A note from Jacqueline
June 25, 2021

Dear Families,

This week, as we said goodbye to some of the children and teachers in our 3s and UPK classrooms, I was reminded of how far we’ve come together since the fall.

This year was shaped by temperature checks, daily health screenings and electrostatic cleaning procedures. It was the year of masks, social distancing and endless gallons of hands sanitizer. 

But, important as they were, these measures don’t tell the whole story. This has also been a year of community and kindness, of mutual care and shared joy trumping adversity. I’ll remember it as the year of twinkling eyes conveying warmth and solidarity above masks.

As we head into the warm summer months, it’s really time to take a deep exhale. Things finally seem to be turning a corner in New York City – the sun is shining, parks are bustling and people are smiling. Oh how wonderful it is to see people smiling! Our classrooms have been out for long walks by the river, gathering with families in the parks and taking trips to the sprinklers. It feels wonderfully normal to experience these simple joys again together.  

For those children and families who will remain at MCC over the summer months, we are delighted to spend these warm weather days with you. For those who will be taking their own summer adventures, we will miss you and please share your journey when you return this fall. And for those who will be moving on to Kindergarten, be sure to send us photos and please keep in touch!

I write this letter with so much gratitude for our children, families, teachers and staff – you are truly an extraordinary group and I feel lucky to spend my days with each of you.

With gratitude,

Jacqueline

A Note from Marcia
June 18, 2021

Hello Families, 

  

There is an expression that “nothing happens before it’s time, but when it happens, it’s right on time.” One day in 1990, nestled within the fortress of concrete, metal, and glass buildings that eclipse the sun’s rays, one of our city’s best-kept secrets was unearthed. At a construction site some thirty feet below the streets of the Financial District was the archaeological discovery that would halt the building of another New York skyscraper. No dinosaurs or lost worlds were found. Instead, there were the skeletal remains of enslaved and free Africans who had made the significant contribution of building the foundation of one of the wealthiest cities in the world. 

One would think this discovery would be met with the same wonder as unearthing a T-Rex. Instead, this was viewed by some as inconveniencing plans to build yet another tall building. Demonstrations erupted, and cries for justice and reconciliation muffled the noise of traffic, halting any further disturbance of this hallowed ground. As the days, months, and years went on, Americans of all races, religions, creeds, and socioeconomic backgrounds gathered in solidarity for these souls, so long forgotten.  

Finally, in 1993, the African Burial Ground become designated National Historic Landmark. It is estimated that nearly 15,000 men, women, and children of African descent are buried at this site that dates back to the 1600s.  

This week, we are celebrating Juneteenth, which is being observed by New York State for the first time. This day recognizes the end of Slavery in the United States. More than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln, those enslaved in Texas celebrated their freedom on June 19, 1866. This day can be recognized as a solemn day of remembrance, a celebration, or both. In this time, we as Americans have the ability to make that choice. What is most important is that we mark this day, and that we do not bury its relevance as it becomes a National Holiday 

It is important to talk about the history of our country and not hold its secrets, but rather speak its truths as they are unearthed so that future generations do not fear, mistreat, disregard, or harm others based on their race, religion, gender, or orientation. This is the time for courageous conversations that build a stronger community. 

America, when compared to other great empires and nations of the world, is barely a toddler in years. We have a ways to go before we truly can stand on the prophetic words of our forefathers: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” When they penned the words, they had no idea that descendants of the enslaved individuals pouring their tea would become Presidents, Vice Presidents, Doctors, Teachers, Supreme Court Justices, Artists, Scientists, and Historians. 

I encourage each of us to commit to celebrating Juneteenth this weekend. I invite you take the pilgrimage to the historic African Burial Ground at 290 Broadway, near Elk Street. Be prepared to be moved by the thundering silence and stoic peace of this place. There are guided tours for families and children of all ages.  

I also invite you to watch “I Belong Here, I Too Sing America,” a video created at our school earlier this year to mark Black History Month. It is part history lesson, part love letter, and a beautifully crafted message that honors and celebrates our Black colleagues, friends, community members, and neighbors. 

I encourage each of us to take the time to reflect and to be enlightened. This is the time to celebrate the resilience of those who built our nation. This is the time embrace our humanity and to hold one another accountable to the truths we’ve held self-evident. 

Have a good weekend. 

Be well and stay well, 

  

Regards –  

Marcia 

A Note from Jacqueline
A note from Jacqueline 5.7.21 来自Jacqueline的邮件

Dear Early Childhood @ MCC Community,

The teachers at our school are extraordinary. Kind, compassionate, thoughtful, inspired, joyous, creative, nurturing, respectful, collaborative and true partners. This year, it has also become clear that our teachers are nothing short of heroic.

Teachers touch every part of our community – the profound impact that they have on our lives has never been more apparent than it is now.  The teachers who reopened our school this year have allowed families to get back to work, supported us in maintaining a sense of rhythm and routine at home, and kept us hopeful through uncertainty. Our teachers have given all of us the tremendous gift of being back together in school – to our children the joy of exploration and play with one another, and to families the sense of security and comfort knowing there is a community of support here at our school.

We know that being on the frontlines in a pandemic has not been easy, and that there are many days when our teachers have come in with worry, anxiety and an ambient sense of discomfort. We have seen that our teachers have done this while smiling and continuing to provide the same level (perhaps even more!) of care and attention to the children and families in our classrooms. We know that this has not been easy, and we are all so collectively grateful.

As we joyfully celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, we are so incredibly grateful to celebrate you — our teachers.

Thank you for all that you do – today and every day.

With gratitude,

Jacqueline and the entire Early Childhood Community

PS Special thanks to our Policy Council who set up the custom banner in the lobby and sponsored the beautiful bouquet!

A Note from Jacqueline
A note from Jacqueline 5.7.21 来自Jacqueline的邮件

Dear Early Childhood @ MCC Community,

The teachers at our school are extraordinary. Kind, compassionate, thoughtful, inspired, joyous, creative, nurturing, respectful, collaborative and true partners. This year, it has also become clear that our teachers are nothing short of heroic.

Teachers touch every part of our community – the profound impact that they have on our lives has never been more apparent than it is now.  The teachers who reopened our school this year have allowed families to get back to work, supported us in maintaining a sense of rhythm and routine at home, and kept us hopeful through uncertainty. Our teachers have given all of us the tremendous gift of being back together in school – to our children the joy of exploration and play with one another, and to families the sense of security and comfort knowing there is a community of support here at our school.

We know that being on the frontlines in a pandemic has not been easy, and that there are many days when our teachers have come in with worry, anxiety and an ambient sense of discomfort. We have seen that our teachers have done this while smiling and continuing to provide the same level (perhaps even more!) of care and attention to the children and families in our classrooms. We know that this has not been easy, and we are all so collectively grateful.

As we joyfully celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, we are so incredibly grateful to celebrate you — our teachers.

Thank you for all that you do – today and every day.

With gratitude,

Jacqueline and the entire Early Childhood Community

PS Special thanks to our Policy Council who set up the custom banner in the lobby and sponsored the beautiful bouquet!

A Note from Jacqueline
April 30, 2021

Dear Early Childhood Community,

The items our children wear have meaning and value – the onesie they wore home from the hospital, the blanket knit by Aunt Lee, a pair of favorite dinosaur pajamas, and so many others. But we are all faced with a similar problem – what do we do with these beloved items once they are no longer needed by our children, and still have lots of life in them?

As my children grow, I find myself nostalgically sorting through their items and creating a few piles – a few favorites that I would like to save; things in good condition that can be reloved by someone else; and items with holes or stains to be donated for textile recycling.

Here at MCC we have created an informal hand-me-down network with our staff babies, happily gifting and regifting these well-loved treasures to one another. This summer when baby Diego was born, I was delighted to receive this photo – a onesie that has been shared and loved by 3 MCC families (and 4 children!) in our MCC community.

Similarly, over the years I often receive emails from families, “We are finished with our [stroller/winter coat/books]. Do you know anyone who might want it” and the opposite, “We’re on the lookout for someone who is finished with their [stroller/winter coat/books]. Do you know anyone who might have outgrown theirs?”

Suddenly, I realized something — all families, including mine, are faced with two simultaneous challenges — children who are rapidly growing and in need of new clothes, and piles of clothing that no longer fit.

And so, an idea was born: We needed to create a space at MCC where families can support one another, by cleaning out our own closets and shopping from our friends’ closets right here at MCC.

I pitched the idea to Jasmine and Kenya, hoping that the Family Resource Center might want to partner together on this project, and to our Parent Policy Council, wondering if any families would be interested and had time to help with the planning and launch. There was resounding excitement, and over the past few months, a small but mighty group has begun to create the scaffolding of what will become ReLoved Boutique at Manny Cantor Center.

ReLoved Boutique at Manny Cantor Center is a partnership between the Family Resource Center and Early Childhood @ MCC, where children’s gently used apparel, books, furniture, and other treasures find new homes. ReLoved Boutique is managed by staff, parent volunteers, and community volunteers who believe in promoting sustainability. We are devoted to repurposing useful items in the spirit of giving, receiving, and community.

We are delighted to share that ReLoved Boutique will begin receiving donations this coming Monday, May 3. Please use the attached donation guidelines to begin cleaning out your closets, and sourcing items for our inaugural selection.

I feel so grateful to be partnering with the Family Resource Center (thank you Kenya and Jasmine), and a small group of parents (shout out to Marie, Michelle, Newliz, and Iyisha), for saying YES to this idea and working tirelessly to bring it to fruition. Would you like to join the ReLoved committee? Please reach out, we’d be glad to have you.

I can’t wait to see what treasures find new homes through ReLoved!

Warmly,

Jacqueline

A Note From Esther, Associate Director of Education
March 9, 2021
Reflections on Identity and Belonging

As a child growing up in the States with Korean immigrant parents, I was always trying to figure out where I belonged. I never quite felt wholly Korean, and I stuck out like a sore thumb in school and in my neighborhood. I’ve been caught between two very different cultures my entire life, and continue to try to find meaning and relevance in both worlds. When I was four years old, my father told me I would have a new American name – Esther. Over time, my Korean name Kee Ryang was used less and less until one day when I was a few years older, my parents stopped calling me Kee Ryang altogether. As a child, I had complicated feelings about my name; frankly, I hated them both. No one could pronounce my Korean name, and my American name seemed old-fashioned. Even as an adult, my American name continues to be mispronounced and misspelled by others. I’m often called by my last name instead of my first. What feels different now is the sense of ownership and pride I feel for owning these two names. This didn’t come easily for me. I now realize the thought and care my parents put into gifting these to me – my Korean one as a nod to my birthplace, heritage and family, and my American one for its connection to Queen Esther, a powerful figure in biblical iconography.

As I reflect on the rising anti-Asian American violence in our communities, I think about the power of telling our stories and the stories behind our names, of sharing who we are with our friends, our colleagues, our neighbors. If we model this for our children, would people listen? Would a person you don’t know greet you and show  you kindness, instead of see you as a threat and a danger, and tell you to go back to where you came from? Would they pause and see our shared, common humanity? Would their hearts be moved, and people begin to see that everyone deserves to feel safe, and have a sense of belonging in their neighborhood and beyond? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but what I feel strongly is that this is a moment for me to take the time to reach out, connect and get to know the people around me more meaningfully, to show kindness and compassion, so that I too, can treat others the way I would like to be treated when I walk down the street, when I come in to work, and I engage with my community.

As a mother of two children, I’m often trying to understand how to discuss difficult topics with them. I’ve had to have many hard conversations with them over the last year about racism, often using my own personal experiences as a way for them to understand it on a more personal level. This is painful to do as a parent, and I often stumble to find the words. Recently I had to talk to my children about the increased violence against Asian Americans, and how it’s not as safe for our family to take walks or ride the subway as it once was. My six year old son Felix asked me quite contemplatively, “Why do people treat each other meanly because of what they look like? People are just people, mama.” He wanted me to have an answer, and the best thing I could come up with in the moment was, “Sometimes people put labels on others and put them into categories. One of those categories is based on skin color, or the way your face and hair looks, or how you speak. And sometimes those labels can be very hurtful and painful. I don’t know why people do it, but it’s something we have to really work to not do ourselves.”

Inspired by a curriculum thread around personal identity and name stories from Room 209, I invite you to participate in sharing the story of your name and what it means to you on our Identity Board in the lobby that will be going up in the coming days. My hope for our community is that these stories and photographs of ourselves will be one small way that brings us together, so when we see each other in the halls, we’ll take a moment to say hello, to appreciate what each of us brings to this very special place called school, and find our shared, common humanity.

MCC is actively building partnerships and initiatives to support members of our AAPI community:

·         We are partnering with the Asian Hate Crime Task Force, initiated by Deputy Inspector Stewart Loo. We will share more information about the details of this partnership as they develop.

·         We are creating an MCC walking buddy program to help families and teachers feel more comfortable walking to and from MCC.  We will be sending information to families as this initiative takes shape.  In the meantime we encourage families to explore Safe Walks NYC as a resource to both receive support to walk safely to your destination and also to offer volunteer assistance.

·         CafeMaddy CAB is offering to cover Uber/Lyft fare up to $40 for Asian women and Asian Seniors who do not feel comfortable taking public transportation. Click here for a ride reimbursement.

·         We have increased the security and security protocol for our classrooms when headed out to the local parks and playgrounds.

·         The Family Resource Center would like to offer support and resources in multiple languages including Chinese. If you or anyone you know would like to speak to a Care Manager around this issue, please do not hesitate to reach out. https://mannycantor.org/resourcecenter/ or call (646)395-4246  

Please feel free to reach out to me if you need someone to talk to about this topic or anything else that’s on your mind  – 210 is where my office is located. I hope to see you at our Identity Board and throughout our school in the coming days and months.

Warmly,

Esther

A Note from Marcia
Friday, February 26, 2021

Hello Families and Friends at MCC,

Hope all is well as we celebrate Black History Month. At MCC, we enjoyed many special events in our classrooms and on StoryPark. We were so glad to have so many of you join us this morning in our first virtual read aloud with award winning artist and illustrator, Gordan C. James. I am sure you and your children will enjoy cooking collard greens with Kenya and Ursy’s Banana Pudding. Not to worry, if you did not get a taste, with the recipe card you can make as many batches as you would like.

We have one more gift to share as this month comes to an end. Black History Month is a time to share the stories and learn the history of African Americans who helped build America. In honor of these stories and history, it is my pleasure to share an original short film I Belong here… I Too Sing America. You will recognize members of our community in this film, who eloquently and powerfully tell the true story of how we came to America, why we belong here, and in the words of famed black poet Langston Hughes, “I Too Sing America.” I invite you to share this incredible film and experience with your children and family.

While this is our story, it is truly the American story that defines and embodies what should unite us, rather than divide us. These are the truths we hold self-evident. As in any good story, this is only the beginning. We look forward to continuing the dialogue and celebrating all of our children and families as we embrace the very best of one another.

Be well and stay well,

Marcia Callender, Associate Director for Child + Family Support.

A Note from Jacqueline
Friday, February 12, 2020

Dear Early Childhood Community,

新年快乐 Happy New Year!

Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year (traditional Chinese: 農曆新年, 中國新年; simplified Chinese: 农历新年, 中国新年), is the festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. In Chinese culture and East Asian countries, the festival is commonly referred to as the Spring Festival because it marks the end of winter and signifies the beginning of the spring season. Celebrations traditionally take place from New Year’s Eve until the Lantern Festival, held on the 15th day of the year. The first day of Chinese New Year begins when the new moon appears between January and February. In 2021, the first day of the Chinese New Year (Year of the Ox) is today, February 12.

Because we are not able to gather together as a community as in year’s past, we celebrated Lunar New Year in our classrooms with festive food, materials to explore, books, music, and photographs. Delicious meals were prepared by our wonderful kitchen team and served in our classrooms on Thursday, including mandarin oranges, red boiled eggs and noodles. Throughout the week, children explored with red paper, calligraphy brushes and ink, and created red envelope wishes for friends and family for the new year. Many classrooms projected lion dancing on to their classroom walls as the children danced along and noticed details about the large creatures. While certainly different than in years past, the spirit of the holiday was felt across our school over the past many days.

Here are few additional Lunar New Year resources to enjoy at home:

·         Hannah, one of our Virtual Classroom teachers, reads Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin, and explains many of the symbols and traditions from the holiday.

·         Learn about Chinatown’s Lion Dancer’s here: Roaring With the Lion Dancers of New York’s Chinatown

·         Here is a round-up of this year’s Lunar New Year Celebrations in NYC, including virtual performances for children and families via Gothamist here.

·         This video helps English speakers learn to say ‘Happy New Year’ in Mandarin Chinese.

·         Here is a video to learn how to write Happy New Year in Chinese.

·         You can find traditional music playlists via Spotify here and here.

A huge thank you to Fiona, Chloe, Roxy, Leticia for joining our Lunar New Year committee, gathering resources, ordering materials and planning this year’s festivities.

新年快乐 Happy New Year!

Jacqueline and the Early Childhood team

A Note from Louis
Friday, Febrary 5, 2021

Dear Families,

Earlier this week, our Associate Executive Director Howard Greenstein shared an article from his mentor Art Kleiner about navigating the latter stages of a major disaster like a pandemic. Talking about the “lingering fog” of uncertainty and anxiety so many of us feel, Kleiner writes:

Our personal losses may seem small and incremental; hardly worth mentioning, especially when others have suffered more. So we put our reactions to them aside, and they creep up on us, each one adding a little bit of stress. Our bodies adjust to these small losses, bit by bit, taking on each as an added burden, in ways we hardly notice at first. But sooner or later, we cross a tipping point. Something shifts inside us: a sadness we feel in our chest or our shoulders, that does not seem like it will go away.

 Kleiner goes on to remind us that this pandemic will end, and emphasizes the importance of imagining and planning for the post-COVID future we will inherit. This is not always easy – some days certainly feel harder than others – but it’s especially difficult to do this work alone. Building the world we want to live in is a collective endeavor. In our school, it happens when our classrooms collaborate on ongoing projects in which children make meaningful decisions, develop plans together and build on each other’s work. In our Policy Council, family leaders create structures to provide mutual aid and build community. In our Family Resource Center, folks are connected with supports and resources to set goals and find long term stability. Every day, our community is finding new ways to reclaim control of the present and to envision a more just and hopeful future.

This morning we were joined by our Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Lim for a wide-ranging conversation about COVID safety, schools and the vaccine rollout. This session certainly helped me imagine how the next few months might unfold. If you missed it, you can find a full recording here.

Finally, we want to end the week by thanking our whole school community – our children, families and staff – for everything you have done to keep our school safe; for upholding a culture of care and dignity under stress; for your collaboration and counsel; and for collectively building the foundation for tomorrow, next week and beyond. Onward!

Have a great weekend,

Louis

A Note from Jacqueline
Friday, January 15, 2021

Dear Early Childhood Community,

The past few weeks have felt like we are living through history. On the same day last week, an insurrection was staged on our nation’s capital just as Georgia held two historic senate elections.

Reverend Raphael Warnock was elected as Georgia’s first black senator, alongside Jon Ossoff, Georgia’s first Jewish senator. The dual election of these senators to office feels powerful and resonates with the work we are doing right here in our school. We know that it is important to bring people of different backgrounds together, because we all deserve the opportunity to be together and learn from one another. There is hope in Georgia and there is hope in our school.

Of the violence in Washington, Michelle Obama writes, “Seeing the gulf between the responses to [the capitol] riot and this summer’s peaceful protests and the larger movement for racial justice is so painful… True progress will be possible only once we acknowledge that this disconnect exists and take steps to repair it.”

This acknowledgement and repair is our work. We know that racial injustice exists. It is our role as parents and educators to speak openly with our children about what exists in our country, as a way to take active steps in repairing what is broken and unequal.

At school, we are prepared to respond to children’s questions and comments about what they have seen or heard. Most often you will hear our teachers reflecting the questions children ask back to them individually or opening the conversation to the whole group.

Our school will be closed on Monday to remember the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. This national holiday seems to come at just the right time and is a great way to begin (or continue) your conversation about an equity and justice with your children. Here are a few conversation starters (I wouldn’t suggest using all of these — these are a just a few options, so you can find something that feels comfortably uncomfortable for you to begin)…

  • Ask your child what they know or what they have heard [about Martin Luther King, racial injustice, George Floyd, the events at the capital, wherever you would like to start]. Then pause to listen. Really listen to what they share with you or ask. Gently correct any mistakes.
  • When children ask questions, limit the answer to their question. Aim to be clear, factual, direct, and succinct. Then pause to see how they respond to this new information.
  • Share your feelings with your child. When you acknowledge your feelings, it helps children to acknowledge their feelings.
  • Share your values. It’s important to talk about values that are important to you and to encourage your children to think critically about their own values.
  • Listen to the I Have A Dream Speech with your child. For the past several years, I have listened to MLK’s historic I have a dream speech with my daughter, who is now 5 years old. As we listen to Dr Kings words, she asks questions — What does that mean? Why are people clapping? Why would someone treat another person in this way? I have found that listening to this speech together provides an open and safe space for Eleanor to ask questions, learn more about our nation’s history and truth (this is not just something that happened a long time ago – this is something that still exists today), and think critically about her own actions and their effects. Here is another version of the I Have a Dream Speech, if you prefer audio only.
  • School will be closed today to celebrate and remember Dr Martin Luther King Jr. He was a person who…
  • We live in a country where people are treated differently, based on how they look and the color of their skin. What do you think about that? How will you change it?

We also know the importance of acknowledging these truths as a staff, and will continue our “Dialogue Group” series focusing on race and racism, particularly as it relates to anti-bias practices in the classroom. At our whole staff professional development on Tuesday, these Dialogue Groups and conversations will again be embedded within our time together.

Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time…

–Martin Luther King Jr, March on Washington, 1963

We’d love to hear how you are thinking about these topics as a family and how your children respond. I’ve posted this note in Storypark, so we can create a community forum to share what we’re thinking. Please join us there to continue the conversation.

Warmly,

Jacqueline

A Note from Louis
Friday, October 30, 2020

Dear Families,

Last month, a group of teachers came to us with a problem. The MCC kitchen, led by our beloved Chef Aleks, cooks for over 150 children and staff daily. Inevitably, this leaves us with leftover milk, fruit and prepared meals each afternoon. What if, they proposed, we started a community fridge at MCC to share this food with our families and community members?

A few weeks later, I found myself catching up on paperwork late into the evening. Leaving through the lobby, hungry and exhausted, I paused at the newly installed refrigerator by the staircase. The sign on the door said ‘This food belongs to you. Take what you need.

Inside, in between apples and a tub of cream cheese, was one last serving of rice and fish. I had found dinner, and it was delicious. More meaningfully, it was a gesture of generosity and care that extended from Aleks to me, via our thoughtful and imaginative teachers. In a moment of vulnerability, my needs were met by my community. This is what it means to take care of one another.

I’m grateful and proud to be part of a school community that provides so many examples of care and support. We are stronger together.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Louis,

A Note from Marcia
Friday, January 29, 2021

Hello Families and Friends,

On January 20, 2021, African American Poet Amanda Gorman’s words marked a new chapter of our history, one preceded by “We hold these truths self-evident” and “I have a dream today”. Moments before Amanda delivered her poem “The Hill We Climb,” Kamala Harris – an African-American, South Asian women – was sworn into the office of Vice President. This all happened on a brilliant, brisk, sun-drenched day, in front of a building built primarily by slaves – the U.S. Capitol. History, made in real time, right before our eyes. As we rise as a people and as a nation, after a year that shook our souls and tested our spirit of resilience, it feels like the perfect time for our school community to come together to celebrate Black History Month, 2021.

First, a little history. Black History Month, originally known as Negro History and Literacy Week, was the vision of Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves and a noted Harvard historian and educator. In 1926, Woodson chose the second week in February, in honor of two men born that week – Fredrick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. Woodson, along with his colleagues, educators, historians, elected officials, and clergy laid the foundation of a movement to gather, recognize and honor the contributions of African Americans. In his words, “we are going back to that beautiful history and it is going inspire us to greater achievements”.  In 1976, to coincide with our country’s bicentennial, President Gerald Ford declared the month of February “Black History Month,” saying, “we must seize the opportunity to honor the too often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every endeavor throughout our history”. He believed that raising awareness of African American excellence and achievement would inspire all Americans to build a stronger, more conscious country.

In our school, we will spend the month of February shining a light on the Black experience, with the intention to educate, enlighten, inspire, and reflect on Educational Alliance’s tagline “You Belong Here”. Throughout the month, we will share daily stories, reflections, experiences and activities on Storypark. Next week, we will invite community members who identify as Black and African American to share stories of strength, hope, becoming and belonging which we will organize into a short film to celebrate the great depth of experiences and perspectives in our community. Towards the end of the month, we will celebrate with baked treats and music in the lobby.

Every year, I take something away from Black History Month. I learn something new, I engage in memorable conversations and I leave a little better than I entered. I am especially excited for this year – we can’t wait to share our virtual Black History Month experience with you all.

“When day comes we step out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it”

-Amanda Gorman

Be well and stay well.

Regards,

Marcia Callender, Associate Director, Child and Family Support

A Note from Jacqueline
Friday, January 15, 2021

Dear Early Childhood Community,

The past few weeks have felt like we are living through history. On the same day last week, an insurrection was staged on our nation’s capital just as Georgia held two historic senate elections.

Reverend Raphael Warnock was elected as Georgia’s first black senator, alongside Jon Ossoff, Georgia’s first Jewish senator. The dual election of these senators to office feels powerful and resonates with the work we are doing right here in our school. We know that it is important to bring people of different backgrounds together, because we all deserve the opportunity to be together and learn from one another. There is hope in Georgia and there is hope in our school.

Of the violence in Washington, Michelle Obama writes, “Seeing the gulf between the responses to [the capitol] riot and this summer’s peaceful protests and the larger movement for racial justice is so painful… True progress will be possible only once we acknowledge that this disconnect exists and take steps to repair it.”

This acknowledgement and repair is our work. We know that racial injustice exists. It is our role as parents and educators to speak openly with our children about what exists in our country, as a way to take active steps in repairing what is broken and unequal.

At school, we are prepared to respond to children’s questions and comments about what they have seen or heard. Most often you will hear our teachers reflecting the questions children ask back to them individually or opening the conversation to the whole group.

Our school will be closed on Monday to remember the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. This national holiday seems to come at just the right time and is a great way to begin (or continue) your conversation about an equity and justice with your children. Here are a few conversation starters (I wouldn’t suggest using all of these — these are a just a few options, so you can find something that feels comfortably uncomfortable for you to begin)…

  • Ask your child what they know or what they have heard [about Martin Luther King, racial injustice, George Floyd, the events at the capital, wherever you would like to start]. Then pause to listen. Really listen to what they share with you or ask. Gently correct any mistakes.
  • When children ask questions, limit the answer to their question. Aim to be clear, factual, direct, and succinct. Then pause to see how they respond to this new information.
  • Share your feelings with your child. When you acknowledge your feelings, it helps children to acknowledge their feelings.
  • Share your values. It’s important to talk about values that are important to you and to encourage your children to think critically about their own values.
  • Listen to the I Have A Dream Speech with your child. For the past several years, I have listened to MLK’s historic I have a dream speech with my daughter, who is now 5 years old. As we listen to Dr Kings words, she asks questions — What does that mean? Why are people clapping? Why would someone treat another person in this way? I have found that listening to this speech together provides an open and safe space for Eleanor to ask questions, learn more about our nation’s history and truth (this is not just something that happened a long time ago – this is something that still exists today), and think critically about her own actions and their effects. Here is another version of the I Have a Dream Speech, if you prefer audio only.
  • School will be closed today to celebrate and remember Dr Martin Luther King Jr. He was a person who…
  • We live in a country where people are treated differently, based on how they look and the color of their skin. What do you think about that? How will you change it?

We also know the importance of acknowledging these truths as a staff, and will continue our “Dialogue Group” series focusing on race and racism, particularly as it relates to anti-bias practices in the classroom. At our whole staff professional development on Tuesday, these Dialogue Groups and conversations will again be embedded within our time together.

Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time…

–Martin Luther King Jr, March on Washington, 1963

We’d love to hear how you are thinking about these topics as a family and how your children respond. I’ve posted this note in Storypark, so we can create a community forum to share what we’re thinking. Please join us there to continue the conversation.

Warmly,

Jacqueline

A Note from Louis
Friday, October 30, 2020

Dear Families,

Last month, a group of teachers came to us with a problem. The MCC kitchen, led by our beloved Chef Aleks, cooks for over 150 children and staff daily. Inevitably, this leaves us with leftover milk, fruit and prepared meals each afternoon. What if, they proposed, we started a community fridge at MCC to share this food with our families and community members?

A few weeks later, I found myself catching up on paperwork late into the evening. Leaving through the lobby, hungry and exhausted, I paused at the newly installed refrigerator by the staircase. The sign on the door said ‘This food belongs to you. Take what you need.

Inside, in between apples and a tub of cream cheese, was one last serving of rice and fish. I had found dinner, and it was delicious. More meaningfully, it was a gesture of generosity and care that extended from Aleks to me, via our thoughtful and imaginative teachers. In a moment of vulnerability, my needs were met by my community. This is what it means to take care of one another.

I’m grateful and proud to be part of a school community that provides so many examples of care and support. We are stronger together.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Louis,

A Note from Jacqueline
Friday, October 23, 2020

Dear Early Childhood @ MCC Community, 

This week we launched elections for our Classroom Representatives. Running parallel to the presidential race, our school elections feel small-scale but also incredibly relevant.  We’ve had 30 people volunteer to become Classroom Representatives! We are incredibly grateful to this group of leaders and advocates for stepping forward as a way to support our school and to strengthen our community of families.

 At this moment, we have been given many reasons to reflect and think deeply about the importance of voting and making our voices heard. In our school elections, there is a seat at the table for everyone, and all nominees have the ability to join the Policy Council and run for an executive position if they so choose. Voting in this way models a process for sharing ideas and coming to a consensus — or being disappointed — with the outcome. This lays the groundwork to share this democratic process with our children. Please click this link to read more about your classroom nominees and cast your vote.

 Our national politics are certainly more complicated than our school’s “the more the merrier” approach, and we know that many families are wondering, how do I talk about such a complex election with my child? We have compiled a few ideas for engaging with your children: 

Share your values. Tell your children about what matters to you – your views on education, healthcare, and how we treat others. Share with them your thoughts about kindness, respect, empathy and equity. Share with them what matters to you most.

Encourage children to think about their own views and values. “If you were president, what is one thing you would do to make this country better?”

Listen, rather than talk. Children have opinions. Ask them questions to better understand what they are thinking and wondering about. This will help guide your conversation together. Be aware that adult emotions can be heightened around elections, and this may be unsettling for young children.

Talk about issues, rather than people. It’s important to communicate that people have opposing views, and that in elections these different views are what we vote on. When you share your views with your children, present your ideas as your own and use phrases like, “I believe…” or “Something that is important to me…”

Vote. If you can vote on or before November 3, make a plan to do so safely and include your child with you in the process of casting your ballot. Talk about the importance of voting and making your voice heard.

Whatever our political views, we can all agree that equity, respect, empathy, grace and kindness are essential qualities of a healthy democratic body. Let’s take this election season as an opportunity to model these universal values to the next generation of voters and political activists — our children.

With hope, 

Jacqueline

A Note from Jasmine
Friday, October 9, 2020

These are uncertain times where our health and sense of safety and justice are at stake. In many ways turmoil, tumult, and dis-ease mark this period in our lives. In times like these I find myself reaching out to my touchstones and anchors more often. I reach for people who feel solid, resolute, and remind me that while the ground may feel like it’s constantly shifting under my feet there is, in fact, still a ground to stand on. That gives me hope.   

Recently I have been making and receiving more “just because check in” phone calls to and from loved ones, neighbors, colleagues, and friends. There is no agenda, nothing explicit to accomplish. In these conversations I find that I am truly present – there is no sensation to rush to get off the phone, no thinking about the next thing that I have to do, or moving the conversation along in my mind before it is done. I am practicing mindful communication – listening and receiving, processing and then responding and bearing witness to other people’s lived experiences all the while. In this way I am also practicing what it means to mindfully be a part of a community, to nurture it, to water it, to till it, to tend to it.   

When communities are mindfully cared for and we check in with each other “just because” they grow and flourish and make the ground under our feet more fertile and stronger. When communities are mindfully cared for, they generate an abundance of love, which helps us all to endure and persist even in the toughest of times. I am grateful that MCC is that kind of community.   

During this unprecedented moment in our lives I hope that we as a community can continue to wrap big arms around each other, tend to and care for each other, and be the holders of hope for a brighter tomorrow for us all.   

 
Be well, 

Jasmine 

A Note from Louis
Friday, October 2, 2020

Dear Families,

Over the last few months, my house has been taken over by masks. There are clean masks hanging alongside keys by the doorway. Freshly washed masks dry on a line outside. We are forever turning up masks under chairs and at the bottom of bags. These simple, essential safety tools—once unfamiliar to many of us—are now everywhere.

As we prepared to reopen school, we spent a lot of time talking and thinking about masks. We considered how children would tolerate wearing them for long periods of the day. We reflected on how much we communicate with our faces, and worried about our ability to build relationships and attachment with children at the beginning of the year. We wondered whether children would recognize teachers and friends without the familiar coordinates of mouths and noses.

It turns out that many of our fears were misplaced. In our infant room, babies’ faces light up as they meet the twinkling eyes of beloved teachers. Our UPK classrooms use conversations about PPE as opportunities to establish group norms and to share decision making power with children. In our virtual classrooms, children make paper masks with their families that become tools for dramatic play and fantasy – crucial ways of reclaiming control in a confusing world.

Looking back, we probably underestimated how normative mask-wearing and social distancing has become in all our lives. But I think we also overlooked a central fact about young children—that the drive to communicate, to form relationships, to take care of one another, to express ourselves and to be accepted as part of a community, is no match for a few inches of fabric. Children remind us every day—through their inventive, resilient, sometimes surprising adaptations—that the urge to connect is innate, and that we are stronger together.

Please see below for some important notes and updates, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Warmly,

Louis

A Note from Jacqueline
Friday, September 25, 2020

Dear Early Childhood @ MCC Community,

After many months of uncertainty, we are finishing up our first full week of school! It feels so good to be together as a community again after a summer of sheltering in place.

As I reflect on the first days of school, I keep noting how familiar and unremarkable it all feels. While many of our policies and procedures have changed, our core identity as nurturing and responsive school has remained steady and stable. Children have joined our classrooms with all the trepidation and excitement we see every year. We have greeted each other with smiles (behind masks), and chatted happily in the hallways. Teachers have pondered how to create the most loving and nurturing environments in their classrooms, and thoughtfully built new routines and experiences together. We have observed families breathe a collective sigh of relief, knowing that their safety net again exists outside of the four walls of their apartment.

This week I nearly cried with joy seeing Yvette (this is her 15th year teaching at our school!) leading a group of UPK children out to the park. We are again in physical partnership and proximity to one another — it is grounding, regulating, comforting and joyful. This week we also collectively mourned the passing of Supreme Court feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsberg and felt anger at the unjust decision not to prosecute the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor. As the challenges in our country continue, and the sounds of helicopters above return to our city, I continue to reflect on the work happening in our school as a source of comfort and hope.

I’ve attached a short mini-story from one of our 3s/4s classrooms here, which highlights a beautiful moment of two children gently and responsively taking care of babies in their Dramatic Play area. It is a simple and small moment that helps us understand a bit more about these past many months when we were apart. Time did not stop — our children continued to observe, learn and grow from their first and lifelong teachers — YOU. How lucky we are to again have this window into one another’s lives and be in partnership together.

A Note from Jacqueline
Friday, September 11, 2020

Dear Families,

Earlier this week we gathered as a virtual community for our Back to School night, as we prepare to reopen our school. I wanted to share my full remarks from the evening here, which feel incredibly relevant today – on the 19th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. 

We can’t wait to see you all on Monday morning for our first day!

Warmly,

Jacqueline and the Early Childhood Team

As we prepare to reopen our school later this week, we are going to spend some time this evening reflecting together, sharing a bit about our thinking as a school, and the support that we can provide for one another during this complex time.

We’ve all been at home, and apart from one another, for the past 6 months. For each of us, this has meant something slightly different, but for all of us this has meant something difficult.

Often throughout the past many months, I have thought about our city and our lives in the time surrounding September 11. In the early days of March and April, when our city was at the epicenter of the pandemic, ambulances roared by every few minutes. For me, each siren was a visceral reminder of the days immediately following September 11.

I often thought about how sad and scared our city was during that time. How unsettled I felt as a college student away from family and friends, building a new life here, amidst the brokenness of our city and the loss of so many. I remember the sirens. I remember the smell that permeated the city. I remember the sound of the bagpipes playing at all of the public funerals.

It was an easy connection to make – these past memories closely tied to anxiety and unsettled feeling that was again present in our world. We have all been affected by this virus — we all know someone who had COVID and went through unimaginable pain and suffering. Each new ambulance siren drew me to think about someone’s brother, sister, friend, or family member being escorted to the hospital for treatment – and hoping that they would return home safe and healthy to their family.

From my daughter’s bedroom window, there is a clear view of the Freedom Tower. Each evening as we close the window shades, we gaze out at the regal tower – a physical reminder of what was and what is. Over the past few months, Eleanor began asking questions, “What is that tall tall building? Why does it

change colors sometimes?” And then last week she asked an inevitable question, that somehow I was not prepared for, “Why did the towers fall down?”

As a way to answer her question, and to give reverence to the tragedy, we went to Ground Zero together. On this visit, I learned something new – and I’d like to share a story of hope with all of you. Perhaps some of you may know this story.

In looking around the plaza surrounding the waterfall pools, I noticed hundreds of beautiful oak trees. And then I noticed one tree that looked different from the others. It was shorter – its bark was darker – its leaves were fuller. As I moved in closer, I learned the story of this Callery Pear Tree, a story that dates back to the original World Trade Center.

Amidst the wreckage following the attacks, rescue workers spotted a tree buried in the rubble. It had been severely burnt, its limbs were mostly gone, but somehow, this tree stump was sprouting two little green leaves. This tree still had life left in it, and had the possibility of survival. The workers transported the tree to a nursery in Van Cortland Park, with the hopes of rehabilitation.

Now known as The Survivor Tree, it grew and flourished in the Bronx nursery for 10 years before it was then transplanted back to its home in lower Manhattan.

The Survivor Tree had regrown from just a stump with a few green leaves to over 50 feet tall. It’s formerly burned and gnarled stumps now extended into long branches. In looking closely at the tree, you can see the new limbs are smooth like a young sapling, while the rough textured bark of the trunk retains the scars of its storied past.

It was powerful to see The Survivor Tree. To see how it physically endured. To know how the Nursery, and those who tended to and cared for the tree, changed its outcome.

The past many months have been incredibly difficult, painful and tragic for many of us. We are now in the nursery stage. Together, as we reopen the doors of our Nursery School, we will tend to and care for one another.

Each of us, like the Survivor Tree, are different than when we last saw each other. We all have a strong core – which has helped us remain steady throughout our months apart. But we also have parts of us that are vulnerable, and scars that are still healing.

A Note from Louis
Friday, May 15, 2020

“The more you try to push a child’s unhappy feelings away, the more he becomes stuck in them. The more comfortably you can accept the bad feelings, the easier it is for kids to let go of them.” ― Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, from ‘How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk’

Dear Families,

Today marks the end of our ninth week in quarantine. In this time, we’ve experienced a tremendous shift in our ways of living, and in our understanding of this crisis itself. Things that seemed radical mere months ago—mass closures, social distancing, protective equipment—have become the new normal. Likewise, the features of life before COVID-19—meeting friends, exploring the city, going to school and work—now seem tainted by risk. Many of us are experiencing feelings of uncertainty, fear, isolation and grief.

Hope looms large in the American tradition. Hope lifts us out of despair; it is the thing with feathers. There’s a strong tendency in our popular culture to balance bad news with stories of hope. But it’s hard to force hope, and the problem with trying is that it can encourage us to rush through our experience of the present. In short, it can make it hard for us to feel what Faber and Mazlish called our “bad” feelings.

Allowing children space to feel their feelings is an important part of our school philosophy. Our teachers avoid phrases like “you’re okay” when speaking to upset children. Instead, we strive to acknowledge children’s emotions simply and without judgement: “I see you’re feeling sad. It’s hard to miss your friends.” This approach teaches that, while some behaviors are not acceptable, all feelings are real and valid. My experience discussing these strategies with other adults is that many of us wish we heard these simple acknowledgements more often in our own childhoods.

Liberating ourselves from the pressure of “fixing” other’s feelings helps us to see that young children have many powerful strategies to process and express their big emotions. At this week’s professional development we discussed how children use dramatic play to act out different scenarios without fear of consequences, and to practice soothing and self regulation. Seen through this lens, a child playing “hospital” to work through her fears around the coronavirus is developing healthy coping strategies that will serve her for life.

For grown-ups, different things help us process our stress and clear room for hope. For some people, exercise is an effective outlet for frustration. Others use music, art-making or time outdoors to put things in perspective. Our feelings are just as real as children’s, and our capacity to help others regulate their emotions often depends on our ability to identify and acknowledge our own. Sometimes, it’s as simple as saying “I feel scared too.”

There are certainly reasons to be hopeful. But if you can’t manage it, I hope you’ll take a moment this weekend to feel your feelings instead. We’ll see you next week.

Warmly,

Louis and the Early Childhood Team

PS. Janet Lansbury has many podcasts and articles extending the ideas discussed above on her website. You’ll find more great resources on our updated site below!