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Three ideas that inspired me most: Reflections on my visit to the 14th Street Y

The Jewish Education Project
The Jewish Education Project is a beneficiary of UJA-Federation of New York

Samantha Hornstock

I had a wonderful morning at the 14th street Y Early Childhood Program learning more about their practices as well as engaging with other teachers in the field. It allowed me reflect on the ideas that work well in my own classroom, what could use improvement as well as ways to implement ideas that were discussed as a group. I was inspired by the their respect for each other as co workers and teammates, students and their families. I have narrowed down the three ideas that inspired me the most leaving the workshop:

1. Teacher Support

The 14th street Y team of “ teacher trainers” seems to be an extremely beneficial part of their program. Having a team of teachers that are able to train educators with less experience is crucial to staff development. Through experience, they have seen that less “formal” meetings and more hands-on approach is a more successful way to tackle issues such as student behavior, classroom management and curriculum. I loved their ideas for working as a team. The entire staff supports an issue that a particular teacher is having in their classroom. Providing teachers with a comfortable way to seek help or find out additional information seems to create consistency among the entire school and allow teachers to have a sense of support and unity.

2. Incorporation of Family Into The Classroom

The early childhood theme this year is a focus on “families”. The study of art is developed using imagery, which incorporates the student’s ideas and feelings through a variety of different art forms. The pictures of student’s portraits of members of their family were amazing to see. It encourages further thinking about where they come from and what makes them unique. From an early age, it shows children the importance of the family-school connection, which is key to a successful learning experience.

family portoriat

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the documentation outside the classroom on the process of art projects which allows parents to have more of an idea on exactly what their children are doing at school and how to talk to them about it. I appreciated their “no stress” approach to documentation and remembering to “stay in the moment” and not worry about constantly updating the bulletins. However, their picture of the day accompanied with an explanation I found to be the most inspiring. It is often a dilemma for me to find a way an efficient yet detail orientated way to express to the parents in my classroom what is taking place. Sending a picture home accompanied with a short description daily is a great way to encourage child and parent conversations about school and keep parents involved at the same time. 

3. Respect for Child Space and Individuality

While walking around the different classrooms,
I was impressed with each student’s areas to keep their belongings. It is important for children to have a space that they can store their art and work created throughout the day and also encourages accountability. I also loved its technique of writing each child’s name on a block while using the voting system. It has social-emotional and cognitive benefits as well as ensures that each child’s voice is heard. Each classroom had a home-like feeling to it while also allowing children to have their own space.

stacked blocks

Samantha Hornstock is a teacher at Temple Shaaray Tefila Nursery School in NYC.

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