In Jewish culture, community is everything. The importance of family, friends and neighbors has been entrenched since the days of the shtetl, and continues to be vitally important in modern times. Gan Shalom emphasizes the value of community in all respects.
Parents are constantly teaching children how to be part of a larger community; at Gan Shalom we also teach them how to be part of their own — how to play, how to interact and how to handle disagreements in ways that don’t disrupt those around them. With conflict resolution approached as an opportunity for learning, children are encouraged to solve problems by themselves, with teachers serving primarily as facilitators. Questions and statements such as, “Did you tell him/her that you didn’t like that?,” “Did you tell him/her how that made you feel?,” and “I see that he/she has a sad/angry/scared face when you did/said that” are primary to this process.
“You can’t say, ‘You can’t play’ ” is a phrase that guides our process of community building. It empowers children to speak out about their needs and feelings. Time-outs are not used; we might separate a child for a 10 second pause, at which point a teacher will ofer a choice: “Are you ready to come back into community and keep Gan Shalom a safe place? We miss you and need you to be a part of our community.”