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Sep 2 2014

Hate Crime in the Classroom

By at 2:41 pm

hate crime in the classroom swastika

In the middle of an exhausting, first year of teaching in a public high school in southern Massachusetts, I, like most teachers who come in contact with hundreds of students every day, contracted a virus, and took my first sick day. In the middle of that sick day, I got a call from the gym teacher, who I hardly knew.

“Are you OK?” He sounded reluctant to ask. Something had happened in my classroom while I was out, but he wouldn’t say what. He was shocked that no other staff had called me. He wished me well and got off the phone quickly.

When I returned to school, I demanded to know what had happened. My department chair said it was “an unfortunate incident,” and that I should talk to the principal. I finally wrangled it out: a student had spray-painted a swastika on my classroom floor and etched another swastika on my chalkboard. Something about Jews had been scrawled but only partially erased, probably so that no one would be able to identify the handwriting.

Both the chalkboard and floor were scrubbed clean before I returned.  Read the rest of this entry →

Back to (Not Very Jewish) School

By at 1:21 pm

back to (not very jewish) school

School just started here. With my boys starting first and fourth grade, I’m reminded of when I moved to this small town in 1986, when I was 7 years old. We moved from East Brunswick, New Jersey to Lake Mary, Florida.

Lake Mary is a charming, beautiful suburb of Orlando. It was recently named one of the top 10 places to live for families in Family Circle Magazine. I have no complaints about my parents’ decision to move here. But we might have been among the first Jews to move in. My Jewish family up North was so certain that we were being moved to the actual “Bible Belt” that they mistakenly referred to it as “Saint Mary.”

Although my parents aren’t very observant, they were acutely aware that it would be a bit of a culture shock to move from a state where Jews were everywhere to a place where we had to travel 30 minutes to find a theater that played the latest Woody Allen movie. Looking back, I think they handled it really well. Read the rest of this entry →

When “Meet the Teacher” Night is Scheduled on Rosh Hashanah

By at 10:12 am

when "meet the teacher" night is scheduled on rosh hashanah

Sitting at my rising 6th grader’s middle school orientation, I was reminded, once again, that rearing our kids in a secular society can be a tricky proposition.

There it was, up on the PowerPoint slide: “Meet the Teacher Night: Wednesday, September 24th, 2014, at 7:00pm.”

September 24th…September 24th. Sounded familiar. A frantic check on my iPhone confirmed it; September 24th is the first night of Rosh Hashanah this year. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 7 2014

Five Reasons to Stop Saying the B-Word

By at 9:36 am

bullying-eraser

When I received a call that my 5-year-old son was being a bully at camp, I felt as if I had failed as a mother. Outrage quickly followed the humiliation, as I imagined a scenario in which my child would intentionally bother another child. By the time I arrived at camp at the end of the day to collect him, I had worked through an entire spectrum of emotions, but I vowed I would listen to his explanation and try to contain myself. There is always another side to the story after all, and at the risk of sounding defensive, I know my child. And he is not a bully.

From the conversation I had with my son, I gleaned that there was an altercation during a soccer game and both boys had been aggressive. When the other child tried to take the ball my son lashed out and was sidelined. He was remorseful and assured me he would try harder to get along with this particular boy in the future. Together we reflected on alternative ways that he could have reacted to the situation and how he might control his anger going forward. I then informed him of what the repercussions would be if I ever heard another discouraging report like this again.

Now that I have had several days to ruminate on the situation, I realize that the main source of my angst is the word bully itself, and I think it is time we reevaluate the usefulness of this term. Below are five reasons I think we should stop using this word so haphazardly. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 17 2014

Free Stuff Alert: Labeling Packs for School & Camp from Label Land

By at 2:03 pm

label land camp/school pack giveaway

Attention all organized parents (and those who desperately wish to be organized): if you’re sending your kids away to camp this summer or to school in the fall, labels are your best friend. Repeat: labels are your best friend.

Label Land is a leading provider of customizable labels, offering labels that are clear, can iron or stick on in a snap, stay permanently affixed, and are easy to read in any situation. From clothing to bags to shoes, they’re here to make sure your kids’ stuff winds up back at home and not in the lost and found.

The good news? We’ve got three of Label Land’s School/Camp Packs to give away to three lucky winners. The School/Camp Pack includes:

- 100 iron on labels (white label with black text)

- 30 medium waterproof labels

- 2 bag tags

- 14 shoe labels

To enter the giveaway, fill out the form below and we’ll choose a winner this Friday, February 21st. Good luck, and happy labeling!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dec 16 2013

Christmas is Why We Send Our Son to Jewish Day School

By at 5:03 pm

christmastime in the UK

I am not a practicing Jew, but I don’t celebrate Christmas either. My husband is a lapsed Christian and a loather of all things Yule. Late December has always been an uncomfortable time in our house. Until, that is, we decided four years ago to send our kids to a Jewish school.

It was a surprisingly easy decision, made for a host of sound reasons, exactly the ones you would expect to figure into a choice about the expanse of your children’s education. But it also solved the problem of Christmas for us and this has turned out to be one of its most wonderful virtues.

I spent the holiday season as a girl in small Jewish niche towns–Great Neck and Boca Raton–where the passing of Christmas was marked in its own ritualistic way, with Chinese food and a trip to the movies. So many happy memories. When I moved to the United Kingdom 14 years ago, however, Christmas became a dark and almost unbearable period, something to escape, not to indulge in. It triggered in me a strong desire to flee homeward and back to a place where there is still a life to be lived on the 25th of December that doesn’t involve a decorated pine tree. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 12 2013

Feeling at Home in Jewish Preschool

By at 10:16 am

boy playing with trains at preschool

The Northern California air is crisp and biting as I unbuckle my son from his car seat and slide his arms into his Spiderman sweatshirt.

“Stand right here by me and don’t move,” I warn him, reaching back in to hoist the baby’s car seat up into the air. I keep one hand on Max as the other clicks the baby seat into the stroller. Lunchbox. Water bottle. Mitzvah Star. Five dollars for challah. Baby’s blanket is on. Where is his hat?

“Stay right here, Max, there are too many cars in this parking lot. Wait for Mommy. Hold on to Bennie’s stroller please.” A wadded up diaper rolls out of the passenger seat as I grab my diaper bag. I stuff it back in before anyone notices.

“Good morning, Simon Family! Hi Max! Or should I call you Spiderman? That’s a pretty cool sweatshirt you’ve got on!”

He beams. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 10 2013

The All-Consuming Day School Decision

By at 11:50 am

mom choosing a jewish day school

I felt positively Goldilocks-like as I made the rounds at open houses of prospective Jewish day schools for my 4-year-old son.

“This school is too big,” I said as I surveyed the hordes of parents spilling out of the auditorium.

“This school is too small,” I frowned at the empty seats and scant class size.

“This school is too rich,” I sighed as I took note of Gucci handbags and snippets of conversations concerning travel plans for St. Maarten.

Somehow, despite my best efforts to the contrary, I have become unwillingly embroiled in the massive wave of hysteria that sweeps the parents in my community when faced with the big day school decision. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 3 2013

Our Trip to Disney World Reminded Me Why I Send My Daughter to Jewish Preschool

By at 3:44 pm

 disney

It seems that every time we go to Disney World, we forget where we park. We always have to hit the lock button on our key in order to follow the noise to our car. This year I was determined to not to let that happen, so I had my daughter count how many spaces were between our car and the tram car.

I must have looked baffled when she started counting away because she looked at me and said, “That is five spaces, Mom.” My daughter had been counting in Hebrew.

For some reason, I started to tear up. My little girl is learning another language at the age of 4. In Disney, surrounded by such a diverse crowd, you realize how important it is that your children are diversified in their language and experience. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 19 2013

At What Age Can Kids be Left Home Alone?

By at 9:57 am

at what age do you leave your kids home alone?

It’s a big year at our house. This September, for the first time, my 14-year-old began taking the subway to school by himself, my 10-year-old began taking the city bus to school by himself, and I began leaving my 6-year-old at home alone for short stretches.

As with many of our previous milestones, all came about due to necessity. My oldest first started coming home by himself on the bus at the age of 9. His toddler sister had just transitioned from two naps to one, and the time she chose to do it in was exactly during his school pick up. Trying to put her down any earlier would have been too early, and any later would have been too late. So we armed our 4th grader with a Metro Card and a cell phone and assured him he was ready for this grand adventure. (Several parents in his class disagreed with our assessment and generously let us know how they felt.)

A year later, we decreed that not only was he experienced enough to also take the bus to school, but that he could bring along his kindergarten-aged brother. Now he was the one who disagreed with our assessment. Not because my oldest thought he couldn’t handle it, but because his brother was, to quote, annoying and obnoxious and refused to hold his hand while crossing the street, even though we’d mandated that he must. In that case, a stern talking-to with the younger made the older more amenable. That and my agreeing, despite being against allowances, to pay him for his pain and suffering. It was still less than what an adult babysitter would have cost. Read the rest of this entry →

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