May 24, 2024
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May 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Elementary and high school graduates have a range of emotions towards the schools they leave. Some students miss their old stomping grounds and enjoy reminiscing about the good times. Many of these students will visit old teachers, donate money to their alma maters and eventually want their children to follow as students. Others might want to have nothing to do with their old schools. They feel more as if they have escaped than graduated, and they have no interest in visiting or even in saying “thank you” to the school administrators. Of course, most students fall somewhere in between, and don’t have strong feelings either way. What should the attitude of these “in-betweeners” be towards their former schools?

Emily and Alyssa were twins who recently graduated from Hebrew Union Grade School. Both girls did well at HUGS and were accepted into their number one choices for high school. Despite having comparable success, the paths Emily and Alyssa took to get there were very different. Going all the way back to kindergarten, Emily was always at the top of her class. She did well on tests, kept organized and didn’t need her parents to watch over her schoolwork. Emily did have to work hard (she wasn’t a super-genius), but she could generally rely on herself.

Alyssa, on the other hand, was diagnosed with an interesting learning issue as a young child. For some reason, she had a hard time processing information that wasn’t said in a baby voice (the kind parents use when talking to newborns and infants). Of course her parents didn’t detect this when she was younger, as they always spoke to “Ally Wally,” and “Emmy Wemmy” in baby voices. In fact, they first thought that Alyssa was much smarter than Emily because Alyssa understood baby-voice better than most children understood any type of speech. However, as the girls got older, Alyssa began to struggle, without any apparent reason.

Eventually, with the help of cute baby videos on YouTube, Alyssa’s parents realized what was going on. This left them with a strange predicament. They couldn’t just ask Alyssa’s teachers to talk in baby voices and they really didn’t want to embarrass Alyssa by hiring a shadow to repeat everything her teacher’s said in a goofy cutie-pie voice. So, for the first few years of elementary school, Alyssa was home-schooled, which was very effective for her. Being that she started a bit late, it took her a few years to catch up. However, with some professional help, Alyssa overcame her need for learning in baby-voice, and in fifth grade, she joined Emily at HUGS. Alyssa took time to adjust to school life, but throughout her time at HUGS, she was always given the support she needed. By the time it came to graduate, Alyssa and Emily were named co-valedictorians.

As co-valedictorians, each of the girls was to deliver her own speech. Emily’s speech was a classic valedictory address with jokes, advice for her friends and inspirational quotes. Alyssa’s speech, however, was one big “thank you” to the school. She talked about her early learning challenges, and how she finally made it back to school. Alyssa then listed all the people at HUGS who helped her along the way, and included the specific ways the school helped her. Afterwards, both girls were complimented on their speeches, but Alyssa got more of the attention. Many people were impressed at Alyssa’s show of gratitude and amazed by her story. Emily wasn’t upset; she was actually happy that her sister had come so far.

A few days after graduation, Emily was up in her room reading when her mother knocked on the door. “Emily, can I come in a second? I’d like to talk to you about something.” Emily came to the door, opened it up, and let her mother in. “Sure, Mom. What’s up?” Emily’s mother sat on her bed and began. “I really liked your speech at graduation, and I’m really proud of how you wrote it all yourself. So I didn’t want to offer any criticism until a few days later, but don’t you think you should have thanked the school and your teachers at least once? I’m not in any way comparing you to Alyssa, but one thank you would have been nice.” Emily gave a sheepish smile. “I guess you’re right, but I don’t really feel like the school did so much for me. I mean, I didn’t need any extra help and nobody really went out of their way for me, so I guess I don’t feel that same gratitude. But I should have thanked them.” Emily’s mother stood up to leave. “Well, I’m glad you agree. Remember, I’m always proud of you. Enjoy the book!”

Now we flash forward a few months later to the first month of high school. Emily has her first math test coming up, but she doesn’t feel 100% confident. She knows most of the topics well, except for the Distributive Property, which she missed because she was sick for two days. To help herself, Emily stays after class to speak with her teacher, Mr. Alan Jebra. Once the class files out, Emily explains her predicament to Mr. Jebra and asks if she can set up a meeting during lunch to catch up on the missed topic. Unfortunately, Mr. Jebra does not accede to the request. “I’m sorry, Emily, but the test is in two days, and school policy is that a student must ask for a study session at least three days before a test.” Emily felt confused, but didn’t feel that it was worth arguing. So she tried a different strategy, asking to skip that topic on the test until she could catch up. “Sorry again, Emily. School policy is that students are responsible for all missed topics as if they were in class.” Emily’s shoulders drooped and a frown appeared on her face. “Well, thanks anyway,” she said. “For nothing,” she thought.

That night at dinner Emily told her parents what happened. “I can’t believe that he was so unhelpful! He blamed it on school policy, but still; can’t the school be more sensitive to students who miss time for being sick?” Emily’s father responded first. “Sweetie, high school is a time when students have to take on more responsibility. I happen to agree with you in this case; the school policy seems too strict. But you need to be prepared to be pushed a little harder for the next few years.” Emily’s mother then cut in. “Also, HUGS is a very special school. It is designed to support students for success, and to make sure nobody falls through the cracks, even if they miss a few days of class. Not every place works the same, and we are very thankful that you had such an amazing education there. But now it’s time to adjust to a new type of school.”

Sukkot celebrates two different aspects of Jewish life. On one hand it is called “Chag Ha’Asif,” the “Holiday of Gathering,” in which Bnei Yisrael would thank Hashem for all the crops they were able to grow and then bring into the house. This is generally what the arba minim represent—the ingathering of different types of crops. On Sukkot we also remember how Hashem protected Bnei Yisrael in the desert and how He continues to protect us to this day. Commemorating both types of faith is necessary, particularly with all the things that come easy nowadays. We have plenty to worry about, but not regarding food and where it comes from. We aren’t out in the fields praying that the weather is right, that the soil has the necessary nutrients, and that the crops grow. Nowadays, we need a different type of reminder—that Hashem is holding us all up, even when we don’t see it directly. We take many things for granted because they have always been there, and we sometimes need a reminder—like Emily did—that getting used to something doesn’t take away how special it is.

Chag Sameach!

By Yair Daar

 

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