Education, writ large

My head has been spinning with ideas.

In a “previous life” (it seems) I was only a teacher, but now I’m a parent of a child in a Jewish day school. For the first time, I’m seeing the other perspective. Everyone told me, over and over, that being a parent would change how I teach. It was true when Rafi was young, but it’s becoming even more true now. I feel the urgency of “chanoch lana’ar al-pi darko,” the idea that if you teach a child a certain path while he is young, when he is old he will not depart from it. Jeff and I have been working very hard on making for ourselves the kind of Jewish community that we want Rafi to grow up in, and his formal education is a big part of that, but so is the rest of his life. Add the need for outdoor activity, unstructured playtime, Hebrew-speaking activities, and accommodating the schedule of a newborn in the midst of sleep training, while also keeping up with the housework, and boom, my head is full.

I think in Israel it was simpler. I took Rafi to the huge neighborhood playground for two hours a few times a week and sent him to public preschool. Once a week we took a hike (although not in the late fall when the days were too short). Those three things basically took care of Rafi’s educational and physical needs. I didn’t get quite enough physical activity, and I had trouble planning social activities for both myself and Rafi since it was a big deal for me to call another parent for a play date or a coffee date. I don’t know why.

Physical activity is important, but it’s the same everywhere, except that in America there aren’t neighborhood playgrounds to the same extent as in Israel. Jewish education, on the other hand, is much more fraught in America than in Israel and requires more parental input. To top it off, I’m not just a parent, I’m a teacher. Every bit of information I get from Rafi about his school, every project he brings home, every tidbit I glean from older students, gives me a new thought about how I would teach not just Rafi, but other children. When I read news articles and blogs it’s all through the same lens. Although I’m not teaching full-time, I’m still a teacher in my head. As the ideas come up, I write them down in a word file. I could probably write about them on this blog, come to think of it.

Last Friday I volunteered to be the “special guest” for Kabbalat Shabbat, which is a whole-school program that invites a member of the community to come in and do a program for the whole school. I read two folk tales about Shabbat, which went over very well. (The book of folk tales I used was a bat mitzvah gift.) In between and after the tales, I led some songs to add to the atmosphere.

When I looked out at the students sitting in the sanctuary rows, and made eye contact with them like you’re supposed to do, I saw children rather than students. It’s a subtle distinction but an important one. It helps that I know many of their parents and what their families value.

It’s all percolating in my head for future use. Now, if I could just get Ezra to take a bottle…


One thought on “Education, writ large

  1. Abby, you are a born teacher! Someday you will get back to it for real. And hopefully Ezra won’t be the kid who would starve before he takes a bottle…

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