Re-Evaluating Early Childhood Education: Facing Today’s Challenges
by Cathy Rolland
Many of our congregations with early childhood centers are currently facing similar challenges: enrollment numbers are down; families are experiencing financial and emotional set-backs, and our communities continue to face new competition from the secular world of early childhood education.
Though at first glance, this may appear rather discouraging, at the same time it offers us an excellent opportunity to take a close look at our current structures and ask ourselves some difficult questions: What does our early childhood program really stand for? What is our identity? How are we REALLY connected to our synagogues? What’s unique about us? How are we different from all of the other programs in the area, Jewish and secular?
If we expect us to engage today’s families with young children in new and meaningful ways, we must closely examine the entire congregation and how our families with young children are connected to everything going on, beyond the early childhood program: Are we inspiring as a community to today’s families with young children? What tools do we need to make our community the place we dream of where these families will want to begin their Jewish journeys?
On March 14, 2012, seventy early childhood educators from all over the country will join together in Boulder, Colorado as Cantor Ellen Dreskin leads us: Through the Jewish looking glass…… Do you see what see? Whether our directors are Jewish or not, each one will bring different types of experiences. Individually and together we will “look inside” and reflect on our own connections to Judaism and our Movement. As we focus on our personal and professional relationship to Judaism, we will create tools to take back to our own settings to ensure Reform Judaism provides a compelling core to all of our classrooms, programs, staff and families, to ensure a strong and vibrant future for our Movement.
So tell us in the comments section below: what are the greatest challenges facing your congregation’s early childhood center, and how is your leadership dealing with them?
Cathy Rolland is the URJ’s Early Childhood Education Specialist.