This is what it looks like to appreciate...
May 7th, 2021 | 26th of Iyyar, 5781 | Parashat Behar-Bechukotai
Dear Beit Rabban Community, I had some of the best conversations with teachers during my first weeks on the job five years ago. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with Danielle Cohn, at the time a preschool teacher and now an elementary school teacher. One of the questions I asked at the end of each meeting was “what is one of the most special things about teaching at Beit Rabban that might keep you here even if every other component of the job were terrible?” Danielle answered, “the parents.” She talked about how thoughtful parents were about their relationships with their children, with teachers, and with other parents, and how she was able to teach their children through a real partnership with them. She talked about how kind and appreciative the parents were. I was fairly surprised, this is not the opinion writ large within the teaching profession. Danielle was and remains absolutely spot on about the parents at Beit Rabban, and I think it is one of the critical factors to the strength of a Beit Rabban education. The fact that parents approach the school administration and their children’s specific teachers with deep gratitude, with trust, and with generosity, means that our staff can easily respond in kind. Then a child’s teachers and parents work together more effectively. There’s another piece to this as well, and it is the modeling of these relationships for our students. Our children are growing up in an environment where their most important adults are treating each other like “mensches.” This week is Teacher Appreciation Week across the country. To be honest, there is no way to fully appreciate the difficulty of the challenges or the degree of impact that teachers have had this year. They have experienced the pandemic like everyone else, with all the same losses and challenges. Throughout all of that, they have remained essential workers, first online and then in-person way before it was normalized. Even the most simple of challenges of in-person work have been intense. It is extremely draining to wear a mask all day from the moment you arrive at school until the moment you leave- teaching and projecting voice through a mask, running around a playground in a mask, and walking up and down stairwells in a mask. That is the easiest of all the challenges, but if you have done it you know that it is a lot. It is not easy to make people who have worked so hard and under such unusual circumstances feel truly seen and appreciated for what they have contributed. Our parent body has figured out how to do just that. In the words of a teacher who just stopped by my office, “this was a really powerful Teacher Appreciation Week because the expressions of appreciation were specific. I feel really seen.” In addition to all the lovely treats that brighten the teachers’ days (like root beer floats and fresh baked challah) and ease the load of adult life (like packing lunch), parents devoted time and thought to personal acts of appreciation. Parents worked with their children to write personal cards to each of their teachers, and students dropped these cards into buckets in the lobby with teachers’ names on them (“filling their buckets” both literally and figuratively). A group of parents prepared and framed individualized art for each teacher. They sent out a survey asking students for the 5-10 words they would use to describe each of their teachers, and then designed a word cloud for each person with their loving descriptors. Here’s a copy of the one prepared for our teacher Tom:
This is one special parent body. It is also one special team of teachers. In fact, there is increasing overlap between these to groups. Since I first joined Beit Rabban, Danielle and many other teachers have also become parents in the school, choosing to raise their precious children in the Beit Rabban community. One of the many beautiful things about this week has been overhearing/reading notes that teachers write in their role as parents to their colleagues, expressing deep appreciation for the impact these colleagues have on their own children’s lives. People regularly ask me what the common denominator is among families at Beit Rabban, and I respond that each Beit Rabban family has made an intentional decision to entrust their child’s education to Beit Rabban. No parent sends their child to Beit Rabban “by chance” or out of inertia. Beit Rabban families are intentional, and this intentionality sets the stage for great kids, great partnerships with teachers, and great learning. It also makes for a phenomenal Teacher Appreciation Week. Wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat, Stephanie