The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.

This quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln (although Google equivocates on the veracity of this). Regardless of who said it, I have found myself ruminating on this notion near-continuously this year. I've hung it on the wall directly above my desk, often glancing at it between emails, looking over at it during meetings with teachers and parents. And heading into November 8, I find myself clinging, perhaps desperately, to this idea.

My mental image of teachers has always been of activists, of advocates for a better future. Teachers don't show up for work every morning so they can play blocks and make playdo; we approach our work as Teachers with passion and fervor because we are involved daily in the building of a community marked by sharing and kindness, by responsibility and democracy. That community happens to be called a "classroom." But as children outgrow school, they retain the core values of the community/classroom and externalize them into ever broadening communities - their workplace, peer group, their own households (yikes!) and positions of influence in government, business, arts, and more.

A JCC mother told me a few years ago that she was walking with her then-preK son down the street when he picked up a piece of garbage from the sidewalk. She recoiled in horror, of course, and shrieked, "What are you doing!" He looked up at her, surprised by her reaction, and confidently said as he threw the garbage out, "Mom, I'm repairing the world". This is the English translation of Tikkun Olam, a Hebrew phrase we use in our classrooms, and at events like the upcoming Parents Association Tikkun Olam day this Sunday afternoon.

We embrace these values in our school community so that our children carry them forth into the world they both inherit and create.

I played in Classroom 8 this week at the playdo table, watching as four children happily smooshed and rolled the dough, each with a well-portioned piece in front of them. A teacher sat with the children, taking pictures and writing notes on her clipboard along the way. A fifth child approached the table and sat down.

"I don't have any playdo," he remarked softly, almost to himself.

The activist (teacher) leaned in, and asked the citizens (students) in a soft yet earnest voice, "Friends, I wonder what we can do to help our new friend." Some of the children paused and looked up; some of the children kept rolling their dough. One child pinched out a small piece of her dough and gingerly placed it in the empty hands of the newly arrived student. Another child, seeing this act of kindness, boldly stood up, walked over, and placed her entire mound on the table in front of the friend. She then removed a little piece for herself, which she brought back to her spot and joyfully continued to play with.

This was a pivotal moment for the community, one where it's values would be defined and questions of government were explored - distribution of material resources, treatment of newcomers, group responsibility and self-determination. It is important to note that the teacher did not tell the children what to do but asked them how they could respond, used plural not individual pronouns ("we" and "our") and did not simply add more playdo to the table. Later that day, the teachers in room 8 wrote their Daily Reflection to their parents about building community at the playdo table. These are not things we say lightly; there is deep intention and hope behind our actions as teachers.

We work hard as teachers because we know the values in our classrooms now will be the values that shape society and government as our children come of age. When we see your children each morning, we see the world they will create as they grow. And we believe deeply in how good they will make it.

Shabbat shalom,