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Malkie Herson's Blog

Thoughts from Malkie Herson

Purim Invite

Dear Parents,

“Happiness breaks through our sense of limitations.”

- A Chassidic Saying

Purim is the most fun of all the Jewish holidays. Although its message is profound (as I attempted to describe in my last letter), the festivities surrounding the holiday are great fun: We dress in costume, eat lots of yummy sweets and surround ourselves with spirit.

As a community, we are celebrating with a party on March 10th at 5pm. We will be having a DRUM CIRCLE*, a festive MEAL and a MASQUERADE. We hope you will join us! For those of you who want to hear the Purim story in the original Hebrew, read from a “megillah” scroll, we will be reading it at 3:30pm.

Having a joyful disposition is a lifelong pursuit. It doesn’t come easy for most of us. While it may be relatively easy to feel pleasure, feeling joy is far more challenging. And being joyful is what really sustains us.

So how do we capture joy and make it our life view? I find that there are two components to accomplishing this:

1: I need to encourage myself to consistently see all the good that is around me, the good that I often take for granted.

2: When I feel the negative thoughts coming, I must find the strength to close down those ‘voices’ that threatens to take me down – to have “mind over matter” and to try to use my energies instead on finding solutions to the issues that are overwhelming me.

How we apply this message at Zimmer:

Throughout the day, we focus on the gifts we have. For example, before we eat snack and lunch, we take a moment to think about the fact that we are lucky to have yummy, healthy food we like, and parents who prepare it for us. (We make a blessing, too.) When we go outdoors we take the time to notice the incredible outdoor world we have. We talk about how fortunate we are that we have our friends, etc. This helps the children learn to notice the many gifts they have.

While we would not expect children of this age to quiet negative thoughts, they are able to have “mind over matter” with regard to other things, like if they want to shout/bite/hit/push/leave out another child. To help the children get used to the idea of making active choices, of having “mind over matter” we encourage the children to acknowledge what they are feeling, but then to STOP, to THINK, and to MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE.

Sincerely,

Malkie

DRUM TALES combines the fun and music of a traditional Drumming Circle with story-telling. Each participant is given a percussive instrument, and their own musical and percussive personality. As the story unfolds, the characters step into the spotlight of the plot in motion, the different musical and percussive innovations follow the characters. ‘Drum Tales Purim’ is set in ancient Persia, with Queen Esther, King Antiochus and Mordechai. Join us for this exciting tale of mystery, miracles, triumph and joy!

Mishloach Manot

Dear Parents:

Did you notice the royal palace as you came to school this morning? Walk inside and feel like a king or queen! The royal palace of Persia is the setting of the Purim Story, a story that took place 2,300 years ago...

HISTORICAL CONTEXT:

Megillat Esther, The Book of Esther (where this ancient story is transcribed) opens in the royal courts of the Persian Empire and the King Achashverosh (Xerxes). The Jewish people, having being exiled from the land of Israel to Persia (by way of Babylonia), were part of this empire. A beautiful Jewish woman by the name Esther was forced to join the king’s harem. As luck would have it – or Divine providence – she made a deep impression on the king, he fell in love with her and he asked her to marry him. Esther’s uncle, Rabbi Mordechai, told her not to reveal her Jewish identity to the king.

Enter the villain of the story, wicked Haman, the arrogant advisor to the king. Haman wanted to destroy the Jewish people and got the king’s permission to annihilate all the Jews. Rabbi Mordecai advised his niece Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous thing for Esther to do, because anyone who came into the king's presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned. Esther fasted for three days to prepare herself, then went into the king. He welcomed her. She told him of Haman's plot against her people. The Jewish people were saved, and Haman was hanged on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai*.

*This is not the way we tell the story to the children. Class newsletters will describe it further.

THE PURIM MESSAGE:

The Book of Esther is the only book of the Bible that does not contain the name nor any reference to G-d. It seems as if our victory was due to wonderful coincidences and ordinary good luck. But G-d often works in ways that are not apparent, in ways that appear to be chance. It is up to us to uncover that hidden-ness of the Divine/human relationship and acknowledge its place in our lives.

Taking this message to human relationships – friendships, even strangers – we share a world together and it is wonderful to take the time to acknowledge the connections we have with each other!

PURIM TODAY:

To commemorate the miracle and the message, Rabbi Mordechai established the Purim holiday. He asked that everyone should involve themselves in uncovering the hidden beauties all around them. We have a festive meal in celebration. We hear the story of Purim to gain context for this message. We give money to charity: Helping those who have less than us is our moral responsibility. And we give MISHLOACH MANOT, gifts of foods to our friends to celebrate our relationships.

‘MISHLOACH MANOT’ MESSAGE:

Purim reminds us that there is always a special relationship to celebrate! All we need to do is stop, think about it and tap into it. And that what Purim asks of us to d o. To stop and think about the people dear to us and show our appreciation. We give each other gifts of food to express our gratitude for the relationship.

Here at Zimmer Preschool we are a family. We share common goals and aspirations for our children and know the value in creating relationships.

This Purim come and be part of this beautiful Mishloach Manot Project!

Mishloach Manot is a food gift that we give to a friend to acknowledge our relationship.

This is a wonderful opportunity to foster our connections we have within the Zimmer School community.

We, at Zimmer, will facilitate the giving/getting of Mishloach Manot Food Gifts between our families.

Here’s how we will do it:

  • By Wednesday, February 25, we ask that each family write a short description about themselves to share with the family that they’re (randomly) matched with. This way we can get to know each other better.
  • On Friday, February 27, each family will be matched to another family to give a Mishloach Manot Food Gift.
  • You can assemble the Mishloach Manot Food Gift in our Mishloach Manot Gift room (upstairs at Zimmer) where there will be a large assortment of Purim treats and decorative packaging.
  • In addition to the food package, how about writing a note to ‘your’ family? You can take it home to do that or you can do it there. Paper and pens will be provided.
  • Over the next days – or at the Chabad Purim Party, Tuesday, March 10 at 5pm – please give ‘your’ family their gift.

So, to get this process going, please send in a write-up about your family. You can include the names and ages of your children, where you live, hobbies and interests of your family or anything else you would like to share.  

Please send your family's description by Wednesday, February 25.

If you have any questions, please speak with Morah Batsheva, who is coordinating this project, or to Morah Linda.

With wishes for rich and meaningful relationships!
Malkie

Dear Parents,

Thanks for the feedback from yesterday's e-mail.
Just to recap: Our objective is to strengthen the ties within the Zimmer community. In the spirit of the upcoming Purim holiday, we thought it would be nice to have a Mishloach Manot Gift Food exchange (all the goods provided by Zimmer). To facilitate this, we ask that each family share a short blurb about themselves by
Wednesday, February 25. Then, we will randomly pair families together - each making the Food Package for each other.

Some of you have asked for a sample of what a family description might look like. Here goes: “Hi, we are the John Doe family, made up of Mom, Dad, Jane, John, and our pet dog, Fido. Our grandparents live locally so we get to spend lots of time together. We love doing activities together, though sometimes life gets to busy to do it often enough. Mom loves to knit and play the piano, Dad loves skiing and would rather be outdoors any day, Jane has been excelling in ballet, and John is part of the band at school. Recently, he just got to participate in a big parade in Anytown, NJ.  We have been part of the Zimmer (or Chabad) family for… and we are curious to see who we are "matched up with." We look forward to strengthening a relationship and getting to know more about you! Happy Purim.

hearing emotions

Dear Parents:

I just spent a wonderful all-female weekend with 2,500 (!!) of my Chabad colleagues. As you may know, the goal of Chabad globally is to create havens to support each person’s journey towards a life of fulfillment. Although all 2,500 of us share this goal we each express it in the unique way that matches the particular needs and contexts of each of our respective communities.

Here in Somerset County, NJ, one of the many ways this goal takes form is in our preschool. If I had to condense our overarching goal of preschool into a single sentence it would be to encourage our children to value their thoughts and feelings and to use them to make active choices that will allow them to lead a fulfilling life. (Of course, imbuing children with knowledge of their world and guiding their skills-acquisition flows seamlessly from this attitude.)

Dr. Haim Ginott writes that an indicator of a quality teacher is one who “helps children recognize and respect their inner feelings. Above all, he is cautious not to confuse children about how they feel.”

Wow! “Above all, he is cautious not to confuse children about how they feel.” What does that mean? So often, when our children share with us their emotions – for example: I am angry! Or, I am scared – we come back with “You have nothing to be angry about,” or, “There is nothing to be afraid of.” Instead of helping the child work through his/her feelings, this attitude forces the child to stifle his/her emotion, filling him/her with confusion.

When a child is told, "There is nothing to be afraid of," his or her fear increases. Dr. Haim Ginott describes it this way: “The child gets thrice frightened: In addition to his original fear (1), he is now afraid to be afraid (2), and fearful that he will not be able to hide his fright (3). Fear does not vanish when banished. It does not disappear when its existence is not recognized. When a child is afraid, it is best to acknowledge his fear openly and with respect.”

This attitude applies to all emotions. How does a bashful child feel when she or he is advised, “don’t be shy,” or a child in pain is told, “there is nothing to cry about” or a child with a problem, “everyone has such problems,” or “there is nothing to worry about”?

Rather than deny their emotions we must encourage the child to explore them. Then – only then – can the child control it.

The other day I overheard a child say to his teacher, “But I want it now!” The child desperately wanted the toy that another child was using. He was old enough to understand that he must wait his turn; this “whine” was more about his not getting his desire immediately satiated. The teacher smiled at him, acknowledging his desire and said, “I do understand how much you want the toy. It is a fun toy to play with. Do you think you can hold on to that feeling for a little while? Do you think you can save it for a bit until your friend is finished playing with it?” The child gave the teacher the widest, brightest smile. “Yes!” he responded, “I think I can!”

When a child is sad/scared/angry/jealous or happy/proud/bubbly, we get right there with them. We allow the child to taste his or her feeling. Otherwise we risk turning our children into people who don’t really understand their own emotions. When children share their emotions with us, we thank the child for sharing, we rephrase their words so that the child sees that we understand what she or he said, and then we help them work through it. Not with quick fix responses, but by gently encouraging the child to find a solution. “That must really hurt. What do you think you can do about it?”

I have seen this work countless times!

With respect,

Malkie

Please Note: 

·         I have been approached by some moms requesting a group in which we explore PARENTING AND EDUCATION together. I would love to put such a group together. If you want to be part of this, please send me an e-mail at mherson@aol.com. Based on the feedback, we will choose a date and time.

·         Thanks to all who are contributing to our RECYCLING AREA. We continue to request these 6 items: Corks, bottle/container caps and lids, plastic bottles, specialty papers, tubes and rolls, egg cartons.

·         ENROLLMENT for camp, preschool and kindergarten is open. Please contact Linda at linda@chabadcentral.org with any questions.

·         Every Tuesday morning, Chabad offers a TORAH CLASS FOR WOMEN. It is led by my husband, Rabbi Mendy. The group is studying the Book of Genesis, with a look at its practical and relevant lessons. Everyone is invited.

Tu B'Shvat

Dear Parents,

The Jewish calendar is sprinkled with special days, each with its own message of self-betterment and personal growth.

The Tu B'Shvat holiday, the New Year for Trees, occurs on the 15th day of the month of Shvat, corresponding this year to February 9th. Tu B'Shvat is the beginning of the growth season in Israel, providing the demarcation line for a year's agricultural production. Biblically, farmers in Israel are required to bring a percentage of their yearly crops to charity; Tu B'Shvat is the cut off date.

But I am not living in Israel, nor do I tithe produce to charity, as I am not a farmer. So what practical relationship do I have with this holiday?

The message of Tu B'Shvat is that we are part of the created world and inextricably bound to all creations. This agricultural holiday brings to mind the relationship we have to each other and to the world at large. Relationships bring with them richness and responsibilities.

Tu B'Shvat brings to mind the relationships we have with our fellow human. If one is lacking, we are obligated to provide support. In Hebrew, the word ‘charity’ does not exist.  Instead, we use the word ‘tzedakah’, which means righteousness or justice. It is not charitable to give tzedakah, but expected. We are all responsible for each other.

Tu B'Shvat brings to mind our relationship we have to the earth and her produce. We benefit so much from it, but we must treat it responsibly and with dignity. 

Tu B'Shvat brings to mind our relationship to the Land of Israel. Although it is still winter here, in Israel the season of growth begins.

Each holiday has its customs and rituals. On Tu B'Shvat we eat fruits, specifically the fruits and grains with which Israel is praised: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, dates, pomegranates and olives.

Our school will be having a Grand Fruit Tu Bishvat Party! Please send in one or two fruits to share with your child’s class.

Here’s how each class explored this idea in a developmental way:

·        The young 2's will be focusing on how fruits grow from trees and vegetables grow from the ground.  Toddlers are at the stage in development in which they understand only concrete things, they cannot yet conceptualize. We will use pictures and tangible objects to taste and explore. We will sing about how happy we are that we have these fruits and vegetables to eat.

·        The older 2's turned 3’s will expand on this concept by further exploring how the fruits and vegetables that we eat raw can also be cooked and combined with other foods to make so many yummy treats.  They will also be learning about the special fruits that grow in Israel, and that Tu B'Shvat is a time to celebrate the growth of all fruits and vegetables.

·        The 3's will be building on the big ideas of the younger children by exploring the growth of fruits and vegetables, and how we are responsible to take care of these growing things by planting, watering, weeding, and so on. Tu B'Shvat is a time to celebrate the growth of all fruits and vegetables, and we specifically recall the special things that grow in Israel; wheat, barley, dates, pomegranates, olives, figs, and grapes.

·        The Pre-K class will focus on how thankful we are for 'produce' - the fruits and vegetables that grow and that we can eat to be healthy and strong.  They will also learn about our role as caretakers of these growing things, and how farmers in Israel must take extra care to grow produce in a desert climate. This class will also be learning about how farmers in Israel take a portion of their produce and give it to people who do not have enough food to eat.  We will celebrate Tu B'Shvat by eating the special produce that grows in Israel.

·         Please visit our RECYCLING AREA right outside my and Linda’s offices. At this point, the shelves are empty but we hope that you will help fill it up. These shelves will have constantly-rotating objects. Based on the children’s input, we request these 6 items: Corks, bottle/container caps and lids, plastic bottles, specialty papers, tubes and rolls, egg cartons.

·         Please be aware that we are planning to have a KINDERGARTEN next scholastic year. We are currently interviewing certified teachers. Zimmer has a well-established and structured Kindergarten syllabus which I would be happy to discuss with you. Feedback has been positive and higher than anticipated; we are hopeful that the class will go ahead.

Recycling Garbage in our School

Dear Parents:

Recycling Garbage in our School

As you know, we have made recycling a real part of our day at Zimmer. Many of you shared with me the (obsessive?) attention our children seem to place on recycling…

This is the message we took to the children:

What is Recycling?
Each of us needs to do our part to protect our world. There are billions and billions of people living in our world. Each person throws things out every day...many, many, many things. One very important way to help protect our world is by REDUCING the amount of garbage we produce.

How can we reduce our garbage? One way, is by RECYCLING. Rather than throw certain items in the garbage, we think of ways we can REUSE these items - give them a new use. Reusing can be about finding ways to reinvent something

How Do We Recycle?
Things like plastic, paper, metal can be easily reused. In our classrooms, we separate these things and put them into distinct recycling bins rather than putting it with the rest of the garbage. We either use these items ourselves (for example: a yogurt container can be used to hold pencils) or we deliver them to a big recycling center in our town.

Extending This Lesson Beyond Recycling Garbage
We can learn a great principles for life, beyond the importance of recycling garbage. 

·         We can do things to care for the beautiful world we live in; that is our responsibility.

·         It is important to open our minds and be creative (or re-creative!) when we are looking for solutions.

This unit of study does not have an end date since it is full of life messages important to impart. 

What You Might Do At Home

These are all important messages we want to cultivate in our children. In addition to recycling garbage and helping children understand the how's and why's and our responsibility to the world G-d gifted us with, each of the messages described above can find expression in infinite ways. Here are some examples: 

Let's look at the responsibility-message
- Help the child gain consciousness of the gift the world is to us. Point out things in nature and ground it back to the idea of gratitude and responsibility.

Let's look at the creative-thinking message
- If a child is playing with a toy in a predictable way and seems bored with it, encourage him/her to think of a different way of using it.
- If a child needs to find a solution for a problem (social or otherwise) expand the child's creativity by asking questions like, "Can you think of another solution? Is there any other way you might solve this? Etc."

Let's look at the finding-solutions message
- Children may feel like giving up too easily when facing a challenge. You might say, “Yes, it does seem like a big problem (validating their emotions, never squelching it – see last newsletter), but I'll bet we can find a solution. What do you think we can do?” If the child is not ready (or able) to come up with one, you can ask, “Would you like a suggestion from me?” Your suggestion may help jog their creativity and open them up to thinking.  

Ultimately, for a child to have a full toolbox, s/he needs - in addition to information and rote skills – an openness to creativity, problem-solving and responsibility.

With respect,

Malkie

Please Note:

·         Thanks to all who are contributing to our RECYCLING AREA. Our bins are brimming!  

January 09, 2009

Dear Parents,

Welcome back!

As I walk through the hallways and peek into the classrooms I am always amazed by the sense of confidence that our children seem to have. Their art and writing impresses me as I see such individuality in the work. Indeed, our school's mission is to create an environment that strengthens children's sense of self, their sense of confidence. Our educational philosophy is premised upon the idea that children will succeed cognitively when their emotional foundation is solid.

How can we build self confidence in a child? One way is by seeing children as competent. And letting them know that we see them that way.

A mother presented me with this situation: Every morning, her three young children (ages 1, 3 and 5) rush to cuddle near her in bed. Sounds sweet. Except there are three children and mom has only two sides. Mom was curious how to approach this situation. She wanted to offer a solution to her children, but she wasn't sure herself as to what to say.

Here's an easy and effective idea: Ask the child to come up with a solution!

All too often adults are quick to offer solutions. Solutions that - given the chance - our children have the capacity to come up with on their own. And their solutions are often more creative than we adults may have come up with!

All too often society underestimates the capabilities of children and assumes that the child does not have problem-solving skills, indirectly sending a message to the child that they need an 'outside source' to solve their problems.

Here's how mom can respond to the children, "I love snuggling with you. But there are two sides near mommy. One, two. (Concretize this 'spatial reality' by pointing and counting.) And there are three children. One, two, three. What do you think we should do about it?"

Quite frankly, had I been the one to suggest the solution, I would have simply offered that the children take turns. Such a practical, adult solution! The 5-year old child, however, offered this creative idea, "Maybe, every morning, we should see who is sad or scared or needs mommy most. Like maybe they had a nightmare. And then we decide like that."

Wow!

By allowing this child the opportunity to come up with her own solution and to practice problem-solving skills, it also showed mommy that this 5-year old child has a sense of empathy, an ability to put her sibling's needs above her own. Empathy is not an easy skill, and - like every other skill - takes practice to perfect. Imagine, by offering an adult solution, as opposed to opening it up to the child, this child would not have had the opportunity to practice these social-emotional skills!

Learning is a gift. And it can only be accomplished first-hand. No one can learn for us. So, let's allow the learner (the child) to carry the beautiful weight of a learning experience. Let's put the 'burden' of learning on the learner's lap. 

Have a wonderful week,
Malkie

·                     We have opened registration for our summer program, our ART & NATURE CAMP. (Please see attachment for more details.) This program is geared to children ages 18 months to 5 years. Please visit zimmerpreschool.com for more information.

Extensive research indicates that children’s connect with nature is essential for their academic, emotional and spiritual development. It is not a luxury, but a necessity. Psychologists refer to a human’s natural affinity for the outdoors as “biophilia”, literally meaning “love of life or living things”.

The contemporary child, unfortunately, does not have enough unregulated contact with nature. The quick pace of our lives renders it so. The goal of ART & NATURE CAMP is to embrace children with authentic and vibrant outdoor and art experiences, building upon their “biophilia”, and their innate need to be creative and expressive. (Over winter break, Batsheva and I planned a curriculum for our summer program. We found ourselves so excited about it and both wondered how our ‘older’ children might experience what we were planning for our preschool children!)

What better way to spend the summer months than outdoors, exploring nature and being creatively expressive!

·                     ZIMMER FAMILIES WELCOME NEW BABIES!

            Mazal Tov (congratulations) to two families in Morah Batsheva’s class:

            Julian Kelb has a new baby brother, Gabriel. Mazal Tov to his parents Brenda and Joe.

Torata has a new baby brother, May. Mazal Tov to his parents Katherine and Michiteru        

Welcome to the NEW FAMILIES who have recently joined our school:

Dillon in Morah Chaya Greenwald’s class; parents, Jessica and Jason

Torata in Morah Batsheva’s class; parents, Katherine and  Michiteru

Alex in Morah Batsheva’s class; parents, Karren and Gregory

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