As we approach the end of another pandemic impacted school year, as always, there is value in reflecting back in order to celebrate accomplishments (big and small) throughout the year and, identify those moments that resulted in pushing us to grow. End of school year reflecting is important as it causes us to look back in order to go forward. This is the essence of our Jewish lens/value of Masa/Journey. In Judaism we value the act of remembering and reflecting on the past in order to assist us in returning to our best selves as we move forward.
In our final school leader Reflective Consultation Group we considered the following quote by the Chinese philosopher, Confucius, who said,
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: first by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
I like to follow the quote up with this one:
“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. When life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” -Shauna Niequist
These past two years have had their share of bitterness for our educators and directors with all that living through, and trying to teach and run a school during a worldwide pandemic have brought. And yet, there has been much to celebrate. In the midst of it all we have continued to offer learning opportunities across our community, and educators and leaders have come together to think and grow. Thirteen pedagogical leaders from six of our schools met regularly throughout the year in a Community of Practice (CoP) facilitated by Efshar coach, Natalie Boscoe and myself to deepen their skills in leading their schools to continually reflect on approaches to teaching and learning and an additional two leaders participated in a national CoP on the topic facilitated by consultant Sandy Lanes and myself. Six schools received coaching related to outdoor learning with eight educators and school leaders engaging in a deep dive on the topic with Efshar coach Yeshanaya Dougherty. Nearly 200 of us came together virtually for our annual conference to actively engage in thinking about Anti-Bias Education in action in our early childhood settings. In addition, the Efshar team facilitated numerous learning sessions on a variety of topics at our schools throughout the year.
On a national level we partnered with the Paradigm Project, JCCA Sheva Center and other Jewish ECE partners across the country to offer a myriad of virtual learning opportunities for educators and school leaders throughout the year. If you missed an opportunity to attend, the good news is that everything was recorded! Recordings of this and past years’ webinars along with associated resources on a multitude of topics can be found HERE. You can go back and view them or use them as a catalyst for staff meetings and learning. They include topics such as Jewish holidays, mindfulness, leadership, social constructivism, justice, equity and diversity, and the list goes on. Leaders can access Facilitation Guides for Faculty Meetings where you will also find reflection guides on communications with families and Reflective Supervision. A culminating professional development opportunity is coming up this summer with the 2nd annual ECEpalooza, offering virtual and some in-person options to keep the learning going in a variety of areas including the science of spirituality with Lisa Miller, PhD, loose parts with author Miriam Beloglovsky, Schema Theory with Nadia Jaboneta and Deb Curtis and more.
As I reflect back on this year, I remain hopeful that we will all continue to grow our thinking about young children, teaching and learning, and what it means to engage with and support families as they navigate parenthood during this stage of life and in these challenging times. Here’s to a summer filled with joy, time in nature, connecting with others, and, as always, playful learning.