A Look Inside the ECLC
Whether we are teachers, clergy, administration, or staff at VBS we all encounter students throughout the day. We often wonder what impact we make on our children. Are they listening to the advice or guidance that we give them? Do they hear our voices steering them on the right path? How can we make certain that they internalize the values and morals that we have instilled in them? Here is how I know that in our ECLC we are making the spiritual impact.
The past two years I had the wonderful opportunity of participating in the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute (MTEI) seminar. MTEI has eight principles that the organization stands on. Three principals spoke to me the most.
The first principle is “There is moral meaning in the work we do.” I found this principal to be meaningful because it speaks to the work we do in supplemental education. It validates the Jewish learning that we aim to provide our families. We work hard everyday to teach our students how to be thoughtful, kind, caring, helpful, spiritual people in this world. When a child was accidentally hit by a ball while playing on the yard, the student who had thrown the ball came into the office to check on the child. This tells me that we are teaching our students to think about others; to look out for someone who is hurt, sad, or angry. This is an example of how we shape the learning for our students and parents. It also strengthens the importance of professional development for our teachers in helping them to see, understand, and implement the practice of good teaching.
The second principle is “Intentional creation of community.” I believe this principle supports the warm, welcoming, and inviting community we have built here at VBS and in the ECLC. Each week our students come together as a school to pray together and to learn the importance of being a part of the community. We teach the students that one can pray on their own, but that our words are stronger when we pray in a Minyan/community together. Tefillah is a time where our voices are heard as group through prayer and song. On Sunday mornings the students participate in a Shira where they sing songs together in Hebrew or English that are related to Israel, Hebrew learning, the weekly Torah portion or a holiday. Classes are given the opportunity to share what they learned that day. We engage ECLC parents in our Tuesday Schmooze, Friday night Shabbat services, Family Education, and Synagogue programs. Community is enhanced in our learning sessions, socials, and ritual programs. Families build relationships with one another. This principle supports the belief that both parents and children need to feel a connection to our school and VBS. It is a partnership that we as the school will continue to provide families so that they find value in our Synagogue.
Lastly, “How We Talk Matters” is the principle that emphasizes the idea that words are powerful. They can be positive or negative depending on the tone and speech. In our school we teach children to interact with one another academically in the classroom as well as socially while playing on the yard. Students in our Kitah Bet and Gimmel classes are working on mastering their Hebrew letters and beginning to master their grade level prayer. Once the student feels
ready he/she comes to the Director’s office to test for an “Alef.” Hearing the students encourage each other to take the challenge shows the support they have for one another. The “Alef” is presented in front of the school so that the child is recognized for their accomplishments. In our Beit Midrash Academy, students are debating moral and ethical dilemmas through Rabbinic texts. Students are discussing with one another how this ancient text is relevant to us today. We teach them to listen and to understand different perspectives and to learn how to share their voice when they don’t agree. We encourage them to ask questions about their learning. We also reinforce that their voices are important and that they can make an impact at VBS as well as the larger community.
I believe that in utilizing and sharing these principals with teachers, parents, students, and the VBS staff it will give a clear picture that our school is a place where Jewish learning happens in a strong community where we embrace and respect one another.