Happy Achrei HaChagim- We’ll Take Your Kids Back Now

October 25, 2019

Read the full Ta Shma, Beit Rabban's weekly newsletter, here.

Dear Beit Rabban Community,

We use the term "Active Learning" to describe the way our teachers and students teach and learn. This term embodies a commitment to experiential education, which is basically an approach that involves students who are proactive and engaged, teachers who are thoughtful facilitators, and learning that is interactive and based in experience and reflection. Students are meant to internalize and personalize their learning, understand it's context, and apply it. The idea is that learning "sticks" when this approach is taken, and students are able to build upon their learning to become more and more competent in a variety of disciplines. Many credit John Dewey, a philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer of the early 1900s, as an early and most influential proponent of this philosophy. With no disrespect to Dr. Dewey, I would argue that Judaism has used experiential education for thousands of years.

I once attended an open school night where a teacher referred in jest to the month of October (when all the Jewish High Holidays fell that year as they did this year) as a month-long school vacation. As a parent working outside of the educational world at that time I laughed from anxiety- really, it did feel like school was closed the whole month. Now that I work in a Jewish day school, we invest a lot of time and thought ensuring that all classroom routines, community building, and more traditional academics that are started before the Chagim are reinforced in an intensive way during the school days in between holidays and the week we return back to normal. It's a heavy lift, but it would not occur to us to treat this period as a wasted month of learning. In fact, it is a month of rich learning opportunities for children in ways that integrate school and home, that are authentic, that are hands on... basically, this has been a month of turbo-charged experiential education.

How lucky we are to have these routines and rituals that present the opportunity for such deep and "sticky" learning from a young age. As a day school community, our children are blessed with an even higher level of learning, one that is holistic. Our children learn the prayers for Rosh Hashanah and then attend services with their parents, they learn the mishnayot about all Sukkah building regulations and then get to sit in them with their families. But no matter how you practice, your kids are filled with knowledge and ideas that they have engaged with at school and they are home with you for a lot of days this month. We as parents are forced to pause and listen to our children's learning, to hear their questions, to engage with them in conversation about these hands on rituals.This month has been a big opportunity for holistic, experiential education.

The Chagim are inevitably a stressful time for us grownups, the juggling rises to new heights. Now that they are over, I hope you feel fulfilled from these holy days and from all the beautiful family experiences and learning opportunities they provided/forced upon us.

It has been a very productive month of learning with few actual school days, and we are looking forward to building on this learning in the months to come with many more school days. We'll take your kids back now...

Shabbaat Shalom and Achrei Hachagim Sameach,