- Outside the Classroom
By Carley Brooks, Denver JDS Parent
I joined the parent body at Denver Jewish Day School when my oldest son started Kindergarten. Fast forward seven years and two younger brothers later, and I can’t even imagine my life without this school.
Even the word “school” feels off because Denver JDS is so much more than a school. Yes, my kindergartener is doing math that sets him up for algebra already, though he feels that it’s play. Yes, my 4th grader just completed writing a book that he planned from a storyboard-editing process. Yes, my middle schooler is becoming familiar with the ways of the pop quiz. But while my kids are learning how to achieve academically, more importantly, they’re also learning how to be community members, friends, leaders, doers, questioners, and meaning makers.
I’ve been thinking about the school’s magic. Why are the kids at graduation always so confident and well-spoken? Why do they thrive in college and graduate school? Why are they so much fun to be around? Here are three things I’ve noticed as a parent:
- Denver Jewish Day School is a family. From the time our kids enter kindergarten, they become integral to one another's lives. Parents too. I was assigned a buddy family almost as soon as I enrolled, and then I became a buddy to families in the following years. A parent once said, when her buddy called her, “I didn’t know I’d get taken care of by the school just like my son!” But we do. The school takes care of us, we take care of each other, and the children learn to do the same. This value is the reason that at a recent K-12 program, two of our kindergartners refused to head down the hall back to class until they were sure the third kindergartner in their group was holding their hand. It’s the reason kids who are not Sabbath observant, make sure their classmates who are observant never have to walk home alone from the Fall Shabbaton. It’s the reason nobody ever has to even think about cooking when they have a baby or lose a loved one because the class meal train is filled within hours.
- Sometimes, families are dysfunctional. Denver Jewish Day School is no exception to that. You’re wondering what’s magical about that. As parents, we have to accept the reality that humans make mistakes and that nobody has a perfect or challenge-free life. Struggling is part of life and the administration at Denver JDS doesn’t shy away from that. As kids enter adolescence, hormones make everything feel harder and more uncomfortable. Our school starts supporting kids from the moment they enter the hallways. Teachers, and sometimes behavioral specialists employ a restorative justice approach to relationships, helping kids recognize, take responsibility for their actions, and learn to replace negative behaviors. This process teaches kids to understand one another, to use their voices for self-advocating, asking for forgiveness, and forgiving. Wouldn’t you like to know more adults who can do all of those things? It can be messy and it can be difficult, your child may cry or yell or be called upon to reflect on his behavior. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it to me to know my boys are learning to be their best selves. That’s the magic.
- Being Jewish is normal at Denver Jewish Day School. Jewish is our school’s middle name! One of my friends who grew up in the deep south always tells me how much she wishes she could have had what her kids have now because being Jewish made her “other” amongst her peers. Yes, this is a different time and place than that was, but sitting in the Chanukah show this year, watching every student scream out the words to Chanukah songs from all over the world, I realized that if I weren’t here, I’d probably be at a Christmas program thinly veiled as a holiday assembly in whatever neighborhood school my kids attended. My kids think Chanukah assemblies are the norm, and at their age, that’s a very good thing. Their still-developing brains are rewarded with daily affirmation that being Jewish is a point of pride and a positive attribute. I can not wait to see how that confidence propels them into their future. It took me most of my adult life to feel comfortable and confident in my own skin.my kids are gaining that skill now.
I write this because I want your family to benefit in the same way that mine has. And, I write it because I know so many other families who’ve enjoyed their own benefits, just as powerful for them as mine are for my family. I know the objections: tuition, small size, not being THAT religious….Trust me, take a chance. Visit the school, talk to the administration, bring up ALL of your objections. Let Denver Jewish Day School have an opportunity to show you all of the ways it can partner with you to support, nurture, challenge, and love your children as it does mine.