Thursday, May 25, 2017

I am going to share one story from the week.
I will highlight what gave me joy, hope and pride.

For some background, we have been learning about Mt. Sinai.
Maya: He used a polite voice.
Matan: He was the nice one, He didn't say mean things like the other mountains who argued.
Mason: Hashem gave the Torah -full of mitzvahs- on him.
Now to the story.
We are on the playground. Children are running, climbing, playing in the sand.
Some children are in the playhouse. A child is watching through the window, I will call him Child A.
Inside two children are playing. One decides to go to the window and tell Child A to "GO AWAY".  I overhear this and step in to remind this child, Child Z, the playhouse is for everyone and Child A may look through the window, or walk into the playhouse or climb. Child Z continues to tell Child A to "GO AWAY" multiple times.
I remind Child A he can be right where he is and he can choose to do what he wants to do as long as he is being kind and respectful to his friends and toys.
I step away.
A few moments later Child A climbs through the window of the playhouse.
Child Z makes a very poor choice causing Child Z to have to leave the playhouse and lose a privilege.
Child Z is crying and very upset. In a few moments Child Z calms and asks for her privilege back.

Morah: Do you know why you lost it?
Child Z: No.
Morah: Let me show you. (I ask her to look at something) How did this happen?
Child Z: (looks, eyes get wide, cries) ME. 

This is where my hope and pride begins to develop- odd place I know.
The crying after the incident was the crying of "I am losing what I want".
The crying when she said "ME" was that of recognizing she had hurt someone. I looked in her eyes, at her slumping shoulders, her hanging head, and I felt her body get heavy against mine.  I feel confident Child Z was feeling remorse. When I reflect on the moment and place myself back in it, the thing that comes to my mind is: She is feeling something powerful. She was demonstrating to me she was thinking of her friend in that moment, it was no longer about her.  She had moved beyond her own instant satisfaction, she was experiencing empathy.  It is easy for children to share in the joy and happiness of their friends, it is significantly harder to share in their sadness.

Morah: How can you fix this? What can you do?
Child Z: I don't know... Child A what can I do to help you feel better? (no prompting)

How will this child respond? In a way that gave me another moment of joy, hope and pride.

Child A: (IN A KIND, UP BEAT TONE) You could say sorry.
Child Z: (stands up, no longer leaning on me) I'm sorry Child A.
Child A smiles.
Child Z sighs and smiles.

In that simple response, Child A did a powerful thing, he showed Child Z thoughtfulness, consideration and love. Did he consciously plan it as we all sat there? I don't believe so. I do believe it is in his nature, as it is in every child's nature to love and forgive.
In that happy answer of "You can say sorry" with a smile of acknowledgement, all was fixed and forgiven.
Child Z's body changed. The heavy weight that had descended on her lifted.
I feel her friend's kindness helped her. I feel the values upon which The Gan is founded were embodied in Child A's warm smile.*
They each went on to have a very happy day.

Normally I share names of the preschoolers with quotes, I chose to be vague for this story.
I do not want to take away from the wonderful people the two preschoolers involved in this story
are-on any given day they are stars-but what struck me on this day, causing me to think about it for the rest of the afternoon and onward, was how brightly the outcome shone.
*I felt that the combination of Child Z's acknowledgement of the consequences of her action, and her experience with empathy was cause to return her privilege to her.

Friday, May 19, 2017

We have been filling our mitzvah tree with mitzvah oranges since Tu B'shevat.  
Our tree is predominantly orange, hardly any green can be seen.  
Many of these are from mitzvos the children have done at home, many are for mitzvos they have done at school.
Everyday the children sing: 
"Hareini Mikabel alay mitzvat Asei shel viahavta lirie-acha camocha.
I take upon myself the mitzvah of loving my fellow friend as myself."
Morah Katie: How can you show your friends you care about them?
Lochlan: You can help them be happy when they are angry.
Jade: You can tell them you like their dress.
Mason: You can take turns.
Sophia Grace: You can be kind.
Olivia: Helping them if they need it.
Aura: Smile.

Maia: Hug them.
Sadie: Play with them. 
In September we created a book titled, 
Our Peaceful Classroom.
In it, the reader* will discover that in our peaceful classroom we:
  • help our friends, 
  • take care of living things,
  • use our peace making words to solve problems,
  • share and take turns, 
  • hold hands and care care about our others when they are sad
  • love our friends
It is 8 months later and my friends continue to live what they wrote.
Morah Katie: In our peaceful classroom 
Sophia Grace: We help each other.
Maya: We love planting and taking care of things and digging in the dirt.
Colette: We share and take turns.
Lochlan: We hold hands and care about others when they are sad.
In our peaceful classroom we love our friends and cheer them on.

We are preparing for our upcoming holiday, Shavout.  It is the holiday when we celebrate receiving the Torah.
Each child will create their own Torah and fill it with the mitzvot from our tree.
As you can see, it will be a bountiful harvest of good deeds.

*Parents we invite you to spend a moment in the morning reading our book with your child.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Drawing and Painting like Degas

 We planted sunflower seeds in the garden.
 If we are lucky by summer we will have a field like Van Gogh's painting.
We have had classical music playing in the classroom.
Listening to the music made us think of the ballet, and inspired some of us to dance.
Morah Katie: Why have we been dancing in addition to painting this week?
Mason: The ballet.
Lochlan: The ballerinas. 
Sadie: The new artist.
Matan: Claude Monet.
Morah Katie: The artist of the week was good friends with Claude Monet. How are they different?
Olivia: Monet painted outside.
Lochlan: He paints ballerinas.
Morah Katie: Who remembers the name of the painter who painted ballerinas?
Lochlan/Sadie: Edgar Degas.
We learned Degas made sketches of his painting subjects before he painted.
We discovered we could draw and paint ballerinas like Degas.
Morah Katie: What shapes do we need to draw ballerinas?
Mason: The head is a circle.
Olivia: Or an oval.
Sadie: Rectangle for belly.
Lochlan: A modified triangle for the skirt.  NO point.
Matan: Lines for the legs.
Emily: Arms are lines.
We discovered that Degas said this about drawing:
One must repeat the same subject ten times, a hundred times.
It was good to learn that even Degas had to practice his drawing.
For each of the 3 painters we have studied, I have encouraged the children to choose a painting and to try to paint it.
We learned that Degas would often spend time in museums copying the painting he saw. 
Morah Katie: It is interesting that Degas practiced painting the same way I have been encouraging you all to practice: Copying your favorite paintings.
I asked the children what colors and shapes they saw in the paintings.
It required patient, careful attention. 
Trying to make a copy of a master painting can be intimidating, 
my hope was to entice the children to take a risk and experience their capabilities.  
Lochlan's copy of Degas' "Two Ballerinas (detail)" demonstrates the ultimate goal:
 "I just did my best. Those are the colors I saw. 
I saw a little green so I added the green.
It was dark up top.  I just did my best."