A culture of volunteerism

Levey Day School has managed to cultivate an amazing culture of parent volunteerism.

Many of the non-academic specials are run by parents. At such a small school, it doesn’t pay to hire someone for each special. (I confess I don’t know all the details, but I suspect it’s a bit of a mishmash with some employees and some volunteers depending on the level of commitment and time involved.) Overall the attitude is: You want your child to learn something that isn’t within the skill set of the current employees? Then do it yourself. It’s sort of a cross between a private school and a co-op. I completely didn’t expect that but am pretty happy about it. As a result the non-core education is a bit idiosyncratic. I’m okay with that too.

This is one way in which Jeff and I have already fit in quite well. We run community children’s services every Saturday morning. We found out that all the children (mostly Levey students, but there are two others) who attend services regularly on Saturday mornings are split between two synagogues that are located a block away from each other. At one of the synagogues, the parents did some children’s programming, but it wasn’t very organized. It was Jeff’s idea to get all the children in one place at the same time and alternate venues, and he takes charge of making sure that everyone knows when and where to show up. He leads the services and arranges for special guests. It’s working out terrifically.

I think quite a few Jewish day schools around the country could learn from the example of Levey, but it’s different in a community that is resource-rich (as Cleveland is). On the whole it’s a blessing to have many skilled educators and lots of available money for Jewish education; the downside is that people expect to take very little part in their children’s education. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention–which is not true of actual inventions, by the way. More often, some interesting material property is discovered and then marketers figure out who could use it and what for. However, when it comes to personal initiative, the fewer resources available, the more people figure out how to make things happen anyway.

As for me, I’ll be teaching Hebrew songs and finger-plays to the kindergarten once a week and teaching a one-off art project for one of the grades. I don’t know which one except that it won’t be 3rd grade because some other parent is teaching art to her child’s class all year.

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2 thoughts on “A culture of volunteerism

  1. You must be so excited to get to teach at Levey! Those kids are lucky they will get to hear your lovely singing. We have to get creative in such a small community with limited resources… I think it is kind of fun though. 🙂

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