Thursday, February 25, 2021

Rabbi Gershom Tave continues his series about his new Passaic yeshiva, Da’ehu.

The Whole Child

(Courtesy of Da'ehu)

We are all familiar with Shlomo Hamelech’s quote in Mishlei (22:6) “Educate the child according to his way.” The Chovas Hatalmidim explains that this does not simply mean being able to teach according to each child’s different learning styles. “We are not only trying to reach the student’s intellect. We are trying to reach the whole student…” It is not enough to teach knowledge or skill. It is not even enough to produce a learner. The goal is to produce an innovator, someone who can take his learning and produce something unique to him to improve the world, whether in Torah, business, science or any other field and, of course, every parent wants their children to develop into caring, respectful, loving and kind mentchen.

The Harvard Business Review published an article in 2011 that sought to explain why so many business leaders, scientists, famous artists and thinkers come out of Montessori classrooms. According to some of today’s greatest innovators, the keys to their success include:

1. ability to learn with students of varied ages and abilities,

2. student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options,

3. uninterrupted blocks of work time instead of fixed “periods” working on only one thing,

4. a discovery model, in which students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction.

Beginning at an early age, Montessori nurtures order, concentration and independence. Intentional classroom design, materials, and daily routines support the student’s emerging “self-regulation” (the ability to educate one’s self, and to think about what one is learning), in toddlers through adolescents. Contemporary research supports the 100-year-old Montessori method’s effectiveness, indicating that children who learn in Montessori classrooms demonstrate stronger social-emotional skills in many areas than children in more traditional environments. Montessori education is about developing the whole child to become a capable, productive and fulfilled person who makes a positive contribution to the world around them with the ability to think creatively and understand the needs of others. When these fundamental skills are fostered early in life, children gain the capability to problem solve, persevere and interact well with others in any circumstance. While most Jewish schools do incorporate middos training programs into their curriculum, Da’ehu’s ongoing routines and procedures incorporate middos training into every moment of the day.

With the same teacher for three years, students benefit from a sustained connection that creates a stable, predictable environment for adults and children alike. Students are able to attend to their learning rather than having to adjust to new people and new routines every year. Given the freedom and support to question, probe deeply and make connections, Montessori students grow up to be confident, enthusiastic, and self-directed learners and citizens, accountable to both themselves and their community, choosing positive assertive responses when dealing with social situations. They think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly and with integrity. What better outcome could you wish for your children and what better skill set for the 21st century? And Da’ehu’s whole-child approach will, iy”H and in partnership with the parents, help each child evolve into an eved Hashem, a ben/bas Torah and a mentsch, flourishing academically, socially and emotionally.