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Tuesday, 2 February, 2010 - 1:11 pm

Dear Families,
Last night, we had our bi-weekly curriculum meeting. The holiday of Purim is coming up next month, and we challenged ourselves to mine the holiday for its deeper message, to see beyond the story and rituals of the day. It is that message that we take to the children, in an age-appropriate way, helping them see the world through a lens of values and big ideas.
So, what is Purim’s deeper message? At the face of it, Purim celebrates a victory we had as a people when, despite a terrible decree from the political ruler of the day, disaster was averted. As it turns out, the Jewish people had a sympathetic queen at the right place, at the right time, and she used her influence to save us. A series of lucky breaks.
And that is the Purim message. Purim celebrates…well, it celebrates the miracles in regular life. Miracles that we may take for granted. It helps remind us that life may not be filled with blockbuster miracles – like Passover’s story of the Ten Plagues and Splitting of the Red Sea, or Chanukah’s miracle of oil remaining kindled longer than it is naturally possible – but, life is filled with miracles. We just need to open our eyes to see them.
It’s easy to gloss over the miracles of the average day.
So often when we ask each other, “What happened today?” the response is, “Nothing.” 
But is that really true? What was special about today?
It is a tremendously beneficial to our mental health if we are able to notice and appreciate small things/small moments: My apple tasted so sweet at lunch. The sun feels amazing on my face as I get out of my car. My friend looked at me in a way that made me feel good.
We walk in miracles every day.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the miracles we have in our classrooms, with our teachers, every day. I feel incredibly grateful both in my role as a Zimmer mom, and as Educational Director. (Whenever I run staff development meetings for other preschools, as I drive home, my urge is to call each of our teachers and to tell them how much I appreciate them!)
An example: The other day, Morah Janice was with Pre-K in the playroom. Two children were on the tricycle together. One child tipped. Immediately, the other child jumped off the trike and said, “Are you okay? I think I was driving too fast. I’m sorry you got hurt.” Such an instinctive display of empathy, such ownership! Morah Janice was amazed. She told me, “This ability for a young child to first consider someone else’s needs before his own, is incredible! This is not something you see everywhere!”
- Thank you, Morahs, for interacting with my child in a ‘language’ of  respect and dignity; due to your modeling, that is the language he learns to use when interacting with others.

- Thank you, Morahs, for dialoging with my child in ways that train him to think for himself, for not stifling his creativity by merely telling him what to do, what crafts we’re making, what songs we’re singing, etc.

- Thank you, Morahs, for creating immersive learning environments that expose him to things that he wouldn’t have otherwise.

- Thank you, Morahs, for trying so hard to communicate your ways with us parents, so that we can offer our children consistent messages.
The list can go on and on…indeed, my boys and I walk in your miracles every day. As a mom, I feel it. As the director, I know it. Thanks for your commitment, passion and efforts.


Rachel wrote...

I was watching an HBO special two days ago called Kindergarten. It caught my eye for obvious reasons and as I watched, I realized that it was like a reality show for Kindergarteners! This was an "unscripted" look into a K class. Carly sat beside me watching. She was absolutely enthralled...which I kind of liked because this wasn't typical kid entertainment...she was interested because she could relate to these kids in their classroom situation.....or could she?

As I watched, I began to understand that this program was also "showcasing" what HBO or whomever thought was a pretty good or maybe even great teacher. She was: enthusiastic, attentive, caring, energetic and absolutely adorable (a given for t.v.). She had eyes in the back of her head, the ability to speak, move, and scan the room in order to manage behavioral problems while she continued to teach her lesson. She was able to keep almost every child "engaged" in what SHE was doing, saying, presenting. All these things are good and necessary teacher skills. But as I watched, I thought about what this teacher was doing and what the Morahs at Zimmer would be doing with the exact same kids and lessons.

Example: The class was given a Guinea Pig for a pet. The children were extremely excited and all wanted to have a turn holding the new pet. Each child was allowed to touch the Guinea Pig (20 kids) and then they moved on to the next activity which was naming the new pet. Four names were put up on an easel and each child was given a circle with his or her name on it to place on the easel under the name he or she wanted. In the end, two names ended up in a tie and so the children had to vote again for either of the two names. Children were saying, "But I don't want either of those names. I only wanted....." This vote came down to one child's vote...the last little girl to stand up to place her circle on the easel and the teacher says, "Ok, Suzie! You're IT!! You're the DECIDING VOTE!!" (my jaw dropped) Suzie stands at the easel with her back to her classmates frozen...absolutely frozen with confusion that is about to turn into fear and what does the teacher say? "Come on Suzie!! What's it gonna be? Hurry up!" Suzie doesn't move but looks as if she's about to wet herself now. She murmurs something and the teacher grabs her hand and puts the circle up on the easel for her. Some kids cheer. Some kids whine. The teacher claps her hands and says, "Ok, kids back to your seats! The Guinea Pig's name is CUPCAKE! (jaw still dropped...and it gets worse) The next scene is between the teacher and a child (not Suzie who is probably hiding under her desk) whose favorite name was not picked for the Guinea Pig. "But I wanted her name to be Fluffy. I really wanted that name." Teacher - with a smile, "Well, we picked Cupcake." "But..." (smile gone) "Jenny, that's enough." (now I'm screaming at the t.v.)

What was this day about for these children?! What did they learn? What COULD they have learned? There was SO MUCH possibility here! I can I don't have to imagine, because I see it everyday...I know what this would have looked like at Zimmer. There would have been talking and sharing about what it means to care for an animal. The children would have been given the opportunity to gain confidence and know they were trusted to hold and care for the animal. The idea of a name would have come up and the process by which the name was chosen would have been determined, understood and owned by the children. The idea of naming would have been connected to much deeper real-life experiences like the naming of a new baby, etc., why it's important, who chooses, how do we choose and why do we celebrate? There is so much!! (I'm still screaming at the t.v.) And all along our Morahs would be asking questions to gently guide and help our children think for themselves.

I imagine little Suzie going home after this day at school. Will she even be able to articulate to her parents - to anyone - what happened and how it made her feel? Or what about Jenny? Do other adults in her life just shut her off? Is she going to have to get used to not having a voice?

I am so grateful for the loving environment that my daughter experiences every day she's at Zimmer. I am so grateful that every Morah in this school loves, nurtures and respects the voice of every child that passes through the doors of this building. That, to me, is an everyday miracle.....Why aren't WE on HBO?...Nevermind.

Mindy wrote...

Dear Malkie:

I want to thank you for your words in the very recently posted "In Preparation for Purim" email. Every time I read/hear your words I feel so touched and blessed to have the opportunity to send my boys to your school. I sense the admiration you have for your staff as well as for all the children you and the Morahs teach. Your methodologies of teaching could not be more in sync with my personal desires for my children- to grow into intelligent, self-aware and empathetic individuals. Please accept my gratitude and feel free to pass it along to all the Morahs as well.

Mindy Rodden

Jory wrote...

That isnight's just what I've been looking for. Thanks!