November is one of my favorite times to be a Preschool Director. The air is growing crisp, the leaves are rapidly changing color and days are slowly getting darker. All these changes in our environment provide an endless source of wonder for our young students. Watching the children experience this awe, and engage in exploration, inquiry, and experimentation, reminds me of an early childhood teaching philosophy that has had a profound impact on how I approach creating a meaningful Jewish preschool. JECEI (The Jewish Early Childhood Educational Initiative) works to elevate Jewish preschools by creating and maintaining the highest quality education, while also reminding us that we are a center for learning and a community of support. It is our role to create and share in celebrations that are meaningful and steeped in Jewish values.
This approach places unparalleled emphasis on the importance of inquiry and dialogue. JECEI established a set of core Jewish values and ideas to help administrators and teachers better construct Jewish early childhood centers. Framed as "lenses," they help us create a framework to establish a shared vision in our classrooms.
Masa: Journey (Reflection, Return and Renewal): We all come together to begin a continual journey. We make time for moments of celebration, regularly gathering for Shabbat, holidays and other important moments.
B'rit: Covenant (Belonging and Commitment): Our families and staff have entered into a "covenant" of mutual support with clearly defined, but evolving obligations and roles.
Tzelem Elokim: Divine Image (Dignity and Potential): The school community honors everyone's uniqueness and diversity is celebrated.
K'dushah: Holiness (Intentionality and Presence): We should come together to appreciate the blessing of having a community.
Hit'orerut: Awakening (Amazement and Gratitude): This is built on children's joy of discovery, their sense of amazement and wonder as a source of energy.
D'rash: Interpretation (Inquiry, Dialogue, and Transmission): By studying together and through joint inquiry and dialogue the community, staff, students, and families, will bond, and grow.
Tikkun Olam: Repair of the World (Responsibility): It is the school communities' responsibility to the world around us.
All that we do in school can be viewed through these lenses. When the children help make Thanksgiving donations to the food pantry, they are performing Tikkun Olam. We practice K’dushah every week in the sanctuary when we celebrate Shabbat as a community. Every day that we share time, energy, and ideas with one another in our classrooms, we practice these values. In doing so we help to strengthen our community, educate our children and continue to strive for a greater understanding of the world around us.