What a day at the preschool! It started when I entered the playroom and a kid asked me to look at a book with her. Sure, I could read it, but I'd have to read it slowly and probably couldn't do it very dramatically on the first run-through. So, instead, I turned the pages and looked at the pictures with her, and said "what's this?" and "very good!" whether or not I knew if she'd said the right answer.
The kids were getting ready for their Hannukah party next week, where they will do some dances for their parents. One of the teachers led the kids in the dancing, which involved spinning around like dreidels and dancing in a circle. One dance also involves a candle made out of tissue paper, a toilet paper roll, and aluminum foil. Some kids decided to destroy their candles rather than dance with them, which made the teachers pretty upset. One teacher in particular is quite strict - when kids are following her instructions she provides a lot of positive reinforcement, but when they are not, she is quick to anger, telling them to leave the room because they can't particpate in the activity, or, in this case, even that their parents will be sad because they don't know the dances. I felt like maybe that was a bit extreme...
In any case, in one of the dances, the kids were supposed to choose partners, and I have to say that I felt a bit like the kid at the sixth grade square dancing segment of phys ed, who is deeply nervous that no one will ask her to be his partner. Fortunately, one little girl went straight up to me, and grabbed both of my hands emphatically. This girl, whose name I still have yet to learn, was attached to me most of the morning.
The absolute highlite of the morning, and the real reason I'm writing this post, was the birthday party. I am in love with what they do here for birthdays. It was so special and so celebratory that, I'm embarassed to admit, it made my eyes water a little bit. The birthday boy's parents, grandparents, and aunt all came to the classroom for the party. The teachers had the kids sit in a semicircle, and had the birthday boy, Tal, sit behind a decorated table at the front of his room. They put a gold seat cover over his little chair, and a crown on his head, and they called him the Groom of the day. In fact, the whole ceremony reminded me a bit of a wedding, with everyone entertaining the Groom. Everyone sang several songs to him, and then while the very long-lasting candles burned, Tal danced in the center of the circle with his grandfather, and then all the kids joined in the dancing. When the dancing was through, Tal's teacher set out three hula hoops (because Tal is turning three) and had him jump through all three. They played a few other simple games with him, and then he blew out the candles. His mother took out some puppets who entertained the kids for a while, and then the teachers gave Tal a present - a toy guitar because he is very enthusaistic about toy guitars and apparently already has five of them at home. Then, he sat in the middle of the room, and each kid took a turn giving him a hug or kiss, or saying mazal tov to him. Then, a teacher and his mother lifted him up four times on his chair - three for his age and one for next year. Then, all the kids ate a delicious cake (I had a piece too!)
After the birthday party, we went outside to play, and I found myself in a group of kids baking cakes out of sand. We had a chocolate cake (pronounced sho-co-lad, but the kid who was baking it, who can't speak very well yet, called it coo-coo-lad), a banana cake, and a glass of milk with olives in it (only in Israel...). We later played the very fun game where I pretend to be asleep and the kids pretend to wake me up. Over, and over, and over again, until it was time for me to leave.
So it was a pretty fun morning. Now I have to do some Hebrew homework before I go to Yiddish class this afternoon. Daniel has a mid-day break, and Tuesdays are fun because we get to see each other in the middle of the day, as he has enough time to come home, cook lunch with me, and do a little homework. He has Rav Siach (a dialogue group between Rabbinical students from a variety of schools and denominations) until late into the night.