March 4th, 2022 | 1st of Adar II, 5782 | Pekudei פְקוּדֵי
Dear Beit Rabban Community,
Oh, conflicting emotions. This skill of navigating this common reality is one we work with students on from the moment they enter as preschoolers until they graduate. Early on we talk about having two feelings at once, about being aware of our emotions, about articulating them, and about navigating them. We use moments of conflict and complexity as opportunities to reinforce and nuance this learning. We ask questions about the characters in our stories, what they might be experiencing, and what we might feel if we were in their shoes. We practice making room for differing emotions to exist simultaneously, whether in a community or in an individual's heart.
This week has provided fertile ground for learning and practicing the work of navigating conflicting emotions as individuals and as a community.
We welcomed the month of Adar, the most joyful and fun month of the Jewish calendar by jumping headfirst into our annual Beit Rabban Chodesh Adar shenanigans with Happy Hair Day. The day involved many bows, lots of colors, and even a public head-shaving spectacle in the middle school (a teacher, not a student!). Today I arrived at school to find signs advertising a Beit Rabban boarding school, which I assume and pray is a form of Purim shtick. We have lots more spirited, communal fun planned for the weeks to come. We put effort into these shenanigans because we want to model a joyful community for our students and facilitate opportunities for them to develop their own prowess at creating, sharing, and spreading joyful Judaism.
This same week, we spent quite a bit of time learning about the war in Ukraine and praying for peace and the safety of the Ukrainian people. Our teachers facilitated space for children to share their thoughts, feelings, and questions. We proactively initiated these conversations in second grade and above because we want our children to understand the world in which they live in order to develop a connection to it and a stronger sense of responsibility for it. Our students asked incredible questions and shared feelings of confusion, fear, sadness, and a strong desire to help. Classes have taken these steps, including participating in efforts to support Jewish communities in Ukraine.
Teaching towards empathy also requires the skillful teaching of how to live as a person who is productively empathetic: who feels pain, who takes action to heal, and who can continue to be joyful all the while. Sometimes children need to discuss this balance to understand it, and sometimes they need to simply live it. Both strategies took place across our classrooms this week.
Our students had another, very different, opportunity to navigate conflicting emotions this week as we prepared to implement a mask-optional policy in school. Each class held a community meeting to discuss the change. Just like our parent body and our staff, our student body also expressed a range of emotional reactions: excitement, fear, frustration, relief. Many students shared that they were feeling a mix of very different and big emotions. Classes discussed the fact that individual students, teachers, and families will be making different masking choices and why people might make these decisions. Students discussed the importance of respecting and affirming whatever choice a classmate's family makes, even if the decision changes. This sort of pluralism requires stretching our empathy muscles.
As always, I find myself learning alongside our children. As we teach and facilitate self-awareness and self-care while also teaching toward empathy and communal responsibility, I am reminded of the importance of balancing this in my own life. We start the practice of navigating many real and ostensibly conflicting emotions and responsibilities early, and we continue honing this challenging balance forever. May our community continue to be strong role models of these values and this balance for our children.
Praying for peace and wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,