Terence and I are still making decisions about schools for the girls next year. There’s no question we got that decision right this past year. JAIS was an amazing fit for our family and in fact the school may have spoiled us for life.
For starters, both girls just loved going to school every morning (at least once Margaret got over her clingy phase). They were excited in the morning, wiped out in the afternoon; just as it should be. They both had experienced teachers who were warm and caring but also cultivated independence. You know it’s a strong student/teacher relationship when your kid starts channeling her teacher’s voice. Margaret would walk around muttering: “I have to be sensible!” — quoting her teacher, a non-nonsense woman from the North of England.
My favorite thing about JAIS was that it combined private school resources with a public school mentality. Yes, the school has small classes, creative curriculum and lots of time for art, music and PE. But there was also major ability range within each class (also factoring in that many kids were studying in their second or third language). Our kids’ teachers were masters of differentiation. Although the school was “fancy” by Israeli or Palestinian standards,its facilities and programs are simple compared to US private schools. And that’s how we like it. The school totally lacks pretense, elitism or materialism — as do most of the families. People come to Jerusalem to serve or to learn, not to get rich. So our children made friends with kids who shared our values: adventure, diversity, intellectual engagement, public service. And Terence and I made tons of friends as well.
Hannah went on a ‘Haj’ around campus to learn about Eid Al-Adha. Margaret took a field trip to her teacher’s kibbutz. Both girls had friends from 12+ countries and numerous religious, linguistic and educational backgrounds. School life could not have been more stimulating, yet it was also coherent, structured, calm.
No school is perfect, and it was also fun to help JAIS grow and improve. I had my first school board experience, a great learning experience for me and hopefully a way to give back.
Both kids have been mourning JAIS. Margaret woke up crying the other morning, saying she wanted “one more playdate!” with her friends. Hannah realized, also with tears, that she had forgotten to collect her ‘extra clothes’ from her cubby. I don’t blame them; I also feel like inventing excuses to go back, not necessarily to Jerusalem, but to this school. I don’t know where we’ll find its combinations of qualities again. Maybe that is why I’m struggling so much to make decisions about the next set of schools.