It is time to take a moment’s rest from the intensive pace dictated by our life, and to observe the events that have taken place since we started the new school year. According to my traditional calendar, as a Jew, this is also the beginning of the New Year.
Currently there are 27 children in the kindergarten in two age groups. In the younger group there are 12 children ages 2 to 4. The staff includes Amna, a Bedouin woman from Ka’abiya, who worked last year as well, and Gidi, a male Jewish teacher - who worked for the first three years with the older group. The older group now has 15 children ages 4 ½ to 6 years old. The teachers for the older group include Ibtisam, from the neighboring village of Zbidat, who is continuing with us for her second year, and Yael, a Jewish woman from Kiryat Tivon that joined us this year, and who has made a quick and successful adjustment. Sultanna, who has two children in the kindergarten in each of the age groups, also continues to work with us. We also have two young interns, Ahlam and Anram, local Bedouin Arab girls that are volunteering in the kindergarten this year, within the framework of their “Year of Service” - and their contribution to the kindergarten is wonderful indeed. Diana, mother of Shir from the younger group, has also pitched in to help. I’d like to say: many, many thanks to you all!
Lessons Learned and a New Start
The year started off quite smoothly: we have a daily and weekly routine, and traditions of a yearly routine that are slowly evolving. We definitely feel that we are more at ease than in past years. The children are calmer, and things are clearer. It is likely that the staff seminar that we held this past summer had a positive, calming, and balancing influence.
The seminar took place for 56 hours over the course of two weeks, with the participation of all of the teaching staff. The seminar was designed and facilitated by Ola Adeem, one of the founding teachers of the kindergarten, and Yael Maayan, Group Facilitator. Also participating were two professional advisors: the Waldorf educator Mrs. Stephanie Alon, who represented the concept of Waldorf Education, especially as applied in multi-cultural settings, and Dr. Ora Mor, the Head of the bilingual education program of the Jewish – Arab Center at Haifa University. I was pleased to be able to attend this seminar myself, and I can personally report that it was facinating and enriching.
The question that underlined all aspects of the seminar was: how can Waldorf education serve as a bridge between different cultures? We explored our apprehensions and our differences in depth. We received recommendations from the experts in their respective areas, and I definitely feel that the seminar contributed towards our starting the school year with more strength and maturity. Now that the day-today routine is running more smoothly, we are able to take time to consider improvements, such as how to improve the absorption of the unfamiliar language for each and every child, how to improve the use and level of music, art, and stories, how to improve the physical and aesthetic aspect of the kindergarten, both indoors and out.
On the organizational level, we have also improved: our concept of the ongoing tasks that are required is clearer, although at the moment we are still tackling what seems to be a huge number of duties. Our receipt of government funding from the Ministry of Education has definitely assisted and stabilized the organization, although we will still need to depend on donations, in the coming year.
Moslem and Jewish Holidays and Our Creative Solution
There are definite signs of Autumn in the air - or perhaps it is already winter? The children show up in the morning with coats and umbrellas, yet by the end of the day it has warmed up and they have peeled these layers off. We celebrated together the Ramadan period, ending with Eid El Fitr, as well as the Jewish Rosh Hashana and the Sukkot holiday.
The expansion of the teaching staff has enabled us to achieve an interesting solution to the discrepancy between the Jewish and Moslem calendars. The problem, in short, is that the Arabs do not stop working during the Jewish holidays, and the Jews work during the Moslem holidays - what were we to do? When do we have vacations in the kindergarten? (If we honor all the holidays with a vacation, the kindergarten will be basically closed!) Our creative solution is as follows: the kindergarten is always open - and closes only if and when the Jewish and Moslem holiday coincide. The Hebrew- speaking teachers and children go on vacation during the Jewish holidays, while both Arabic-speaking teachers from the two age groups work together, and the kindergarten turns into a multi-age environment for the duration of the holiday. During the Moslem holidays, vice-versa: the Arabic-speakers are on holiday and the Hebrew-speaking teachers work together. This enables brothers and sisters that are in the two groups to spend time with each other. However, even those that do not have a sibling in the other group enjoy the variety. For example - my daughter Hagar found great interest in playing and helping out with the younger children. For an entire day she played with Hiyulin, from the younger group, returning home joyful and full of stories from her day of “assisting the teachers”, and when the kindergarten went back to the usual set-up, she inquired if she could go to the younger group “to help the teachers”.
As for me - between a meeting with the accountant; a meeting with the Maayan Babustan Board; a meeting with the teachers and the pedagogical staff; between playing a musical accompaniment to a story in the kindergarten; arranging a ceremony at week’s end; between collecting tuition and distributing receipts to the parents; between opening letters from the bank and writing a new arrangement for a holiday song; between accompanying my 5 ½ year old daughter to the kindergarten as she amuses herself with new words she has learned in Arabic; between conversations, meetings and plans for opening the first of its kind bi-lingual Waldorf class; between dealing with problems that arise from teachers or a certain parent; between monitoring expenses and answering endless emails (something I am usually way behind with, and I beg your forgiveness); between trying to remember the names of all the new parents - I try not to miss the moments of appreciation, enthusiasm and thanksgiving: for here in front of my eyes miracles are happening! A different generation, one that does not have to experience separation, conflict and hostility, a new generation is writing its own stories.
I thank you all again for your support, without which all this would not be possible.
Yours in friendship,
Maayan Babustan Arab Jewish Waldorf Kindergarten,
13 Narkisim St. 36073, Kiryat Tivon, Israel, phone: +972-4-9536012