With a current, full enrollment, preschoolers at Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island have a full complement of “jobs” to do, but it isn’t what it seems! Their parents have “jobs” to do as well!
Examples of parents’ jobs abound. A parent who does NOT participate in his son’s education in some way, might not fully be doing his job at all! At YKLI, many parents are delighted to visit the boys when school is in session. In our interview, Mrs. Feig recalled a lawyer dad who treated the boys to a presentation about accident law. Under his legal eye, the pupils acted out an investigation drama including the courtroom proceedings. The attorney brought various riding toys into class to “show and tell” the boys what his job entails in a way they could thoroughly understand! A builder father showed the process from blueprints to building completion demonstrating what his job in the home industry entailed. Mrs. Feig remembered that she has had fathers who were doctors and dentists offer to bring in their tools for the children to use in a hands-on demonstration. Another example, straight from Wall Street itself, created more adrenaline than the Dow Jones hitting 12,000 points! That was the day when a stockbroker Abba coached the children in trading “stocks” of lollypops and taffies. (One wonders if traders at the NASDAQ ever had so much fun as the boys in that class!) Yes, the boys have even been visited by fathers who enjoy talking about “having the best job of them all” - teaching Torah to children! These fathers inspired their YKLI boys by talking about the excitement and sweetness of learning and teaching.
Why bring a father (or mother) to school? The obvious carpooling, trip chaperoning, and “lost and found” forage only begins to meet the needs a child has for parental visits. A strong home/school connection is essential when building an optimum learning environment for young children. Mrs. Feig explained that, “We try to initiate and develop this relationship and build a sturdy foundation. We want to help the children bridge their two most important worlds - school and home.”
YKLI’s Preschool Director continued our interview by speaking about the strong initiative toward building home-school connections. Saying that sometimes, questions like ‘What did you do at school today’ will elicit a one word answer, particularly the dreaded word, ‘nothing’! What? How can that be? Even though the child is actively involved in a variety of activities all day long, it is “…difficult for some young children to describe what they did during the day at school. A parent may never have the opportunity to see his son’s classroom. He may be unfamiliar with the learning centers that his child visits daily.”
Parent orientation in the beginning of the year, parent -teacher conferences and even birthday parties are not enough to build the bridge! Newsletters and phone calls don’t give the parents an accurate picture. Said Mrs. Feig, “We want to bring the parents in when the children are in the classrooms with their teachers and friends so that they get the feeling of what YKLI preschool is all about. We want parents to share the excitement of learning with their children. When parents take the time to come in to school, it shows the child how much the parent values education and how much the parents value their boy. In this way, a child learns to feel that he is important. He feels so special to the parent and, most importantly, she stressed, “He is so proud.” She added, “Also, when parents support what goes on in the classroom, they instill the desire to learn.”
Another opportunity for YKLI parents, with almost 100% participation, is a literature links program. “Because parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers, we encourage them to bring some of their ‘experience’ to the classroom and read to their child’s class. Usually a parent will let the child choose his favorite book to read to the class. Some parents bring in props or treats to enhance the experience. Usually, mothers come to read, but sometimes it is a father or a grandparent”… who does this well-loved job!
YKLI parents and their preschoolers also enjoy the “Father-Son Brunch” in February. The children often bring in their parents for different chagim and celebrations. For instance, Mrs. Feig, the teaching staff and the boys particularly enjoy the annual Chanukah workshops when parents participate in activities with their children including Chanukah art projects, baking, and special games. No wonder! With a director like Frumie Feig, that sounds like an Understandably Nifty, (i.e. F.U.N.) J.O.B. to me!
(This article was written by Lisa Strum, M.S.Ed. in collaboration with Rabbi Ari Ginian; Executive Director; Mrs. Frumie Feig, Preschool Director, and Rabbi Zvi Bajnon; Menahel.)