Menschlichkeit, By Kelley King, Head of Lower School
During this time of the Jewish holidays, and the start of our new Value of the Month: Menschlichkeit; doing the right thing, it seems appropriate to talk about how we, at the Academy, from preschool through high school, are partnering with you to do the most important kind of work: The teaching of Jewish values, nurturing compassion in each child’s heart, and instilling strong ethics which will guide children through life’s choices.
On September 11th, school-wide, we honored the fallen Americans by focusing on good deeds that each of us can do to make our school, our country and our world a better place. Fourth graders made pins and bracelets in red, white and blue for the other children to wear as a reminder to practice good deeds. Students wrote their good deeds on a giant American flag which we displayed. Students in grades 3-5 came together for an assembly to discuss how we have the power to make good come out of a tragedy. MUS students gathered and followed the timeline of the tragic events of that fateful day. Younger students read an age-appropriate picture book in their classrooms that focused on hope and the message that even after bad things happen, tomorrow brings a new day.
The following Friday (September 18th), we celebrated Character Day at SDJA. All of our students in grades 3-12 came together for an assembly to watch the short film, “The Making of a Mensch.” Then, the high school students led small group discussions with our Lower School students. The students talked about specific ways that they can demonstrate positive character traits. Some examples included “Doing what my mom asks the first time she asks, not the third time” and “Getting along better with my brother.” Back in their classrooms, our K-2 students read the book “Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deeds” which tells the story of how Mary’s act of kindness had an enormous ripple effect.
We don’t save these teachings for special days though! Every day, we teach children about positive character traits through all aspects of our curriculum and especially, as of late, the Jewish holiday lessons.
The overall theme for the past week in the Preschool was about the High Holiday Yom Kippur and the symbolic meaning and traditions associated with this day. There were many discussions, art projects, Language Arts, Math activities and lessons on forgiveness and being a “mensch” that took place in every classroom beginning with the 2-year-old children.
We continue to recognize positive student actions in GMLS with Mensch Slips and Character Stones (if you haven’t heard about these, please ask your child!). When problems do arise, we work to help children understand the harm that they have done and seek out natural consequences so that children can repair that harm. If bullying arises, one of our strategies is to convene a “Solution Team” – a group of students who (with the direction of an adult) rally together to empathically brainstorm and implement strategies to change the dynamic and wipe out bullying.
I encourage you to talk to your child about what he/she learned from our special learning experiences in the last few weeks and how he/she can re-commit every day to healing our world.