Educators and parents collaborated on an explorative evening at Yeshiva Schools, sharing strategies for developing children’s social and emotional skills.
Each year, Curriculum Night typically focuses on a particularly relevant aspect to the Early Learning Center, said Chaya Sara Barrocas, the school’s education director: In the past, it’s addressed math and science, or Reggio (a student-centered pedagogy popularized by parents and educators in post-war Italy). The social and emotional focus this year was purposeful, she said.
“There are stages of development in emotional maturity, and we would like parents to know what tools we use to help children,” she explained.
Blumi Rosenfeld, Yeshiva Schools’ assistant dean, and Barrocas opened the Oct. 23 event with remarks on conceptual aspects of children’s emotional growth.
“A child’s character education should take priority over his academic education,” Barrocas said, quoting a teaching attributed to the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. “All educational efforts are basically meaningless unless built on the solid foundation of good character.”
In helping to create such groundwork, mothers are invited to participate in an “after drop-off” discussion on Tuesday mornings, noted Rosenfeld. Led by the assistant dean and guided by Miriam Adahan’s 1987 book, “EMETT: A Step by Step Guide to Emotional Maturity Established Through Torah,” the group explores passages of text for practical applications.
“I can’t think of a better time to take these classes than at a time the [Early Learning Center] is focusing on social and emotional skills,” said Rosenfeld.
Following the administrators’ address, parents entered a converted classroom and observed a gallery display resembling a growth spectrum. Photos and video charted children ranging from 6 weeks old until kindergarten age. Accompanying explanations identified what the children were doing — such as why one child picked up a rattling toy a few seconds after another child — as well as materials for how teachers manage particular situations.
“We want parents to have a window into the child’s day, specifically the social and emotional work we do in the classroom,” said Nechama Hordiner, a pre-K teacher at Yeshiva Schools, who helped design the gallery.
Hordiner pointed out various panels, including one denoting the creation of safe spaces for children to develop their social and emotional skills.
“All ages are represented here,” said Hordiner. It’s basically a “timeline of how kids grow up.”
Providing parents with documented photographs and video “gives them a sense of what their children are participating in,” said school president Shlomo Jacobs. “We want parents to be in touch with the curriculum being used this year in the preschool.”
Creating collaboration between teachers and parents is critical, said Barrocas. “Spread out throughout the year,” there are various days when fathers, mothers, grandparents and special friends are invited in “to get to see what they’re learning. We have almost 100 percent participation, and when we ask, ‘Do you want us to cut back on these?’ the answer we get is ‘No.’”
Throughout the evening, parents proceeded to other classrooms where additional footage demonstrated how students build relationships and manage feelings.
In a final setting, parents were asked to create crafts or leave messages for inclusion in their children’s portfolios.
Designed as “an emotional statement from the parent to a child,” the portfolio inclusions, which will be given to each child upon graduating kindergarten, are accessible to Early Learning Center students throughout the day and serve to create a connection between parents, children and the school, said Barrocas. “Parents don’t always get a chance to connect with their child in this venue.”
“Yeshiva Schools has a very unique approach to preschool and welcomes collaboration from parents,” echoed Jacobs. PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.