HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Quality Early Childhood Education: The Ultimate in Pre-School Marketing
What tools do you need to market a Jewish preschool to families of pre-school aged children? The answer is quite simple: offer families the best Jewish educational experience possible for their children. All parents want nothing but the best for their children and what is better than an excellent model of early childhood education that inspires children to see consistently through a Jewish lens?
In both our research and our fieldwork in schools, we at the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (JECEI) have learned that Jewish parents seek the best educational environment for their children, while at the same time craving meaning and community in their own lives. What the JECEI found to be most successful in terms of bringing young families and children into a Jewish setting is an educational environment that creates a seamless relationship between Jewish Big Ideas (for more information please see www.jecei.org) and constructivist thinking. Imagine a school where every aspect of the life of the school and its community is seen through an inherently Jewish lens. Imagine a school where directors, teachers, and parents are immersed in Jewish lifelong learning.
For too long we have been complacent when it comes to balancing Jewish early childhood education with the enormous changes occurring in the various fields affecting education. Ideas about teaching, learning and parent engagement have changed dramatically over the past ten years and it is imperative that Jewish schools begin to make an effort to keep up. The same need for change is found in the classroom. We continue to teach Jewish holidays with some new twist to an old arts and crafts project and some version of the old "they hated us, they killed us, let's eat" stories we tell our children.
The best way to bring the necessary change into Jewish early childhood classrooms is to use core Jewish values and key concepts. For example, teaching young children using Jewish Big Ideas for Shabbat might include exploring family relationships, the power of time, the difference of being and working, sacred time and sacred space. Freedom, nature and the wonder of its miracles is a way to teach a three-year-old and his/her family to appreciate and celebrate Pesach together. Exploring family relationships and celebration, giving and sharing, light and darkness for Chanukah brings honest meaning and interpretation to a family and their young children.
We are all familiar with the main gimmicks used to get people in "our doors." But, once a family is in the door, do they see excellence? Do they feel the possibilities of being part of a meaningful Jewish community? Upon entering one of our buildings, are parents greeted by someone that evokes the illusion of the welcoming feeling of Abraham's tent? When they call your office for the first time do they believe that someone is listening deeply and wanting to learn about their family or merely providing information? Excellence must be intentional and visible in every aspect of a Jewish school.
Families that become part of an excellent Jewish educational community when their children are young will crave more in the future and travel down the pathway of Jewish day school and increased involvement. So, the answer to our beginning question, "how does one market a Jewish preschool to families of preschool-aged children?", is simple: Excellence through a Jewish Lens.
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