Photo credit Mequon Jewish Preschool.
From the moment we are born our sense of self starts the journey of establishing itself, and the same process happens for any system, and educational systems in particular. From the first day, its identity that until then was just on paper, begins to shape itself with any interaction that is happening among all partners: Children, parents and faculty.
As with the human identity, the school’s identity is a life long journey, where every meeting and interaction adds to who we are, and who is our school, and as with the human identity, the school's identity is searching at all times for the balance between consistency and change, stability and growth.
It is the coherence between what is said and what is done that brings us to the optimal balance.
The concept of identity for systems is like the lighthouse to the ships and sailors. It is the harbor where each member can find all that is needed for understanding, refueling, and growing.
In Judaism a major component in our journey is the Torah, that like a lighthouse and a harbor, gives us the place and the resources to strengthen our identity.
It is a constant question about how should we integrate our Torah with our ongoing curriculum, so that it would be come ingrained in our school’s identity without a gap between talking about it and living it in any given moment.
Below I will be sharing a story of how we do it in Mequon Jewish Preschool.
In Judaism welcoming is known to be the highest mitzvah, and we wanted that value to be visible at all of our classrooms in an authentic way. We wanted it to be taught from the heart, so it could reach every heart of every member in our community. The faculty brainstormed and decided that every child that would join our school community, starting from the infant room, will be welcomed by the whole community of children. Each time there would be one class that would lead the process.
Recently a baby girl joined our school, and it was the three year old class's turn to welcome her. The process started with the teacher sharing that a new baby girl is joining our school and asking how we could welcome her.
The children asked themselves what could make her happy and decided to go to the infant room to see what other babies love to do in the class.
This is what we educate for at Mequon Jewish Preschool. We educate for every child to be a life long learner, a researcher and an initiator of ideas.
After being in the infant room, they have decided to make a baby toy for her, and that started a whole process of designing, choosing materials and preparing the toy.
Then came the discussion of when we would give her the toy, and the most amazing thing happened when the children said that they would want to give it to her during the Shabbat gathering.
At that moment we know that the value of welcoming has become an authentic, integral part of our school identity, and that the children are giving it the high quality that it deserves.
Their choice of the Shabbat gathering met core values of our school identity, among which: The idea of the sacredness of “HAKHEL” (the Judaic communal gathering), and the Judaic message of:
WELCOMING IS BIGGER THAT RECEIVING THE DIVINE.
The story of the whole school welcoming Liora to Mequon Jewish Preschool, reflects our school journey over nearly the past decade.
Growing with our consultant Dr. Naama Zoran, towards deep understanding the Reggio Emilia pedagogy, brought us to see every member of our community, as an important and equal part of the greater whole. We are striving for the highest levels of educational quality that would connect everything we do with the essence of our identity.
-Rivkie Spalter, Mequon Jewish Preschool Director
Dr. Naama Zoran is a developmental Psychologist, Educational systems consultant and serves as the Reggio Children International Network representative to the State of Israel. Naama works with Educational settings in Israel and in the USA, she brought the Reggio Emilia approach to Israel in 1998, and has become an international expert in the approach, and specifically about connecting it to Jewish Education. Naama is the MJP preschool consultant since 2009.