by Lisa Berman, Director of Education
Remember the Beatles song?
“I used to get mad at my school
The teachers who taught me weren’t cool
You’re holding me down, turning me round
Filling me up with your rules.
It’s getting better all the time
Better, better, better…”
Here at Mayyim Hayyim we are big believers in continuous improvement. How do we know what needs improving? We ask. We invite every person who immerses or learns with us to share their opinions about the good and the bad, the inspiring and the could-be-better aspects of their interaction with our organization. Wet or dry, we want to hear about it.
And then we go to work on it right away. We don’t have to wait for a new fiscal year, a new school year, a new curriculum… We talk about the suggestions, think about how to enact change that will be an improvement for everyone, and make it happen.
When we read recently in the education program feedback survey, “I think brochures to take home for parents would be a great addition”, we created a resource leaflet for chaperoning parents and those at home. It is intended as a conversation starter for parents to engage with their students who visited Mayyim Hayyim and includes sections such as “What Did I Learn at Mayyim Hayyim?” and “Where Can I Learn More?” We also created a new section on our website called Youth Resources for those who want to deepen their learning through videos, blog posts, and more: http://www.mayyimhayyim.org/youthresources.
Feedback: “The best thing for me would be a film that shows what the entire conversion process at the mikveh will consist of, parking lot going in all the way to going out the gate at the end. It could be filmed as if through the eyes of the person doing it.” Check! We created a video affectionately entitled “Mikveh Baby”
that tells (and shows) the story of a couple who brought their baby to Mayyim Hayyim for immersion for the purpose of conversion. Created expressly to allay the anxieties of parents who naturally are concerned at the prospect of immersing their baby, it has more than 14,000 views on YouTube to date.
Feedback: “Perhaps if there were some materials/activities that the kids could take and do at home for reinforcement.” In addition to the resource leaflet, several area educators who brought groups to learn with us recently piloted a newly created post-visit lesson plan packet that includes four different activities for teachers to do with students in their next class time together. It allows students to reflect on what they learned at Mayyim Hayyim in a fun and interactive way.
Feedback: “Invite me back sooner!” We now ensure that all adult learners and teacher/parent chaperones are added to our mailing list within 48 hours of having visited Mayyim Hayyim.
Feedback: “Going around in a circle to read parts of a handout or text can have a down-side if you do not know the particular children. My daughter’s not a fluent reader and thus she is one who would have appreciated an explicit invitation to “pass” or, better yet, to not even be in a situation of waiting for her dreaded turn around the circle of ‘volunteer’ readers.” This is such great feedback. It prompted us to reflect on how we could treat each learner here as individually as each immersion guest, endeavoring to understand – without being told overtly – how to create a safe, supportive learning space that treats each person with respect and honor. As part of that, we have eliminated any “required” reading out loud and instead invite participants to self-identify if they would like to take part. We also ensure that our education programs include a variety of activities for different learning styles – oral/verbal, tactile, team, imaginative, frontal, and more.
We are sad to report there has been some feedback we have been 100% unsuccessful in responding to: “Get rid of traffic between Coolidge Corner, Brookline and Mayyim Hayyim during rush hour!”
If you have suggestions for how we can improve Mayyim Hayyim’s learning or immersion experiences, please don’t hesitate to let us know. “It’s getting better all the time…” with your help!
Lisa Berman is the Director of Education at Mayyim Hayyim. She began as a volunteer mikveh guide the day Mayyim Hayyim opened its doors in 2004 and now directs a Center that educates more than 2500 people each year about this ancient ritual and its contemporary possibilities.