creates a calmer atmosphere and allows everyone the time to really focus on the tasks at hand. Classes eat when they're hungry and nap when they're tired. Routines are more natural. Everyone feels at home.

We play outside all the time.
All. The. Time.

You might find us planting a garden. Or swinging from the "climbing tree." Or exploring the "fairy garden" behind the parking lot or the "field" by the rabbi's house or the "woods" across the street. Classes take walks around the block, even when it's pouring rain, and jump in every puddle they find. They identify letters and numbers on license plates. They wave at firefighters driving down the street. They look for butterflies and bees in our neighbor's natural habitat garden. The go swimming in giant piles of leaves and find bugs in the dirt and poke at funny looking fungi that grow out of tree stumps. All the while their bodies and minds are being challenged by these experiences. They're growing and learning in ways they simply can't inside a building.

These spaces and these opportunities were always there, but it wasn't until we were compelled by necessity to spend more time outside that we realized what we'd been missing out on all along.

Our community has grown stronger.
There is a palpable element of trust and respect between the families and the school this year. The parents are grateful that we've reopened, and the teachers are grateful to be back at work. The children are grateful to be with their friends. We've all taken our commitment to each other's health and safety very seriously. Our communication is open, honest, and frequent. We know how lucky we are because not all schools have re-opened and not all school re-openings have been so successful. We know it is not a cliche to say that we're all in this b'yachad, together. 

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