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236 Kane Street / Brooklyn, NY 11231 / 718 875-1550

A Note From Rivka

October 27, 2019

Dear Parents,

By this time of the year, children have settled into the routines that will be part of their days at Kane Street Kids for the remainder of the school year and beyond. These clear, consistent routines that the children practice over and over make the expectations for their behavior crystal clear and easy to follow. This is one of the strategies that allow us to promote positive behavior without relying on the widely used reward and punishment system of discipline.

One of the hallmarks of Kane Street Kids is the sound of fun rhyming melodious reminders of behavioral expectations when children are walking through our halls and riding in our elevator. You’ve probably heard some of it at dismissal time as the children are walking out of the elevator and onto the rug in the lobby. In addition to reminding children of what’s expected, the singing also serves to keep the children’s attention engaged during those tricky times of transition when off track behavior can easily get the best of kids.

While waiting for the elevator, the children will often be singing:

“Put your backs against the bench or the wall, and stand up nice and tall”

In the elevator, the song will change to:

“Don’t push your neighbor
in the elevator
Because if you push
You might get squished.”

But my favorite recent ditty that I overheard from my office went like this:

“Put your backs against the wall and try again…”

Now this simple song was followed by a reminder to the children to go into the elevator and stand in their own space. It was made up on the spur of the moment, and what I love about it is it gives the child another chance to go back in the elevator and do it right this time- but it does it without making the child feel bad. It might seem strange because many of us have internalized our larger culture’s notion that the way to teach better behavior is to make children who have behaved poorly, feel really bad. The truth is this isn’t necessary and may even be counter productive. Science tells us that the state of heightened anxiety (that can occur when an adult is yelling at a child or reprimanding them harshly), actually shuts down the thinking part of their brain and blocks their capacity to consider their actions or learn new information. Giving the child a do over, not as a punishment, but as a chance to internalize the preferred behavior through performance of the appropriate action, helps children learn to follow directions and regulate their behavior while keeping their self-esteem intact.

If being harshly reprimanded raises the anxiety level in a child to the point where the capacity to learn is diminished, what happens when a child is put in time-out? This disconnection from those on whom the child depends, causes the greatest anxiety of all. Children are hardwired to seek connection-because their lives literally depend on it. We want our students to feel that they always have a place in our community and in our hearts, even when they mess up. We want them to recognize that their behavior needs some work and the adults with the responsibility to nurture and educate them, will help them with that work.

During parent orientation, I asked parents to write down their goals for their children; those long term goals that they hoped their child’s preschool education would support. When the teachers and I looked back at these goals that you wrote down, one that we noticed came up frequently was self-confidence. We cannot instill self-confidence in children by making them feel bad about themselves. We do it by giving children appropriate challenges that they are capable of meeting- including appropriate behavioral expectations. And when they do not meet those expectations, we give them encouragement and a chance to try again.

I hope this gives you a better idea of why we don’t use punishments at Kane Street Kids. Stay tuned for the next “note from Rivka” where I’ll talk about why we don’t use rewards to influence behavior either.

Rivka


June 14, 2019

Dear Parents,

I can’t believe an entire school year has passed. I want to thank each of you for welcoming me into your community. Even more so I want to thank you for entrusting your children to the care of our teachers and myself- a responsibility for which we are all profoundly grateful. It has been a pleasure getting to know you and your children and serving this community.

Though I will be taking some family time in July, I will be here most of the summer getting Kane Street Kids ready for another great year. I will also be doing some professional training over the summer as I strongly believe that an educator should always be learning. I wish to further develop my skills so that I know that I am offering my best to the Kane Street Kids community.

I know that you join me in offering a heartfelt thank you to all of our teachers for a wonderful year of educational growth and fun. Their hard work and creativity has been such a gift to our students throughout the year.

The halls will be quiet over the summer but this will give us the time and space to spruce up the place and plan many wonderful activities for the new and returning children. We’ll be busy at work putting together the summer mailing for returning students with the 2019-20 school calendar, an updated parent-handbook, and of course the forms that we will need back from you before the start of the new school year. Your children will be receiving a note from their teachers with photos of them in August.

This year we added a significant number of new opportunities for parental involvement which we hope to continue in coming years. Our classroom lives have really been enriched and our perspective expanded by having you, our parents and special friends, come in and share with us. Our parent committee is hosting an end of the year get together on June 23rd, to give you an additional opportunity to spend time with other Kane Street Kids families and enjoy being part of our community. The back to school picnic that we had last year in August, is being moved to September this coming year, in the hope that more of you will be able to attend.

Though changes have been slow and subtle, we’ve also begun heading in a healthier direction for children’s bodies. Everything from the hand soap the childen use to the snacks we provide, is getting a second look, and some have already quietly been replaced with safer and healthier alternatives.

We offered professional development opportunities for the teachers and are already planning some great learning for the fall. In the coming year, I hope to expand those learning opportunities to parents. A survey will be going out next week asking for your input on the ideas that you would like to explore as well as the types of events that you might be interested in attending.

For those of you moving on, we do hope that the foundation that your children received at Kane Street Kids serves them well in all future endeavors. We invite you to return for a visit and enjoy the wonderful programming for children and adults offered by the synagogue. You’ll always have a home at Kane Street.

Rivka


April 29, 2019

Dear Parents,

In my last note, I touched on some of my long term goals for the children who attend Kane Street and promised to revisit the issue at a later date with more specifics about how our curriculum supports our larger goals for children. With Passover right behind us, I had a chance to reflect on how our Passover curriculum supports one of those goals- nurturing a love for Judaism.

Passover really lends itself to something we at Kane Street Kids do very well- an experiential curriculum. This type of curriculum supports children actively learning through hands on experience and we have many examples of it throughout the year. Our students aren’t sitting and learning about Passover by listening to a teacher talk. They are acting out the Passover story. Our four year olds in our Blue classroom put on a play for parents. Our Yellow class had pyramids in the classroom for the children to hammer and build. The Green and Purple classrooms created a living museum in which all classes had the opportunity to walk through and experience parts of the Passover story. Children started out in Egypt, hammering and nailing. They walked through plagues of darkness, frogs, and hail. They walked through a split river with walls of water on either side of them. Red and Orange classes cared for Baby Moses, putting him gently in a basket and keeping him safe. They also made their own matzah and later, searched for the afikomen (a piece of matzah that gets hidden during the seder to motivate the children to stay up so they can find the afikomen at the end of the meal and possibly come away with a prize.) Many of our classrooms held a mock Passover seder, which is itself a tradition-sanctioned reenactment of the journey that the children of Israel took from slavery to freedom. (We call the seders that we have at school mock seders, because they take place at times other than the first and second nights of Passover, the times that Passover seders are traditionally held. For those who observe the Passover laws, a seder held at a different time does not fulfil the mitzvah or commandment but is still a useful learning opportunity.)

All of the children learned about one of our great Jewish traditions while having fun and enjoying memorable experiences. They learned to recognize and understand the symbols that they will see on their seder plates for years to come, if they celebrate with their families. For children who come from families who do not personally celebrate Passover, their knowledge and appreciation of Jewish tradition and customs will be far out of the ordinary. What struck me most, being part of the Kane Street Kids Passover curriculum for the first time, is the effort, time, and love that goes into creating these experiences for the children- including from many teachers who to the best of my knowledge, do not personally identify as Jewish and did not grow up with these customs. Our teachers have truly impressed me with the extent of their self-education in order to pass knowledge and love of Jewish customs and rituals on to the children they are educating.

Rivka


February 26, 2019

Dear Parents,

When I sit down individually with teachers, one of the questions that I like to ask is about their goals for the children entrusted to them. Of course we talk about fine motor skills and language development, about literacy and mathematical thinking and about preparing the kids for kindergarten. But my favorite question is about what they want to impart to their students. What do they hope that their students will bring with them into the next twenty years and beyond? What are their really long-term goals for the children?

Like parenting, I consider teaching sacred work. The lessons children learn in school at a young age, stay with them. Therefore, the most important part of teaching is not displayed on the bulletin boards that our teachers design so beautifully, though they are a joy to behold. It is the gentle way that our teachers speak to children. It is the compassionate way that our teachers discipline children, letting them know that though something different is expected of them in this moment, we still know that they are good and kind, and they are still so loved. In the words of a teacher I respect greatly, Developmental Psychologist, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, they are still “invited to exist in our presence.”

During these past six months that school has been in session, it has been my privilege to spend time in classrooms, getting to know your children and their teachers. I have learned the things that make Kane Street Kids special. Observing the creative curriculum that the teachers design and watching the children delve into the carefully planned activities has been gratifying. Hearing the singing of the children in the hallway as they make their way past my office to go to their various specials, their “Big Room time,” and on their walks, makes me smile and sing along.

Now that I have had a chance to absorb the culture of the school and the various classrooms, I reflect on what are my really long term goals for the children entrusted to my leadership…

I want children to graduate from Kane Street Kids with curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. I want them to have a sense that when they encounter a hard problem, something they don’t know how to do, that they have the capability to figure it out or learn the skills that they need. To know because they’ve encountered hard problems before and with a little guidance, they’ve mastered them. I want them to bring along with them a love for Judaism that will nurture them throughout their lives, that they can draw on whenever needed. I want them to be able to walk into a synagogue anywhere life takes them and find something familiar, something of home. I want them to know that when they are sad or angry or frustrated, that those feelings won’t defeat them, that they can feel them and come out on the other side of them, still okay. I want them to know that they have the right to be listened to and heard, even if the answer is no, and that other people have that right as well. I want to empower them with the knowledge that they have the right to set boundaries to keep themselves safe and the responsibility to respect the boundaries set by others that make them feel safe. I want them to be strong in their ability to form the friendships that will support them in life and know how to be a good friend to the people they choose. I want them to be good, strong, kind people with the ability to create the life they desire, which might include making their own contribution to the world and doing what they can to help others. And yes, I also want them to graduate Kane Street knowing how to use a pencil and with the building blocks for literacy. Early Childhood Education is about preparing our children for kindergarten, but it is about so much more.

My intention is to write a series of notes that will each explore one of the long term goals for the students and how our teaching practices and curriculum at Kane Street Kids support this goal. I invite your comments, questions, and musings.

Rivka

 

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