Building a foundation for resilience in children

Each year, as we receive a new “crop” of children we also receive a new group of parents. All of them share a desire for their child to thrive, and almost all of them are stressed about whether their child will be “ready for kindergarten.” That usually is a euphemism for reading, writing, and counting at an (often arbitrary) designated level.  But as educators, we know our job is much more than just providing the foundational academic skills for the children who bless our classes. We need to be preparing them for more than kindergarten; we need to prepare them for life.
When parents ask me if their child should attend preschool or wait until they are three, four, or even in kindergarten before starting “school” I talk with them about the benefits of “school” at this age. It’s not that they learn to read or write or count faster or better than a child home with a parent or nanny or grandmother. It’s that they get to socialize with other children. They learn to share, compromise, experience frustration and build friendships. They learn from and with the community. A big piece of that learning is encountering, often for the first time (especially if they don’t have an older sibling!) another child who may not like them. Or who will challenge them emotionally or even physically. Learning how to deal with frustration, disappointment, and other negative emotions in preschool is critical for building the skills ne eded to do exactly these skills well as adults. Children who build resiliency now will be resilient teens and adults later. Children who learn to “use their words” and find “socially appropriate” ways of expressing anger now, will be less likely to act out violently as teens as adults. Children who understand they don’t always get what they want learn to compromise, problem solve, and collaborate with peers – some of the top skills needed for excellent job performance, and for functioning in community.
We, as educators, know this is our job; we encourage our parents not to lose sight of these important learning goals as well. While a parent’s instinct is to try to smooth all of the lumps and bumps in the road of life, letting children experience the ups and downs is an important part of their development. Visit our website for resources about how to raise resilient kids. Also, we recommend reading the book, “The Blessing ofSkinned Knee,” by Dr. Wendy Mogel. 

From the New Office Manager

Hachnasat Orchim (welcoming strangers) has always been a Jewish value. The Gan community has applied this is a special way as it has welcomed me to the Gan. I came to Adas from an early childhood administrative job in a non-Jewish organization because I prefer to be surrounded by Jewish values and halakha. At my first Adas staff meeting, the rabbis spoke about hesed and Adas’ efforts in this area. THIS is why I’m here and I’m so happy to be here. If I haven’t had the opportunity to meet you yet, please stop by and introduce yourself. Todah rabah (thanks so much).  -Abby Koplow, Gan Office Manager

Thanks, Gan Staff

Thanks, Gan Staff!
We know that Gan parents rely on the school for more than an excellent education, a warm community, and Judaic values. We know that for many of you, the Gan is the place your child thrives while you work. During the large and unusual snow last week, the Gan staff worked hard to be here for you. We were open as much as our facility and road conditions permitted and I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank the Gan staff for its dedication and commitment. Without them, the Gan would not be the Gan and they really did a superb job of being at their jobs so parents could be at theirs. Yasher Koach (well done) and Todah (thank you), Gan staff!

To "Tech" Or Not With Our Kids

Technology is ubiquitous in our lives today - from televisions, to “smart houses” that know when you’ve left the toaster on, to cars that break for us to avoid collisions, to phones that take photos, access the internet, take voice memos, and track your heart-rate! For many of us, our work involves hours of time in front of computer screens, typing away on keyboards or using the internet.  In this digital age, raising tech-conscious and savvy kids is not an option – it’s a requirement for their success in both school and work, and, unless you work REALLY hard at it, it’s inevitable. The question then isn’t, “do we ‘tech’ with our child/ren?” but rather “when, what and how much” do we ‘tech’ with our children?” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends ZERO screen time before the age of three. Most parents today find this a challenging, if not laughable, suggestion. There are TVs in the background, older siblings watching shows, skyping with grandparents, educational videos, YouTube videos of DIGGERS (and other construction equipment) and more that our little ones are exposed to. And after the age of three, parents struggle with what content is appropriate, how much time per day is appropriate, and what the goals of using technology should be (Just communication with loved ones far away? Learning/educational opportunities? Is pure entertainment/ “babysitting” ok?). In the spirit of understanding that every family is going to make the choices that make the most sense and work for THEM, and everyone’s choices and boundaries will be different, we offer you this article on “Children and Digital Media” as a helpful guide for making these important decisions. This short one-page tip sheet includes information from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and is provided by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which accredits the Gan.

Nekudot Mabat (Point of View)

Nekudot Mabat
Point of View

This is this year's theme for the Federation Early Childhood Conference to be held December 3. Over 750 educators in the DC Metro area will gather to study, reflect, and learn from each other. Staff chose from ~42 sessions offered (more details below) and will listen to a keynote by Noa Baum, renowned storyteller who will speak on the power of stories. Each year the Gan staff joins colleagues from other Jewish schools to hone skills and enjoy the sense of community that comes with sharing study. We invite you to ask a staff member what THEY enjoyed learning when you see them around school.
This year’s conference, Nekudat Mabat: point-of-view will offer sessions focusing on:

  • Becoming familiar with typical development of perspective taking and development of empathy
  • Strengthening our understanding of delays and disabilities that hamper the development of perspective taking
  • Exploring how Jewish learning strengthens perspective taking
  • Examining how we can learn to work with parents and staff who may have a different point-of-view than we do in areas of curriculum or developmental growth of young children
  • Learning how the perspective of viewing the child as competent on a day to day basis can be put into practice in your classroom
  • Discovering what has changed about the point-of-view of art materials and play in the early childhood classroom
  • Strengthening ways in which we can support teachers to view critique as just that and not criticism
  • Focusing on techniques to strengthen collaboration
  • By looking at development, pedagogy and Jewish practice we will raise the quality of practice for our teachers and children. 


    Low Tech Celebrations Remind Us How to Cherish the Time

    On Simhat Torah, the joy in the sanctuary is palpable. We celebrate the Torah and,  I believe,  we celebrate community.  We rejoice that we collectively have the opportunity to study and pray and BE together.

    Following Conservative Jewish tradition,  we do not use electronic devices in synagogue on Shabbat or holidays.  This means that many "Kodak moments" are captured in our heads,  but not electronically. While certainly this limits our ability to send these images to our friends and family not physically with us,  I think we have an opportunity that is becoming increasingly rare.  We are forced to focus on the present, on the joy we are feeling in the moment. In this day of ubiquitous devices, this is a welcome reminder that it is as important to savor life as it is to document it.

    Mistakes are Learning Opportunities

    During the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jewish people try to examine where they have "fallen short of the mark" and figure out how to do better. They ask forgiveness for sins they have committed against each other and against G-d - and maybe even against themselves. How do we help children realize that their actions have consequences and the responsibility for these actions rests with them? How do we help children become resilient enough to realize that when they DO "miss the mark," that they should try again (and again and again, if necessary)? The answers are complicated, but one of the most important things we do at the Gan is give words to actions and feelings so that children can learn to process these. We make every effort NOT to judge, but to encourage and coach children as they learn to navigate life and realize that "misses" are actually learning opportunities. Although these days of introspection are over, our personal work is not done, and neither is our work with Gan children. I invite you to think about how you can join us in these efforts. Shana Tovah.