Put on a Funny Hat!

November 09, 2020

Dear Beit Rabban Community,

In this week of choosing sides and highlighting differences, I am pretty sure there is one thing we can all agree on: it's a little intense right now. It's been a pretty intense week/year. Everyone needs extra support. So, obviously I jumped at the opportunity when the Beit Rabban Parents Association offered to sponsor a session for administrators and a separate session for teachers with Dr. Betsy Stone. Dr. Stone is a psychologist affiliated with Hebrew Union College, who has been leading group sessions with educators and others throughout the pandemic to cultivate a trauma-informed understanding of our current moment. That is, “normalizing,” in psychological terms, the totally abnormal situation we are living through, and helping folks to place their own experiences within that psychological framework.

Last night, Ingrid (principal), Lisa (Director of Ivrit & Judaic Studies), Nicole (COO), Shlomit (Director of Student Support) and I participated in the administrator session together with Dr. Stone. It was wonderful, and I highly recommend that current parents join the parallel session that the BRPA is hosting for the parent body. At the risk of violating the spoiler alert code of ethics, I put my favorite learning from the session in the subject line of this week's Ta Shma, and it is this: "put on a funny hat!"

After covering the definition and indicators of trauma and explaining that strong preexisting relationships are the most critical factor to coming out of protracted trauma healthy and intact, Dr. Stone gave us a piece of very concrete advice. She said that while she thinks we should all continue whatever breathing, meditation or other practices we use as coping mechanisms, we would be well served by periodically hitting pause on those strategies and putting on funny hats. She cautioned us to take down the heaviness and remember that when trauma is ongoing and without a clear end (take a pandemic for example) we also need light and joyful coping mechanisms. Make each other laugh and enjoy the deeply human connection that comes from a great shared belly laugh. Have light water cooler conversations, and enjoy the unburdened human connection that it brings. This is not to say that the heavier emotions or conversations should be ignored. It is to say that the lighter ones should also be prioritized. At the end of this session, Dr. Stone instructed us to stay on the call together and share ostensibly meaningless conversation. I forced everyone to watch videos of my epic new grand-niece, Nava Devora, getting her nose suctioned. We talked to Ingrid's new cat, Quinny. Shlomit's cat joined. Nicole told us hilarious stories about her kids. I frankly have no recollection what Lisa said, but I do remember laughing. It was fantastic.

Nicole texted me after the call and said "Put on Your Funny Hat" is the subject line for Ta Shma this week. Then I looked back through photos of the week, as I often do before writing my weekly message, and I found many, many images of students, parents and staff in funny hats (see below). We intuited the need for this! What an emotionally aware community.

May your Shabbat table conversations this weekend be rich and meaningful. May they also include the most delightfully "meaningless" exchanges, and may you laugh so hard that you have to question whether it is worth taking that next sip of grape juice.

Wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,