End-of-Year Reflection by Dr. Deborah Skolnick-Einhorn
June 14, 2021 by
Thank you for entrusting your children to us and for being our partners in helping your children learn, grow and thrive. At the eighth grade graduation ceremony, I reflected on the sacred work of educating your wonderful children, and I wanted to share some of those same ideas with you today as our community wraps up the year.
“God took Adam, and put him into the Garden of Eden to till it and to guard it.”
Human’s first occupation, we learn from Beresheit, is as a gardener. And I believe that is the work that we continue to do each day here at Milton. There are, of course, many approaches to education, child development and parenting, too. But over the course of my now complete (!!) first year at Milton, I can see that we are a community of gardeners. We help grow thoughtful, funny, empathetic, wise and diverse students whose rainbow of colors and shapes is both beautiful and inspiring.
Dr. Alison Gopnik (h/t to Aviva Walls, my colleague at Gesher Jewish Day School in Virginia) compares this to the carpentry approach, where we, as parents or educators, build something fixed and firm, solid perhaps, but without much chance to evolve, grow or differentiate.
When we look toward gardening as our inspiration instead, our role as the adults becomes very different. We are the tillers or perhaps the guards in some cases, like Adam and Hava. We ensure that our students have fertile soil, bright sun, nourishment and are part of a larger garden. At Milton, we seek to provide those in so many forms: great literature, inspiring music, a community of middot (of values), rich Jewish texts, space to argue about those texts, teachers, subjects, experiences and challenges that will nourish them each in their own ways. And then we let them grow.
And the context of this year has made this metaphor more apt than ever before, as we allowed ourselves to be more vulnerable to the elements. We all became heartier and more flexible, playing outside in the rain or learning Shakespeare among the cicadas.
We plant the seeds, sometimes in PK and sometimes as transplants in a later grade when they come to us already a little more grown, but we encourage each of them to tilt toward the sun and find their unique colors.
And as we reach the end of a challenging year, we all get to step back and see all the varieties that have sprouted and flourished here, and feel proud of this holy work that mirrors that of Gan Eden. Thank you to our families and to the teachers and staff here at Milton who have provided those essential ingredients, who have been the sun and the water to help these students blossom despite some rough terrain. A special thanks goes out to our shomrot par excellence, Jane Brophy and Eden Whitman Golub, who worked tirelessly to keep our garden safe this year.
In the words of fourth grader, Ariel A., “May we continue to learn and grow and may God protect us all.”
Amen to that!