by Daniel R. Weiss, Head of School
At Bornblum, we are a school that believes that each child must be taught in a method that is conducive to their social/emotional and educational growth. We recognize that no two students are alike. We, therefore, need to tailor our lessons in a way that will bring each student into the learning process and draw on their strengths, while helping them to overcome those areas where growth is needed.
It is the culture that we hope to teach our students. Each piece of the larger whole is equally important. Each child’s needs are addressed. We are a community that works together to help everyone achieve.
A Washington Post article (click here for the article), from November 2014, titled, “Teacher to parents: About THAT kid (the one who hits, disrupts and influences YOUR kid)”, is a must read for all parents. The article “is a powerful open letter directed to parents about THAT kid, the one other kids go home and talk about, the one who is violent, curses and gets angry in class, the one who parents worry will hurt, disrupt and perhaps influence their own children.”
As parents, we want what is best for our child(ren), we want them to receive the best education, to have his or her questions answered, to be in a safe and nurturing environment, to be challenged, to excel, to make us proud, to make themselves proud. We don’t want anything or anyone to get in the way of achieving those goals. It is, therefore, difficult when our children come home and tell us a story about what someone else has done and how it may or may not have impacted our child. To quote Murray, the stories are about “THAT kid”.
Murray goes on to share in her letter, that parents are “worried that THAT child is detracting from your child’s learning experience, that he takes up too much of my (the teacher’s) time and energy, and that your child won’t get his fair share.” Some parents even worry that their child is THAT child.
What we fail to realize though, is that our child’s teacher can’t talk to us about THAT child. They can’t tell us if there are familial struggles or what might be happening in that child’s life. The teacher can’t tell you what we are doing with THAT child to help with his or her behavior, or modifications that we make for him or her to provide a safe loving environment in which to grow and learn.
What we can do, is talk about your child and respect your privacy by not talking about your child with another child’s parents.
Each one of our students is on an educational and social emotional growth plan that is right for him or her. We give each student what he or she needs to achieve successes. We don’t worry about ANY child, we worry about EVERY child.
Having a low student to teacher ratio, having our Mishpachot program, with teachers working with students from a variety of grades allows us to KNOW every child; to plan according to what each child needs.
We teach students, not subjects.
Kay Burke, in her book What To Do With The Kid Who… Developing Cooperation, Self Discipline, and Responsibility in the Classroom, cites R. Dreikurs who in 1971, suggested that “misbehavior is associated with four mistaken goals: attention seeking, power seeking, revenge seeking, and displaying inadequacy.” So, how do we combat this type of behavior. We do it through positive reinforcement and recognition. We don’t blame others for getting in the way of your learning, instead we compliment you on your ability to continue to work hard. We also know that this might not work for every student and we therefore need to find the tool that is right for each student, while maintaining order for an entire classroom.
THAT student is not getting in the way of your child’s learning. THAT student is enriching your child’s learning. That teacher is not ignoring your child, that teacher is adapting her teaching to meet the diverse needs of all her students.
As a school we focus on varied approaches to education and pedagogy. We realize that each student learns differently and that our role as educators is to help each child on their individual path to academic excellence. We realize that academic excellence can and should be different from student to student.
In each classroom, we see students who are learning on grade level. We see students who need intervention due to social, emotional, cognitive and learning disabilities. And we see students who need enrichment to allow them to continue to work above grade level. We do this through inclusion, through pushing in and through pulling out. We also realize that a subject that may be a strength for one student is not necessarily a strength for another.
February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. We recognize that each person has a different ability in this world. Each deserves the opportunity to get a quality Jewish education. It is why we created a school in which each child is given an opportunity to learn, where each child is seen as an individual in the greater context of a larger class. While some students have special needs, Bornblum is school for ALL students, no matter their needs. We intervene, we enrich, we include, we educate, we love. That is what makes our school unique.