What We Learn from the “Yoms”

May 10, 2019

Read the weekly email, Ta Shma, here.

Dear Beit Rabban Community,

Every year we return from Pesach vacation to a series of special "Yoms." We shift from remembering our redemption from Egyptian slavery, to remembering the Shoah; to remembering all those who have passed as soldiers and as victims of terror in Israel; to remembering the founding of Medinat Yisrael and celebrating its birthday. This is a very rich time of immersive Jewish learning. Our students and faculty share unforgettable rituals and celebrations that build collective memory and form some of the critical bedrock of Jewish identity. 

There is another important "Yom" of sorts that happens each year around the time we return from Pesach, and that is Teacher Appreciation Week. We take Teacher Appreciation Week very seriously at Beit Rabban. Administrators, students and parents alike invest significant time and energy in conveying our appreciation this week. The Beit Rabban Parents Association and Board celebrated our teachers with a beautiful breakfast; an afternoon cookies and milk break; and an and ice-cream and wine happy hour. Our administrators wrote personal notes of gratitude to each teacher and purchased an individual present for each teacher (inspired, of course, by each teacher's response to a "my favorite things" survey). As the pièce de résistance, our students wrote thank you notes to their teachers all week, stealthfully delivering them to a set of buckets marked with their teachers' names, filling their teachers' buckets both literally and figuratively. Of course, we do all these things to appreciate our teachers because we know that they are the most important factor in our school's success. They deserve the gratitude, especially because so much of their hard work is not visible. 

There is another reason we invest so deeply in Teacher Appreciation Week. It too is an important ritual that cultivates Jewish identity. The concept of "Hakarat hatov," recognizing and appreciating all that is good is a central Jewish value. Judaism mandates a constant stream of actions that require us to notice, to remember, to thank, and to bless. 

As educators, our primary objective is to cultivate habits of mind and heart. Our tefillah curriculum, for example, emphasizes a different disposition each new month. These include habits of mind and heart like empathy, wonderment, and awe. But much of the time we teach these essential habits/dispositions/middot outside of a formal curriculum. They are modeled, practiced and internalized through authentic experiences that are not framed as "learning." When we as an administration go from class to class delivering teacher appreciation presents, we modelthe importance of thanking others. When students spend a week writing "surprise" notes for their teachers and finding ways to secretly deliver them, they practice acts of gratitude. When students see the looks of appreciation on their teachers' faces, when they hear their teachers thanking them for such a special week, they internalize the delight that comes from recognizing others.

Teacher Appreciation Week is not just about teachers. Through this ritual, each student cultivates their ability and desire to appreciate, and we cultivate a communal culture of gratitude. At Beit Rabban this has become a Jewish ritual that produces very special collective memories.

Wishing all a relaxing and rejuvenating Shabbat,