An Alliance of Teachersby Jacqueline Bull September 26, 2018
JCC’s across North America are bringing early childhood educators together with the Sheva Center Leadership Institute. Thirty-one educators have been accepted into the three-year institute, one of which is from our very own Lawrence Family JCC. Jennifer Metzler is one of the 31 fellows that will take part in retreats, international study tours, and monthly seminars for professional and personal development.
When Jennifer first moved to San Diego, she attended “Mommy And Me” classes at the JCC and got involved with the preschool as a parent.
“As I got more and more involved in the school, our director at the time, Alma Hadash Geiger, she looked at me and said, ‘Have you thought about going back to work and what do you think about working here?’” she said.
Jennifer started working two days a week in the office and then was asked to take on the parent child classes. Jennifer recalls going the director, Alma, and saying it was too difficult and that she didn’t think she could do it. Alma asked her to finish out the rest of the year and then reassess.
“And by the end of the year, I came back and said, ‘OK. I love it. I’ll keep doing it.’ And I think I’m heading into my 9th year teaching,” she said.
At the institute there is a variety of early childhood educators such as directors, teacher mentors and people that work with curriculum in addition to teachers.
“They told us when we first got there that there were three goals of the institute. The first is that they want us to be there for ourselves to personally grow. The second is that they wanted us to take what we were getting and bring it back home – and that is something that I look forward to doing over the next three years. And the third was for us to become advocates for the work that we do with children.”
Jennifer explained that the fellows all bonded as a group and that in addition to the monthly seminars and the trips with the institute, the fellows keep in touch daily with a text message group.
“So we’re still intimately connected with one another. Whether it is congratulating one of our fellows who just had a baby, another fellow who just got married, or it is about ‘I’m struggling with this in my classroom and how would you deal with this situation’ or …. ‘What are some videos or things that you’ve watched that have been motivating and talk about positive leadership.’ It has just been this wonderful, supportive ongoing conversation.”
The idea of community, shared experience and connecting one on one is a value present in many levels in the fellowship. This idea is present in both the institute’s structure and its mission.
That starts with the group setting of having 31 fellows, visiting and working with other schools incorporating the Sheva framework and then empowering the people that they work with at their individual JCC’s.
“What is wonderful is that Sheva is not a curriculum in and of itself. It’s really bringing universal values through a Jewish lens. In a lot of ways the things that we talk about are things that my school is doing, it is just bringing the intentionality to it and the mindfulness. And really utilizing what we call Jewish lenses and using them as we look at the work that we do and again making them a part of our everyday language,” she said.
Having a common language helps to unify the educators and staff at each school, but also as a network of centers.
“You don’t feel isolated in your own school – the work that we are doing is shared, the ideas are shared and the connections are shared,” she said.