by Daniel R. Weiss
Over the course of the summer, our teachers submitted words that they feel are important in our school. Among the words that teachers submitted were; empathy, determination, courage, cooperation, flexibility, respect, leadership, wisdom, kindness, honor, tradition, achievement and curiosity. While eight of those words became the names of our Mishpachot, the other five are central to what we teach in our school. Much like Maimonides who had thirteen principles of faith, these thirteen words will guide us through our school year.
For some of the words, the lessons are easier to teach than for others. This past Friday, our First-Grade students were able to incorporate a number of these words and lessons into a unit focused on how to ask questions. Our First-Grade teachers brought cookies to school for a special snack, but mysteriously, the cookies went missing.
Wearing FBI badges and sunglasses, our students were on the case to hunt for the cookie thief. Their hunt took them through the hallways, into offices and classrooms and across our campus. Their last clue led them to discover a fingerprint left on the cookie jar. The students studied the fingerprint, taking note that there are three different types of fingerprints; the whorl, the loop and the arch. They discussed how all fingerprints are different and unique and examined their own to try and determine what type they had.
After they investigated the fingerprints, they narrowed down their suspects. The students took two suspects into custody and asked them interrogation style concrete questions. After a series of questions and the use of some truth serum (apple juice), one of the suspects admitted to being the culprit (it was me).
The students asked why I would take the cookies. I explained that they looked so good that I wanted them, but once I took them, I felt so bad that I didn’t eat any of them. I even started to cry. What happened next brought the lesson truly home. As I sat there in front of the students, crying, a girl in the class ran up to me and started hugging me. She kept repeating, “It’s ok. We forgive you.” This student displayed empathy. All of the other children and staff who were present, learned about empathy. It wasn’t taught. It was displayed. Our students in their hunt for who stole the cookies from their cookie jar illuminated our world with curiosity. And our teachers illuminated our children’s worlds with flexibility and leadership. But what I will remember most from that incredible educational opportunity is that student who illuminated all of our worlds with empathy and with kindness. And that is what makes Bornblum a shining light in our community.