What We Learn From Each Other

children color a large piece of paper on a table while a teacher looks on

What’s the secret ingredient to building a thriving community? A sprinkle of welcome, a dash of shared treats, and a whole lot of tiny hands reaching out to say hello. Welcoming is a key value in our ECCs and something we’ve been working on since the first day of school. It’s a value the children quickly embraced as they explored the themes of welcome, community, and hachnasat orchim (welcoming in guests).

The Mapal class, buzzing with excitement, constructed a sukkah within their classroom walls, eager to welcome their Nahar neighbors for a visit. The Nahar children, touched by the invitation, responded with creativity, crafting vibrant decorations they proudly carried over to adorn their neighbor’s sukkah. In the months since, this class of four- and five-year-olds has been busily baking, always sharing excitedly their treats with other classrooms or WHC employees.

When you walk into the Nevatim or Anafim class, children grab your hand and pull you into the kitchen to make you a cup of tea or show you what they are making. The Shorashim children, our youngest class, have been exploring our building and getting to know the maintenance, security, and reception teams, something the Teva class in D.C. has been doing as well. We love seeing how the children are creating their community and an environment that reflects our values.

These values are central to our work and the curriculum we develop. Through the learning process, we as educators often find ourselves reflecting on these values as well, and rethinking how our own practice embodies them. Early childhood educators often get so caught up in daily activities in their classroom, or school, they rarely get an opportunity to connect with other professionals. Our profession is still advocating for recognition, compensation, and respect, and engaging with the larger community of educators is vital for developing our field. As we watched our children going out of their way to visit their neighbors and welcome guests into their rooms, we wanted to model this in our practice as well. What can we learn by connecting with or welcoming our peers? How can we strengthen our own practices by sharing ideas and perspectives with other early childhood educators?

With this in mind, we eagerly embraced every opportunity to connect with local, national, and international communities of early childhood educators. Over the past few months, we have welcomed a variety of visitors, excited to share our work and learn from their experiences. In October, our Anafim team shared how they are finding holiness or kedusha in their daily routines with SOS International, a group of Eastern European educators who are reconnecting their communities to their Jewish roots. Together, we discussed how we document and share the learning happening in our classrooms. In November, through a partnership with the Paradigm Project, we welcomed more than 40 educators from around the U.S. and Israel to discuss and share the experiences of our programs and the values of matan (giving), achdut (unity), and kavod (dignity) we teach. Most recently, three Jewish ECC teams came in for a day of learning and connecting with our local community.

Later this month, we open registration for a new school year, reflecting on the lessons of welcoming and community we have been learning with our children. This is what makes our program special — this focus on connection, on learning in partnership, and on embodying the values of our community. Our programs model kavod for the professionalism of our educators, achdut within our communities, and a continuous emphasis on matan — on what we give to each other and to the world these children will inherit.

Registration for the 2024-25 school year opens at the end of January! Visit whctemple.org/ecc to learn more and schedule a tour.