Director of Ethical Education Blog
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! As a reminder, NOVES is taking our Thanksgiving break so we will not be holding Sunday School tomorrow.
In the spirit of gratitude I want to thank our teachers — Iris, Jim, and Elham — for sharing their time and energy with our kids each week! I’m so grateful for your willingness to step into the role and your flexibility as we navigate our way back to our regular, in-person classes.
I’ll see most of you next week, and some of you on Friday evening for our Comparative Religion class’s synagogue visit!
"Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form" - Jean Luc Godard
I remember reading Stone Soup as a kid. I was an ardent rule-follower as a kid and I remember wondering whether the young man was technically lying to get everyone to share their food with him. After all, he could make soup from a stone. I remember feeling the twinge of jealousy that I always felt when I read stories like that, where someone was brave enough to break a rule and it ended up benefitting others.
Like many books, this one helped me better understand myself and how I fit into the world around me. We think about this a lot with kids -- we know how critical storytelling is for their development. At NoVES we even honor this with our weekly Story for All Ages.
We sometimes forget how important storytelling is for us as adults, too. Stories are more than just an escape from the day, Stories are how we learn and process things around us. Imagine that someone is trying to explain something abstract to you that you're not quite getting. What do you do? You probably ask for an example. What you're really asking for in that moment is a story to give you real-life context.
On Sunday, I hope we can all embrace the joy of making a story come to life!
Lately, I've been thinking about this old xkcd webcomic. It shows how we naturally fall into rhythms in how we talk to people and those can be tough to get out of.
It's been on my mind lately because I use Twitter professionally. When I started in my field, I was the only person who did the job at my company. Twitter provided me a huge community of other practitioners who I learned a lot from. As a result, I have a lot of friends and colleagues who I've met through the platform. Some of us have found new ways to connect off of the platform, and drastic changes to Twitter this week have made it clear that I need to find alternative methods for everyone else!
This also brings up the broader question of how we communicate. I tend to prefer text over email, but that doesn't mean that you do! Let me know what you prefer so I can make sure that I'm getting information to you in the best way I can.
I'm also starting a new connection point between the Sunday school and NoVES friends and members! Today you'll receive our first monthly newsletter, which details what we've been working on, what we've been reading, and what's coming up. Keep an eye on your inbox -- more from me soon!
A week or two ago, Josie and I were looking through my memories on my phone and came across this picture from 2017. She asked what we were doing, and I told her that I took her canvassing because an election was coming up.
"Can we do that again?" she asked. I paused for a second. I was furiously chipping away at work deadlines before leaving for a conference. I knew I'd be exhausted the next weekend, then there were more deadlines to hit.
Then the guilt got to me. Not only had I not done anything this year to help get out the vote, but I wasn't modeling the civic engagement and action that I wanted to. "Of course we can," I said. "We'll figure out something that we can do".
Do I feel like I have time this weekend? Absolutely not! I have a house to clean! I have graphics to make for future platforms and a newsletter to write (by the way, look for the first monthly Sunday School newsletter in the next few days)! Whether it's handing out ballots for a while at an early voting site, knocking a few doors until she gets tired, or taking some time off on Tuesday to grab a shift at my polling place, I'm promising to do something. I hope you'll join me in that promise!
Last week while our members were discussing causes worth dying for, the Sunday School students were having their own discussion — what causes did they want to trick-or-treat for?
Each year, for our October service project, the kids trick-or-treat after platform for donations to a charity. This year, we switched it up a little bit and let them pick their own charities while they decorated their collection boxes. We settled on two causes: LGBTQ+ rights and animals (specifically sea animals). With some research, we picked a local organization that works with LGBTQ+ youth and a global non-profit that cleans up trash in the ocean.
So…How did we do?
The children raised a total of $150, which we split between SMYAL and #TeamSeas! This money will go to provide programming and housing for LGBTQ+ youth in DC AND clean 75 pounds of trash from the ocean.
Thanks to our members for their generous support of this project! Without your help, this experience selecting a cause and donating wouldn’t be possible. I’m glad that we’re able to instill in our children that by working together towards a goal, we can do big things.
In the world of Learning & Development, where I spend most of my time, we talk about learner choice. It's important, we often preach, to give our learners autonomy and opportunities to choose what works best for them.
I've seen this described as a difference between adult learners and children, as if kids don't need choice or can't be trusted to make good decisions. In fact, all learners need, and deserve, autonomy. Sometimes our role is to deliver information and clear direction. Other times, our role is to stand back and provide guidance and support.
This Sunday, our students will participate in a Service Project to "trick or treat" for charity. What I know about this activity is that at the end of Platform the students will come around and collect donations for charity. What I don't know is what that charity will be.
While I was thinking about it and talking to some members, I realized that it doesn't need to be my decision. While we decorate our collection boxes, we'll talk about what cause the students would like to support and do research together to find the right place to donate.
If you're joining us at Green Hedges on Sunday, I ask that you bring some coins or a small amount of cash if you're able. I also ask that you trust the students to make a good decision.
Tom Nyilasi’s platform last week in Existentialism was a great excuse to share one of my favorite Frog & Toad stories — The Surprise. It led into a discussion with our Sunday school students about whether a kind act is “worth it” if it turns out to have no impact. The idea of doing the best you can without knowing the outcome reminded me of what I do daily as a parent.
Last month, I was part of a conversation about Ethical Education across our Ethical Societies. In that conversation, someone mentioned the idea that raising ethical children is a form of ethical action. Not only that, but the work that all of you do to help sustain our Sunday School program is an ethical action that we undertake as a society.
I appreciate all that you do for our Sunday School program! By teaching classes, reading our Story for All Ages (look out for a sign-up sheet Sunday!), and creating a welcoming environment for families, you are supporting this goal of raising our next generation of ethical children.
I was thrilled to see how the Sunday School students embraced last week’s Service Project to make cards to be sent to trans people along with gender-affirming shapewear. I’ll be sending the cards out on Monday (I want to add in a few of my own) so if you’d like to add any to our shipment, please bring them on Sunday!
After we finished making cards (20 of them!) we had some time to hang out together before the Platform ended. One of our students taught us all how to make paper boats and we tested them in a puddle on the playground. They turned out to be seaworthy, and the impromptu activity brought some joy to a cloudy, drizzly day.
This week, we’re back with the regular program, continuing our exploration of Judaism in Comparative Religion and practicing our stewardship in Every Day is Earth Day. I’m looking forward to seeing you all!
With the public comment period open for Virginia’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools and this week’s walkout by students in Fairfax County, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can engage our Sunday School students. This week, we will take ethical action to support trans youth while also reminding our NoVES members that they can do their part by sharing their opinion with the Department of Education.
I couldn’t be more excited about this project! Point of Pride is a charity that provides financial aid and direct support to trans youth and adults who need help to access gender-affirming care. As part of their work, they provide free chest binders and femme shapewear to those who are unable to access them.
With each donation, they include a handwritten note affirming that the recipient is seen and loved. On Sunday, our kids will create handwritten notes to send off to Point of Pride. Jealous? Don't worry! We will also provide materials for the adults to add their own notes following platform.
Gender-affirming care saves lives. I’m grateful that we can come together to provide some light.
The last month has been exhausting. My daughter, Josie, started school — a huge life transition for all of us that required us to learn new habits and routines. My regular workday has been completely booked (and complicated by the new routine of Josie showing back up at 3:30 every afternoon). As the new Director of Ethical Education, I also needed to plan for and organize the start of Sunday School at NoVES. From talking to NoVES members over the past couple of Sundays, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like I’m constantly trying to catch up.
I’m happy to report, then, that I’m writing this from the balcony of a bed & breakfast at the beach. It’s a rainy afternoon, which means that instead of trying to pack in as much as possible, I’m being forced to sit down and relax.
This got me thinking about the different types of rest. In the linked article and TED Talk, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith describes the seven types of rest that we need (yes— seven!). Physical, mental, sensory, creative, emotional, social and spiritual rest are all important.
These different types of rest help me understand why I tend to feel lighter and more energized on Sundays after platform. I may be forgoing physical rest by waking up to get to NoVES, but I’m getting the social and spiritual rest that I need. This Sunday, I’ll be catching up on my creative rest by staring at the beautiful Delaware Bay. I hope you all find yourselves getting the type of rest that you need!
This week in Sunday School:
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