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Insights from the Intersection of Childhood and Education

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why Grandparents & Special Friends Day Is Important

Rivka Kahana, who teaches 3rd-8th Hebrew at Akiba-Schechter, reflects on her own experience of Grandparents Day, not only as a teacher, but as a grandparent:

Initially, when Akiba-Schechter started hosting Grandparents & Special Friends Day, I didn’t think much of it. We don’t have this in Israel where I grew up and was a young mother, so it was unfamiliar to me. I did not even consider attending it at my own grandchildren’s schools in Michigan and California because taking time off during the school year to travel is difficult as a teacher. However, on one of the first Grandparents & Special Friends Days at Akiba-Schechter, I was in my classroom, and as grandparents were filing in, I happened to be watching one student. I was worried because I knew his grandparents lived abroad and wouldn’t be able to come. Would he be left without a visitor? Then I saw his face light up and turned to see a man whom I knew briefly from the community enter the room. When I later asked this student who it was that had come for him, he was beaming as he told me: “He’s my special friend. He came for me.”

Then I felt bad for never having bothered about Grandparents Day. Clearly, it meant a lot to a child. So, when the next invitation for Grandparents Day at my grandchildren’s school arrived, I took the day off, and I went. Of course it was wonderful to experience their school day, and as a teacher, it was interesting to see how another Hebrew School or Jewish Day School operated, how other Hebrew teachers taught. But I did not expect how nice it would be to meet other grandparents, and to share experiences with them. Now I have made my own friends where my children live. I believe that events like these, that create bonds not only between generations, but also within each generation, are especially important here in America because they foster that sense of community that will continue our traditions.
As a grandparent, I realized that you come to Grandparents & Special Friends Day not only for the kids, but for yourself.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Partner Portraits

Learning about themselves and others through portraiture is a regular feature in all our grades, from the pre-school all the way to 8th grade. Here is a glimpse of how the children in the Peach Room (4-year-olds) recently worked with a classmate:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Buddies Program

In education, academics are not everything, and thus we do a lot at Akiba-Schechter to foster a sense of community. We have always had multi-age classrooms, but in the past few years we’ve instituted a Buddies Program, in which younger and older students work, learn and have fun together. Here, 3rd/4th grade teacher Miriam Kass shares how the Buddies Program works for her students:

Throughout the school year, 3rd/4th graders will get together with their Kindergarten buddies to celebrate Shabbat and other holidays, to read and write stories, and to do some mitzvah projects. Each get-together allows the buddies to strengthen their friendship and create a feeling of community across the grades and the two buildings. For the Kindergartner, the buddy friendship puts a warm and friendly face on what might appear to be the big kids’ school where taller children are weighed down by big backpacks and often seem to be in a hurry to and from the bus. For the 3rd/4th grader, the buddy friendship provides a welcome opportunity to try out his/her leadership skills. The buddy friendships are unique in the lives of the students; both the older and the younger child feel cared for in an unqualified way.

Last week, the 3rd and 4th graders looked just a bit taller as they headed back to their classroom from the first meeting with their Kindergarten buddies.  They had each made a new friend and felt proud of their new role.

“That was so much fun,” said one 4th grade boy, “and my buddy is so cute!”

While the 3- or 4-year age difference is small in our eyes, it is vast in the eyes of both the older and younger students. 

One 3rd grade girl reminisced about her days in Kindergarten when “8-year-olds were practically adults” in her mind, and yet “that feels like it was just last week.”

The Buddies Program definitely brings the ages closer together to benefit from each other.