How did you find out about SJCS? Chances are, someone told you about an amazing school that their child is attending and encouraged you to come see it. In my case, it was a new friend who did not give up until I stepped in the door for a school tour. And that tour changed every preconception I had about what education should be and what it means to raise a happy child.
Six years ago, my daughter was a first-grader at our neighborhood public school. By all standards and measurements, it was a great school. Close to our house, the school had a solid reputation, capable teachers, an active PTA, and high test scores to indicate students’ achievements. My youngest child was enrolled in a co-op preschool, where together with other parents and tots, I was learning about the importance of social emotional learning. One evening, while volunteering at a preschool event, I met another mom. Her daughter was also in first grade. “Where does your daughter go to school?” she cheerfully asked. I answered without much enthusiasm, because something about our school was bothering me, and I didn’t know how to express it. My daughter was doing great – her grades were good, she had friends, and she liked her teacher. But something was missing. At a recent parent-teacher conference I was overwhelmed with sheets of scores and charts about her progress. “She is testing right on target for January”, her teacher would proudly tell me. “By the end of this grade, we want her scores to be here”, she pointed to a dot on a graph. “I am glad to hear about her scores,” I said. “But how is she really doing? How is she growing as a person?” A blank look on the teacher’s face was my answer.
Hearing my story, the mom almost jumped with excitement. “My daughter goes to SJCS and WE LOVE IT!” “That’s strange,” I thought. I have never met a person who used the word “love” to describe a school. Seattle Jewish Community School? Years ago I vaguely considered the school as a possibility. At that time I quickly ruled it out because we were not “that kind of family”. You know – the “Jewish day school family.” The mom almost grabbed me as we sat across the table – “You have to come and see it! It is such a great school!” She told me how her daughter is looking forward to going to school in the morning and how she thrives academically in the dual curriculum. She told me about the music program, the art projects, and songs in Hebrew that her daughter sang at home. The friendships, the playdates, the fieldtrips, the community of families that felt like a family. No scores, no testing, no progress charts. This school was all about raising “the whole child” – academically, emotionally, spiritually, and a 100% mensch.
Every day over the next few weeks, my new mom-friend would come up with yet another reason why I should look at SJCS. Her passion, persistence and enthusiasm were irresistible. We set up playdates for our girls and they became instant friends. During the school tour, I was stunned by the joy and a sense of confidence that I saw on children’s faces. They were having fun, and so were their teachers. Two months later, my daughter became a first-grader at SJCS, proudly welcomed into the classroom by her new friend.
Although now at different middle schools, our girls are as close as they used to be in grade school. Playdates turned into sleepovers, dress-up and make-belief stories turned into texts and emojis, their giggles are now sophisticated discussions of favorite books, pop songs and movies. Quite opposite in their personalities, our daughters are now thriving in their own unique ways among their new middle school friends. I am confident that SJCS gave them a solid educational foundation and social emotional skills to successfully navigate the often turbulent teenage years. And I will be forever grateful to my friend for bringing SJCS into our lives. Sincere word of mouth is a powerful force. What can you say about SJCS next time someone asks you about your child’s school? Share your SJCS story and help us spread the word!
Katya Turnbow, SJCS Parent and Board Member