03/22/2013 03:02 PM Posted by: Poster Avatar
Pesach is Here
While it might be time to rejoice in the beginning of Spring Break at the Shlenker School, soon we will also celebrate the very significant holiday of Pesach or Passover.  Pesach symbolizes a great deal in our tradition: rebirth, renewal, redemption, freedom, peace, and most importantly, hope.  We are taught at a young age about the significance of recalling our own personal exodus from Egypt and remembering our significant journey to personal freedom.  
But how do we encourage our children to understand this concept on their own level?  Thankfully, we live in an age when our children have grown up only knowing and understanding what it means to be free.  We are blessed that our children do not know slavery or its hardships. We tell them stories of our heritage, but are they truly grasping what it might have meant to live during a time when it was not possible to celebrate and observe Judaism as we are able to, especially at The Shlenker School?

Perhaps at our Seder tables this year, we can engage each other in discussions of the true meaning of “Mitzrayim,” the word we associate with Egypt, but in its truest sense actually means “narrow places.” There were narrow places in the lives of our ancestors and these same places exist in our lives today.  We yearn to feel truly redeemed - free from the pressures of work, school, technology, and anything and everything else that seems to be weighing us down.  These are the plagues of our time - necessary, but often challenging and anxiety producing.  Pesach comes at a pivotal time - to remind us of how we can lean on our families, our friends and our traditions to help repair those “broken places.”  
The symbols are abundant in our Pesach Seder.  And, thankfully, 
most of them are edible!  This remains a wonderful teaching opportunity.  The learning does not cease when we become adults, rather we attempt to Cont’d from page 1...
understand the significance of this sacred time on deeper and more introspective levels.  We serve our children well when we are active partners with them as we learn together and experience the true meaning of Pesach.  Our goal on Pesach is large, but not unattainable.  We have a wonderful and special opportunity to understand both the luxuries of today’s society with the enslavement of the past.  As one rabbi eloquently notes, “at this time God reminded the Israelites that it is possible to be surrounded by the signs of physical comfort, but still feel enslaved.  Today, we must rethink our definitions of both freedom and slavery.  Slavery means living life in a hurry, in concern, in stress - even if we are living well.”

At the Seder and throughout Chag HaMatzot-  the Festival of Matzah - we celebrate our redemption in whatever shape and size we approach it today. 

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

03/22/2013 09:35 AM Posted by: Poster Avatar
Up and By
By: Kayla D.

There is the up stander and the by stander. 
We all know who does the best. 
It’s the one who is not slim and shy and just stands by. 
It’s the one who is brave and strong and won’t be afraid. 
So up stands best 
It’s the one who passed the test. 
By stands, so still like a tree in the summer, it won’t move. 
Up stands like a cloud and it will move. Up will pass the test, it is the best!
Categorized under:  Elementary Education

03/15/2013 03:19 PM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
Dear Parents and Friends,
Is everything in education these days about “bells and whistles,” or in today’s vernacular, “iPads and Smartboards?”  What happened to “good ole teaching?”  I am happy to say, “good ole teaching” is alive and well at Shlenker.  Whether students are in the early childhood program or fifth grade, teachers sit side-by-side with one student or a small group of students to encourage them, practice with them, review with them, or push them.  It is what we do, and it is what we expect to happen in Shlenker classes.  
Older Toddler teachers have been working with Sherry Dubin and experts from the Rice Literacy and Culture Project for three years on ways to bring literacy into their classrooms.  They have had so much training that our own Barbie Freedman was asked to present at one of the workshops for the project.  Watching teachers work with students to develop vocabulary, work on class stories, or sit with a student to help him create his own story makes the Shlenker young student programs unique.  
By Kindergarten, students work with teachers to create stories and work on math concepts at their developmental level.  Sometimes we, the parents, expect something our children are not yet ready to give us.  It is the teacher’s job to see when it is appropriate to push and pull or to review and relax with the students.  We, the parents or grandparents, should be patient because the teachers at Shlenker are professionals who know just the right amount of small group or one-on-one attention each child requires. Even the fourth and fifth grade teachers work individually with students to ensure they have grasped a new concept or to create additional learning opportunities for a student who has mastered a curriculum requirement.  
Your children are the beneficiaries of this wonderful special time with their teacher!

Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

03/15/2013 11:45 AM Posted by: Poster Avatar
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to our Annual Fund Committee for all of your hard work on the 2012-13 Shlenker Annual Fund. I am pleased to report to our entire community that we currently stand at $221,000 with an overall parent participation of 68%, higher than the national average of 66%. The final class tallies are listed below. I would like to give special mention to the Kindergarten who had the most improved increase from 57% last year to 80.5% this year and to the 5th grade who reached an astounding 96.2%! Congratulations to Jackie Haas and Lisa Cohen who will share the coveted Annual Fund parking spot until the end of the year.
Parent Participation Percentages
YT - 69%
OT - 42%
PK3 - 47%
PK4 - 50%
K - 80.5%
1 - 70%
2 - 63%
3 - 79%
4 - 87%
5 - 96.2%

None of this would have been possible without your unwavering support for Shlenker and commitment to providing our students and faculty with the best resources possible. Please know that your efforts are deeply appreciated and have impacted our entire program.
Courtney Burger
Chair, 2012-13 Annual Fund

Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

03/15/2013 11:43 AM Posted by: Poster Avatar
It is hard to believe that we are two-thirds of the way through the 2012 - 13 school year. Our teachers are busy preparing important information to share with you during Conference Day on March 6, 2013. At this point of the year teachers know your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and are prepared to visit with you regarding each area. It is important as parents for you to prepare for the conference as well. Your child’s education is a partnership between the child, parents and school. What are the essential questions that you need to askto ensure that your child is thriving at Shlenker? We have listed a few questions that will help you have a successful Parent Teacher Conference.
How is my child doing socially? This is important because social development helps form who we become, and you want your child to develop proper social skills. Does my child seem happy and engaged in school? Is he/she showing good behavior with classmates and adults?
Where do you feel my child’s strengths and weaknesses are? It is important to know each of these. If a child has a strength you can help encourage academics in that area outside of school; for weaknesses you can help at home to strengthen these areas.
Do you feel my child needs extra help in school with anything? It is not easy for a teacher to tell a parent that their child needs additional help in an area. You are your child’s advocate. You need to know what your child needs and see to it that they get the help needed.
Has my child been doing their homework? Lots of times students complete their homework but fail to turn it. This is a good time to work out a strategy with the teacher to ensure that the work is turned in daily.
Does my child see the board okay? Teachers know what to look for with students having difficulty seeing.
Is my child organized? Organization is essential throughout life. It is important to develop good organization skills. Teachers work with students at school, but they need ongoing parental support as well. It is important that good habits are started early. How do you prefer that we communicate on any issue? Do you prefer email, phone call, notes home or website? Let the teacher know.
Do you have any recommendations? What can I do to help my child?
Let the teacher know if there have been any changes in the family dynamics. Are there new babies, a parent working away from home, death, illness or divorce?
These simple questions will help guide your conference and allow you to know how to help your child succeed. It is a good feeling to walk into a conference with a plan of action and walk away learning even more about your child. 

We hope that you have a successful conference,
Janna Barnhart and Casey Suter, 
Early Childhood and Elementary Principals

Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

03/15/2013 11:42 AM Posted by: Poster Avatar
Some of my strongest childhood Jewish memories come from times I was having fun.  I realize that may sound obvious, but my Jewish identity was built on hiking trips, during raucous song sessions, among good friends, and surrounded by laughter.  And it’s not just me.  Over the past 20 years that I have spent as a camp director and rabbi, I have seen how much these peak moments can build and cement a positive relationship between children and their Jewish tradition. 
Don’t get me wrong, Judaism has a serious message.  Judaism engages deep and difficult moments in our lives.  Judaism possesses the weighty expectations of a tradition that goes back thousands of years, and Judaism commands our respect during times of awe and introspection.
As much as any of that, though, Judaism is a tradition of joy.  It permeates almost everything we do.  What holiday is complete without wine, our symbol of joy? Every Friday night service ends with Oneg Shabbat (joy of Shabbat). Traditionally, kids begin their Jewish studies with candy in order to make the learning joyful, and even a shiva minyan is lacking without a joyous meal to lift our spirits with friends.
Part of our job as parents, educators, and rabbis is to help our children develop a sense of joy surrounding their connection to Judaism.  In addition to developing their Jewish knowledge and participating in Jewish community events, enjoying Jewish moments will go a long way toward helping them become active, committed Jewish adults.
This weekend provides another great opportunity as we enter the holiday of Purim.  There are few moments on the Jewish calendar filled with as much wild, joyous celebration as Purim. I  hope you’ll join us at Beth Israel on Saturday evening from 6:30 — 8:00 for an Adult Purim Celebration, complete with a vodka tasting bar and entertaining Latke-Hamantaschen Debate.  Then, Sunday morning, bring the whole family for a Willy Wonka Purim Shpiel in the Sanctuary at 10:00, followed by our huge Purim carnival in and around the Social Hall from 11:00 — 1:30.
Wishing you a joyous Shabbat, Purim, and beyond …

Rabbi Mark Miller

Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

03/15/2013 11:40 AM Posted by: Casey Suter Poster Avatar
Thoughts on Generations….
Art is just about the safest place to learn new things.  There is no “one” right answer in art, only what works.  My students translate that into “Ms. Shawa says there are no mistakes in art.”  There is no test in art either, at least in my art class.  (Art is always taught for the child and never to the test).  Every year when I get my new Kindergarten students, I wait a few weeks to see what each can do and what they bring with them.  I work from there, taking advantage of their strengths and young knowledge. 
Our children are digital natives; they will grow up not remembering or actually knowing  a time when computers were not part of their lives.  Getting in touch with what is organic and what comes straight from the mind, hands and imagination is so important in stimulating creativity and developing problem-solving abilities.  It is also important that we learn how to guide our technologies – the most sophisticated computer can only do as much as we tell it to do. 
Many parents and educators are frustrated with how challenging it can be to teach kids how to cut, write, use a ruler, how to get them interested in drawing and painting and creating...etc.  Yes, it is a challenge, but it is merely generational. “Kids don’t use their hands anymore, they don’t know how to manipulate their fingers” is what we so often hear many say, but in fact, they can and do.  Toddlers can swipe, touch, tap, drag, pinch and reverse pinch…well, on an iPad, that is.  The good news is that fine arts have been around forever and probably will be around forever.  
Parents often ask me how I get my students to do these big elaborate art pieces.  They very often are pleasantly surprised by their child’s art work and how much effort went in to it.  I tell them that my students take their art seriously.  Students are taught art concepts and skills.  They are encouraged to seek answers and ask questions.  They are taught to observe and appreciate their surroundings.  They are guided to make connections between great art and life today.  This generation has a lot of questions and a need to know and understand why and what it is they are learning.  Students are learning how to plan a picture; it is a very technical but essential component in creating a successful art piece.  It is a concept they relate to as digital natives.  I show them that I am interested in their point of view.  I ask them a lot of questions.  It teaches them that they are each unique in how they think, observe and reflect — the only thing that does matter is to actually think, observe and reflect.  Again, this is generational.  We tried so hard  to fit in to a box when we were growing up.  Now, not only are we encouraging out of the box, we would really rather have no box at all!
I could go on forever on how much my students are learning and how I am very proud of their charming art work gracing the walls of our school, but mostly I love the journey I have with them every day.  Observing and admiring all that is around us together makes us all better artists.  Taking time to notice and admire the colors in the sky and the color of changing leaves, observing and loving nature–these all make us better people...well, at least make us calmer people.  We all for sure can use a little of that!

Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

03/15/2013 11:39 AM Posted by: PTO Poster Avatar
Grandparents and Special Friends are our Secret Ingredient” here at the Shlenker School.  We are excited to showcase our remarkable students and school by showing you and your families “what’s cooking” in Early Childhood.  
On Friday, February 15, we will welcome our Grandparents and Special Friends with a light breakfast at 9:15 a.m. in the Wolff-Toomin Social Hall, where our guests will receive the famous picture buttons.  At 9:45 a.m., Grandparents and Special Friends will head to the classrooms to meet their students and start the fun-filled day.  Guests will observe and participate in all the exciting activities our students take part in daily, including visits to our phenomenal specialists.  Depending on grade level, the children will attend activities such as music, Hebrew, storytelling, and crafts in the classrooms.  We cannot wait for your families to get to know our outstanding teachers, amazing specialists, and most importantly, our incredible students.  The day will conclude with a Family Kabbalat Shabbat in the Sanctuary at 11:15 a.m.  
All parents are welcome to join their children at the Family Kabbalat Shabbat.  Students will be dismissed from the Sanctuary and there will be no Lunch Bunch or ballet.  Please remember to turn in the form which designates who will be responsible for taking your child home, if you have not already done so.
We would like to thank all the volunteers involved in helping us prepare for the Early Childhood Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day.  We would like to extend a special thank you to Janna Barnhart, Lesley Robbins, and our Early Childhood teachers and specialists for helping to make this event happen. 
For families new to Shlenker, this is a wonderful event that we want your child to truly enjoy.  If your child does not have a grandparent or special friend that can attend, please come and spend the day with your child as their special friend.  If you are unable to attend, please contact the office, and we will find a special friend for your child.
Lauren Sorkin, Ashley Roseman, Jamie Weinberg, and Meagan Friedman
Early Childhood Grandparents’ & Special Friends’ Day Chairs

Categorized under:  Preschool

03/15/2013 11:37 AM Posted by: Nancy Pryzant Picus Poster Avatar
Tu B’shevat higia!  Tu B’shevat has arrived!  Tomorrow, we will celebrate the fifteenth day of the Jewish month of Shevat, also known as “The New Year of the Trees.”

Over the centuries, this day has taken on new significance.  Although this “holiday” is not mentioned in the Torah, the reason for its observance is.  In the Torah, we are told that when the Israelites finally entered the Land of Israel and settled there, they were not to eat the fruit of any tree that was less than three years old.  Centuries later, during the time of the Mishnah (approximately 200 BCE to 200 CE), the rabbis asked how we could know the age of a tree.  The answer:  any tree planted before the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat (in Hebrew, Tu B’shevat) would be considered one year old, and thus, a holiday was born.

Today at The Shlenker School, we observe this special day in many ways.  As we have in the past, our Student Senate is leading the elementary students in an effort to collect tzedakah to plant trees in Israel.  This important project supports the Jewish National Fund, and provides parks, playgrounds, water conservation projects, and forest preservation to the citizens of the State of Israel.  We’ve also sent home JNF envelopes for those families that wish to plant their own trees in honor of or in memory of a loved one.

This Tu B’shevat, we will also be celebrating some of our very own trees.  You may have noticed a forested area on the western edge of our property, between our elementary playground and North Braeswood Boulevard.  This is our own BackYard, a unique and important piece of Houston’s natural history.  This is one of the last remaining stands of natural vegetation that remains along Bray’s Bayou, and is a rich repository of native trees, plants and wildlife.  It is also the home of three distinct habitats, each with its own microclimate, vegetation, and wildlife.  In recent months, non-native, invasive plants have been removed, trails have been laid, and an outdoor seating area has been built.  Look for more information in the coming weeks about this beautiful and serene treasure right in our own BackYard!

And so, enjoy Tu B’shevat–and Shabbat shalom!

Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

03/15/2013 11:31 AM Posted by: Poster Avatar
Hi Everyone - especially PreK-4 Parents,

I hope you all have marked your calendars for the Kindergarten Conversation and Coffee!  It’s next Wednesday, January 16, and you can come to our morning session at 9:15 AM or our evening session at 6:30 PM.  Our administrators and teachers will be there to share information about our curriculum and special programs.

There’s nothing quite as special as spending your Kindergarten year at Shlenker, and some of our own Kindergarten Kids would like to tell you why!

Please plan to join us next Wednesday, so you can learn everything you need to know about Kindergarten at Shlenker.  Bring lots of questions, and we’ll have lots of answers!

See you at the KC&C,

Gail Rovinsky
Director of Admissions
Categorized under:  Elementary Education

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