January 21st, 2022 | 19th of Sh'vat, 5782 | Yitro יִתְרוֹ
Dear Beit Rabban Community,
Earlier today I was waiting in line outside a bakery, when another person and I struck up a conversation about how incredibly cold it was. I told him that the only parts of my body I could still feel were my feet because a student had given me a package of foot warmers when he saw me freezing during school arrival. The gentleman responded that this student deserved an A+. Unfortunately, I explained, we are a progressive school that doesn't give grades, but I could mark him as "exceeding expectations" on pro-social behavior. He laughed, and then I wished him a "good Shabbos," immediately realizing that I had no idea whether he was Jewish and/or observed Shabbat. He turned back toward me on his way into the shop and said "this is Metropolitan Diary moment, and I bet you're a great teacher." Well, in truth, I was not a great teacher when I taught in public school 20 years ago, and, likewise, I'm a Head of School rather than a classroom teacher. But, working in a school in any capacity does afford a person endless Metropolitan Diary moments!
We all know what makes a great Metropolitan Diary entry. It is the story of a short and unexpected interaction that gives you a chuckle and reminds you that you are lucky to live in NYC, even if it is 150 degrees in your apartment and -5 real feel outdoors (or the opposite depending on the season). This, my friends, is what it is like to work in a school. No matter what is happening--and literally anything can happen when your work place includes children ages 2.5 to 14--within moments you will experience some interaction that leads to a chuckle, if not raucous laughter, and reminders you of how lucky you are to be in this profession.
A few entries from this week...
I returned to my office after the weekly Sherut Kehilati (service learning) period, to find an envelope taped to my door filled with post-it notes and with the words "Compliment Stash: Take a compliment, leave a compliment" written on it. I took the compliment "you are spokeswoman like," and left the compliment "you are a far more pleasant adolescent than I was. Yashar Koach."
This week was the holiday of Tu Bishvat celebrating the birthday of trees. A third grade class studied the concept of "Etz (tree) Chayim (life)," that the Torah is a tree of life for all those who cling to it. Later that day, a parent of one of the students emailed a picture to the teacher. The picture was of her third grade child standing proudly next to his three year old brother Chayim, who he had placed inside a tree costume made of recycled materials with the words "Etz Chayim" written on it.
While studying the the concept of making vows in Parashat Matot, a class conversation arose about kashrut practices. The class discussed different customs with respect to waiting to eat dairy after eating meat and how taking on certain practices might be akin to making a vow. The teacher was inspired by the thoughtfulness and depth of the conversation and asked if anyone had anything to add before moving on, to which a student replied "I just wait three hours and then drink water to get rid of the meat burps." The teacher wondered whether she should have opened the floor to one last comment.
Then there is the other category of successful Metropolitan Diary entries, those that are simply poignant. This too is part of the moment to moment experience of school...
A teenager falls at recess while inexplicably playing a game of baseball using a soccer ball. His friends immediately run to his aid, get a teacher, and keep him company until he leaves for the doctor. The moment school is over the student's phone starts buzzing, the entire frisbee team had called to let him know that they voted him "participant of the day" in his absence.
A preschool class is practicing asking permission before hugging others. An administrator walks into the room, and a gaggle of kids run up to them to ask whether they may give them a hug. The administrator says they would love a hug, and ten plus preschool children intuitively form an organized and patient hug line.
A group of children stop an administrator to ask for a list of people in this community who have COVID-19 or who are in isolation. The administrator pauses wondering what this could be for, and momentarily worries about sharing this information. Before the administrator articulates their discomfort, the students proceed to explain that they would like to send notes of encouragement from the school to these families. The administrator returns to their classroom with the list requested as well as a stack of cards and envelopes.
Even when the entire paper, including the Spelling Bee, is depressing, you know you can count on the Metropolitan Diary to remind you that you are lucky to live here. And, no matter what happens on any given day at school, I can be sure that there will be countless special moments: moments of laughter, of caring, of making amends, of learning. I am reminded every day how lucky we are to be in this profession and in this community.
Wishing you a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,