I am thrilled to announce the first-ever initiative of the new Galinsky Academy [the home for all the schools of the Jacksonville Jewish Center including the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, the DuBow Preschool, the Bernard & Alice Selevan Religious School and Makom Hebrew High] will be an exciting pilot program called “Creating a Community of Kindness”! We will be launching at the beginning of the school year and partnering with Jewish Family & Community Services a sustained, meaningful, comprehensive program that will not only include our schools, but also our clergy, to ensure the fullest participation and the maximum impact possible.
Thanks to Colleen Rodriguez and Rachel Weinstein from JFCS for working with our school professionals and clergy to draft a program and a curriculum we are excited to bring to life in the month and year ahead!
Our plan from the beginning (you can catch up on some of our early thinking on the subject, by clicking, here, here and here), has been to avoid the one-shot assemblies or training that have some, but fleeting impact on the lives of our students, teachers, and parents and move to something deeper and more powerful.
Our assumptions are as follows:
- Survey data from our schools indicates that the most prevailing form of “bullying” or “mean” behaviors throughout our institution are those of social exclusion.
- Our students, academically, know what the right thing to do is. But many suffer from a pervasive “by-standerism” that prevents rightful action from occurring.
- The schools are capable of responding appropriately once behaviors happen. The reactionary system is working appropriately, by and large.
- We need to create a culture that reduces, if not eliminates, those kinds of behaviors from happening in the first place. We lack a proactive system.
- It will take students, parents, teachers, administrators, volunteers, and clergy working together to create a common vocabulary and to build a culture where a child of 3, a teen of 15, and a parent would each be equally willing to come forward when faced with “mean” behaviors and articulate that this is not how we behave here.
We will know we have succeeded when we hear peers tell each other that…
“We don’t let friends eat by themselves here.”
“We don’t let our classmates play by themselves on the playground.”
“Of course you could be my math partner!”
“No one works by themselves on class projects here.”
“We invite all our friends to birthday parties in our community.”
You can supply your own appropriately positive quote. But we will know the culture has shifted when those kinds of expressions are voluntarily offered, not teacher prompted. We will begin next month with teacher workshops during all each school’s “Preplanning Week” or “Faculty Orientation”. We will also present more information at upcoming PTA-sponsored “Back to School” brunches for each of our schools.
I cannot think of a better first-initiative for our Academy to engage in. I am looking forward to taking a major step forward next year to becoming the Academy our students deserve. Parents looking to get involved are welcome to! Feel free to comment on the blog or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. [Those interested in seeing the details of the plan are welcome to contact me directly for a copy.]
Enjoy the remaining weeks of summer, knowing that upon your return the work of ensuring our children a safe and nurturing environment to learn, to explore and to grow has already begun.