Our welcoming school community

Now that the Jewish High Holy Days (Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, etc.) are over, the school year is in full swing in Israel. Happily, our daughter’s first grade teacher, who had been sick with COVID and was absent at the beginning of the school year, is back in the classroom.

To a large extent, we were primarily concerned with the teacher’s absence because we had been counting on her to facilitate our daughter’s transition into elementary and into her first grade class of 30 children, more than 25 of whom had been in school together last year. The teacher had met with the three of us before the start of the school year, as well as with all of the other new families; and we really liked her.

In addition to her being one of the few new kids in her class, our daughter is not a typical child in certain ways. This is something I’ve written about before:

โ€ฆ as an only child, our daughter spends a disproportionate amount of time with me and her motherโ€ฆ has an incredibly vivid and active imaginationโ€ฆ seems to often be bored in conversations with other childrenโ€ฆ

-Me, ‘Social skills taught at preschool’, Dec. 24, 2020

One week ago, we visited a family friend with a daughter who had also just started first grade for Shabbat (Saturday) lunch. The girls know each other, and are both very sweet, but they have different strengths and temperaments. Last time we’d gotten together with them for Shabbat (a long time ago), the girls ended up not getting along very well.

This time was better, but primarily because a garrulous, English speaking neighborhood boy eventually stopped by to play. Before he joined them and shifted the social dynamics, my child was clearly expressing boredom with the games and annoyance with her playmate’s loud pounding on the toys. The more articulate older boy was much more interesting. Watching this play out left me worried – how would she manage with her classmates this year?

Then, last week, I took my daughter to a classmate’s birthday party, and I was thrilled to witness an entirely different dynamic. She played with her classmates and fully participated in all of the activities together with them. At one point, she asked what a particular word meant in Hebrew, and the other girls helpfully explained to the adults present that her English was stronger than her Hebrew. (Two years ago, before COVID, I had taken her to a birthday party, only to watch her standing around, detached from the other preschoolers.)

Also, unexpectedly to me, one of the other little girls’ mothers approached me at the party to arrange a play date with her daughter. Apparently, the two had been playing together for the past several days, as their teacher had deliberately rearranged the children’s seats to encourage new friendships. And, then – when I brought her to school the next morning, another girl spied her on the sidewalk and asked to enter into the building with her. In short, everything is, apparently, going swimmingly; and I have no need to worry.

Having discussed this with my wife, it’s clear that there are multiple factors at play, in terms of our daughter’s successful social integration, but we’re convinced that the quality of her school itself is not the least of them. While it isn’t renowned for its academics, the school is extremely unique in Israel in that the student body is split between non-religious (secular) and religious (Orthodox) children. More importantly, most families that send their children to this school are deliberately opting for this community-oriented environment, which transcends social boundaries in Israeli society.

This brings to my mind a memory of somebody telling us last year, after our daughter had been officially accepted to her school, that it is a very special, supportive place where, for example, the school administrators know every single child personally by name. Then, hearing these words from a parent warmed my heart and brought me hope. Now, I know that my hope was completely justified.

55 thoughts on “Our welcoming school community”

  1. A refreshing read. So endearing, especially when a father writes about his daughter. Talk to me about those fears and anxieties when they must face the big world everyday in a class full of children.
    For us the anxiety is too much to bear.
    Living in hope. I love that and she is going to be just fine.
    Beautiful read.

  2. You know David, I feel every single emotion that you write with , and feel like you are writing about my own daughter as she navigates a new environment. The only difference is that yours goes to first grade, and mine to college. Mine is more comfortable in English than in our local vernacular too, and the college she goes to is full of people who speak the vernacular. She goes to college from home. The first day when I went to pick her up (she goes to a local college, from home), I was heartbroken to see she walked out alone. But slowly says she is making friends.

    I have no idea why I am telling you this, except that this post of yours resonated with me.

      1. Because the medium of education is largely English here, and itโ€™s partly my fault too โ€“ I spoke more English with her than my vernacular in her formative years. I am kicking myself for it. Her current college classmates grew up in families that spoke Tamil more, so they are more comfortable with Tamil.

          1. Limp, yep, I am aware of that. I was just wondering whether your husband speaks English TO your daughter… Not whether he speaks English in general.

  3. Thank goodness your daughter’s teacher is well and back in the classroom. The first of the school year is an especially difficult time to be out. I am happy to read that your daughter is making friends and doing well. ๐Ÿ˜Š As the parent of an only child who also had/has a vivid imagination, I understand. Our daughter had an imaginary friend who eventually turned into multiple imaginary friends. Quite interesting. Best wishes to all of you!

    1. Our daughter had an imaginary friend who eventually turned into multiple imaginary friends.

      ๐Ÿคฏ Oh man… I don’t think I can handle her imagination expanding and further, Michele!

      1. haha Brace yourself! One imaginary friend was charming and manageable. A room full of friends was a bit freaky! ๐Ÿ˜ฑ Her imaginary friend’s name was Katie. When Sammi started kindergarten she was seated next to a little girl named, Katie. She replaced the imaginary friend(s). Never a dull moment with a creative spirited one! โœจ

  4. It is every parent’s concern that their child is comfortable and socially accepted. Sounds like your daughter is just fine and her transition to first grade was successful! It is obvious that she is making friends!! I think you can relax now!

  5. I am very happy your daughter is doing so well. A good school environment that promotes making friends with a variety of kids is wonderful. My students would moan and groan because I changed seats every month. My explanation was always the same, you need to get along with everyone even if they are not your cup of tea. It was also so very sweet when a student would ask to be placed by someone who they felt โ€œ needed a friendโ€ . It made my heart happy.

      1. I taught k to 4th for 8 years. Then sixth for thirty years. Almost without fail every year someone would want to befriend someone else. Sometimes I would ask a really kind student if the could handle being a table with a more difficult child. I accepted a no answer. More often than not, because they knew we changed so often, the answer was yes. I joyfully witnesses more than my share of students changing for the better when working in a group that respected and listened to them. I ran my classes different from the norm. Most assignments and labs had to be completed together. No one could in papers unless everyone in the group was finished. It worked for me. Of course quizzes and tests were mandatory in middle school. But one of my favorite lines to parents was that a student had to try really hard to fail my class.

          1. Thank you David. I loved my job. When politics and other outside forces made doing my job right more difficult, I knew it was time to retire. I miss the kids, but not the politics.

          1. a parents’ job though – a single child can drown in all that intention – in fact, I am now wondering whether her incessant talking isn’t a way of repaying you in kind? ๐Ÿ˜›

  6. I’m glad your daughter’s teacher has recovered, and that your daughter is doing well in school and enjoying it, David. Children go through many stages, and so do their schoolmates and friends.

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