Dear Beit Rabban Community,
We just completed our first week back in school, no small feat during a global pandemic.
People keep asking how it feels to be back in school, whether it is stressful to enforce all the new health and hygiene rules or sad to be faced with so many pandemic driven changes?
No doubt, there are a ton of changes this year. We now have individual student desks, and they are placed 6 feet apart from each other. We take our temperatures each morning before school. We are all masked, and our morning arrival hugs have been replaced with enthusiastic verbal welcomes. Many of our classes take place outdoors, and our staff and students have learned to enjoy a rainy recess in Central Park.
I planned to start this school year by actively messaging about how things will be different: the importance of accepting the changes, choosing to be flexible, expecting the unknown. When our staff returned to work a few weeks ago, I quickly realized that was the wrong focus. Even with all these changes, it does not feel overwhelmingly different. It feels like Beit Rabban, even more so. It is not a totally different school year, it is an Even More So school year. We always endeavor to be grounded in our values, beliefs and traditions- kal vachomer (even more so) during a time like this when life is chaotic, unpredictable and frightening.
Running a school over the course of this pandemic has reinforced so much about what I believe about education, about our school, and about our community. We believe that people learn best when they do so through authentic experiences. Our entire staff learned to teach remotely over night because the urgency of the moment demanded it. We believe that children grow best when they have a foundation of caring relationships. The importance of the teacher-student relationship became even more critical during distance learning. We believe that our community is essential to our children’s education. Transparent and honest communication between parents and staff was essential to reopening school this year.
Each year I focus on the same, few messages when welcoming teachers back to school: (1) our number one job is to love the heck out of our students; (2) we and our students need to feel safe at school in order to take those risks that enable growth; and (3) fair is not everyone getting the same thing, it is everyone getting what they need. Kal vachomer during this year of upheaval and ongoing trauma: how much more so do our students need to know that they are loved; how much more so do they need to feel safe physically and emotionally; how much more so do they need to be seen as distinct individuals with specific needs and talents.
For me, gratitude is the feeling that most resonates at the end of this first week of school. Even more so than ever before, there is a palpable sense of gratitude in this community. Children and teachers are visibly happy to be back in school, they are appreciating every minute together. Parents have generously thanked staff and teachers all week, making us feel truly appreciated and celebrated. It is a blessing to be back in school, and it is an even higher level of blessing to recognize and appreciate something that we use to think of as a given.
As we embark together on this kal va’chomer year, may we be even more driven to teach and empower our students; even more attuned to all that is special about each individual child; even more caring for each member of our community; and even more grateful for all of our blessings.
Wishing all a restful, rejuvenating and healthy Shabbat,