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The Main Purpose
by Rabbi Berel Wein
This article orignally appeared in The Jerusalem Post

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5/10/09

THE MAIN PURPOSE

Friday, May 8, 2009

Over thirty years ago I planned on opening a yeshiva high school and beit midrash/semicha program in Monsey and went to see Rabbi Yaakov Kamenecki for advice, guidance and encouragement. Rabbi Kamenecki was not only one of the great Torah and Talmudic scholars of his day but his reputation for honesty, wisdom and practicality was internationally known in the yeshiva world.

The Talmud granted certain great men the title of “chacimai d’yhudai” – the wise man of the Jews. In his generation, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenecki bore that title, albeit humbly. After giving me his blessing for the ambitious project that I was undertaking he then proceeded to tell me two rules that should govern my approach to Torah (and in fact all) education.

The first rule was to always remember that the yeshiva was created for the benefit of its students. Not for the faculty, not for the Board of Directors, not for the honor of the Rosh Yeshiva but exclusively for the benefit of the students.

It is the task of the head of the yeshiva to always remember and enforce this rule. In any contest between the welfare of a faculty member and the welfare of the students, the student’s best interests should prevail. He said to me that this rule should operate in hospitals as well where the welfare of the patient should reign supreme over that of the physicians, the nurses, the administrators and anyone else connected with the facility.

The second rule that he told me to observe was that the yeshiva/school was not to be a “S’dom bed.” In S’dom the idea of conformity was paramount. There was a bed that one had to fit into exactly. The person would be shortened or lengthened as necessary to create the perfect fit for the bed – S’dom was not a place for individuality or tolerance of the “other.”

Rabbi Kamenecki told me that every student was a yeshiva unto himself and should be treated as such, as much as humanly possible. I tried to fulfill these two rules during my twenty years as head of the yeshiva and many times but not always, I felt that I succeeded.

I recently read an article in a Hebrew journal about Rabbi Aryeh Levin, the great holy man of Jerusalem whose thirtieth yahrzeit was just recently duly noted. The writer of the article, currently an upper echelon administrator in one of the Israeli school systems streams, recounted his experience as a dormitory child in one of Jerusalem’s institutions many decades ago.

The food served in the institution was fairly meager and the young boy was always hungry. One day the institution served chocolate pudding and the boy took his portion and wolfed it down and then got back in line and asked for another portion. The server refused his request with a nasty remark. Frustrated and angered the boy then turned over the entire chocolate pudding pot and spilled its contents on the ground.

The boy was beaten for the act and the head of the institution publicly reprimanded and humiliated the child. He was told that his eventual fate as to whether he would be expelled from the institution would be decided on the morrow by Rabbi Aryeh, the spiritual mentor of the institution.

The child spent a sleepless night weeping over his fate. Next morning he met Rabbi Aryeh who asked him to sit next to him. He asked him “Did you spill over the pot as they said that you did?” The child admitted his guilt. “Will you do such a thing again in the future?” Rabbi Aryeh asked. “No, never again,” said the child. Rabbi Aryeh asked him then, "Do you really like chocolate pudding?” “Yes,” he answered. Rabbi Aryeh said, “I too love chocolate pudding so I have here two containers of chocolate pudding so let us sit down here together and eat chocolate pudding.” At that moment, the educator said, I realized what it means to be a Torah Jew.

School systems the world over answer to governmental standards, teacher unions, parent unions and other assorted groups and personages. All of this layered bureaucracy rarely takes the welfare of the individual student into much consideration.

There is no room for chocolate pudding in our school systems. Because of this schools measure their success on the basis of test scores and other objective criteria.

But the individual student does not fit neatly into any objective form of criteria. How to reach the individual student and build self-esteem should be the main purpose of education. If that is achieved all of the objective accomplishments of knowledge will also follow. Keep your eye on the ball – on the main purpose that education should achieve.

Shabat shalom.

Berel Wein

The Main Purpose



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1. Echoing sentiments     5/10/09 - 5:25 PM
Benzion Twerski

This article is perfectly consistent with the paradigm shift I have advocated for the entire chinuch system. I am just inclined to say that I have echoed Rabbi Wein’s sentiments rather than the opposite, since this is based on his interaction with Reb Yaakov ZT”L some 30 years ago – long before I gave any thought to what chinuch was doing.

Just as any enterprise needs to have criteria by which to gauge its success, chinuch also must measure its performance. I read much of the same media as everyone else. Among the items I encounter are statements about various guest Roshei Yeshivos, Mashgichim, Rabbonim, etc. coming to “farher” the talmidim, and finding them well versed in the subject matter. It is as if the accumulation of knowledge is the yardstick that indicates that the yeshiva has been successful. Unfortunately, many of us can look back and recognize classmates who excelled scholastically but are currently not shomer Shabbos. What went wrong?

This is NOT an effort to finger point or blame. The “amelus” in learning cannot be assessed qualitatively by us mortals. We are limited in using something quantifiable, and the number of “blatt” lends itself to this. But our experience suggests that is also not the most accurate way of gauging accomplishment in learning.

I have advanced a suggestion that does not help much with the quality/quantity issue, but it serves to direct the focus elsewhere. I feel that we should observe how our children use their free time. How much is spontaneously devoted to learning or other Torah based activity versus non-Torah versions of leisure? The talmid who is accomplishing something is absorbing the “cheshek” to learn, finding it fulfilling and enjoyable. This allows us to use something that is less dependent on the innate capacity of the talmid. The less academically gifted can still devote time to learning, regardless of how much of it will be retained for the long term. And that is equally as important to the mechanech and the talmid. No talmid should be penalized (by grades, relationship with the rebbe, etc.) for working to his potential even if that is not very high.

The scholastically average or lower talmid is as loved by HKB”H as the one who performs dramatically superior. For this reason, I strongly oppose the prevalent method of grading report cards by test performance, essentially relegating a measure of overall success to a limit of skills that are mostly innate. A talmid with deficiencies in memory, reading, processing, etc. who invests maximum effort will receive grades that reflect inferiority, while the exceptionally bright talmid who can afford to waste considerable time and still “spit back” everything on a test will have spectacular scores for the school year. Years later, the weaker talmid with “cheshek” will fare better in leading a Torah lifestyle than the stronger one who “knows it all”. This statement, while some may feel it is rash, has actually been stated by Chazal, and is replete in many sifrei mussar as well as the landmark seforim on chinuch.

Another point in this article that has been echoed before is the approach to discipline. When I discuss the notion of discipline or punishment with many mechanchim and menahalim, I am appalled by their responses. Some acknowledge that a particular consequence is inappropriate, but are convinced (to the extreme of being delusional) that something must be done, even if ineffective. Others insist that the goal of “showing who’s boss” is critical to maintaining law and order in the yeshiva, and this supersedes any issues that one may have about punishment. I find these approaches anti-chinuch, concerned with the egos of the mechanchim, with utter disregard for the talmid. I again apologize for sounding intense in my expressions of disdain, but I am one of those that receives the byproduct of this approach – kids who are off the derech, or are displaying the initial signs of rebelliousness. These basically unhappy children have been made that way.

I enjoyed the vignette about Rav Aryeh Levin ZT”L. That is chinuch. The admonitions and punishments did not help much, while the individual approach by Rav Aryeh made all the difference. There are many similar stories to tell about gedolim of previous generations, and our current system seems to have failed to learn these lessons.

Reb Yanky: Thanks for bringing this article to the readership.


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2. Grades, Testing, Tougher standards     5/11/09 - 1:57 AM
Ak

Hi,

' Because of this schools measure their success on the basis of test scores and other objective criteria. '

A lot has been written about how test scores measure what counts the least and impairs learning. check http://alfiekohn.org for various articles on Grades, Standardised testing, Tougher standards etc. In the following article Alfie Kohn discusses the negative impact that grades have on kids and their learning

http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/fdtd-g.htm

Grades tend to reduce students’ interest in the learning itself.

Grades tend to reduce students’ preference for challenging tasks

Grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking

Grades aren’t valid, reliable, or objective

Grades distort the curriculum

Grades waste a lot of time that could be spent on learning

Grades encourage cheating

Grades spoil teachers’ relationships with students.

Grades spoil students’ relationships with each other

Progressive/constructivist education is fostering many of the Torah ideals about learning , the love of learning, collaborative learning , learning by talking and discussing in pairs or small groups , project based learning ,learning driven by questions, curiosity and the love and enjoyment of learning. Unfortunately our educators are still caught up with behaviorist learning principles.

Alfie Kohn says NO TESTING + NO HOMEWORK = BETTER LEARNING


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3.     5/11/09 - 1:37 PM
Anonymous

"Grades tend to reduce students’ interest in the learning itself" - not for me. It forced me to study subjects that I wouldn't otherwise bother with and to master them.

"Grades tend to reduce students’ preference for challenging tasks" - I see no proof for that in my school life

"Grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking" - I see no proof for that

"Grades aren’t valid, reliable, or objective" - depends what kind of tests and how they are graded.

"Grades distort the curriculum" - maybe yes, maybe no

"Grades waste a lot of time that could be spent on learning" - huh? grades waste time? I spent time learning and then took tests and was graded.

"Grades encourage cheating" - and in the real world of science, for example, people cheat in order to look good and get grants or advancement. Therefore what?

"Grades spoil teachers’ relationships with students." - my relationship with my teachers had nothing to do with grades but their personalities and their interactions with me

"Grades spoil students’ relationships with each other " - they don't have to if the grades are not publicized


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4. May I bring this into a more current situation?     5/13/09 - 9:26 AM
Sherree

A client sent me an emergency note just two nights ago

"Help, my son Tzvi was kicked out of yeshiva today!" He keeps his iPhone in his Tefillin bag during yeshiva, and another boy took it out and was caught with it by the principal. He wanted to confiscate it and gave the kid an ultimatum, give it up or be expelled from Yeshiva. But the kid called for Tzvi to intervene. So of course he intervenes for his iPhone which of course is his lifeblood.

The principal asked Tzvi to stay away, but Tzvi kept arguing with him, and grabbed his iPhone back, and the principal expelled him. He told him not to come back to Yeshiva without his parents because of his Chutzpa. Tzvi claims the principal didn't know it was an iPhone and thinks it was just an iPod, and the other kid got someone else's iPod and turned that in to the principal and saved his skin, so he's still in Yeshiva, but Tzvi's out.

In general this iPhone business is a real poison with its loaded on movies of who knows what, Mom and I felt that before we go to the principal Tzvi should agree not to take it with him to Yeshiva, but he won't hear of that.

How do we approach this?

I post the entire question, and I am posting my response, because it shows the relevancy to todays situations in the same similarity of how a mechanech has to adjust their way of thinking according to the Talmid's need and not shove him off the derech because of the mechanech's opinion of respect and chutzpah.

Firstly I gently told the parents to shelve their own personal views and opinions of the evils of the iphone/cell phone for now, they were dealing with their 17 year old child who was in a small yeshiva, not a main stream yeshiva, who might lose his opportunity to get his diploma on the whim of an egotistical principal. OBVIOUSLY THE PUNISHMENT SHOULD FIT THE CRIME.

That means, that after all the work that they accomplished with their child by means of mutual respect and agreements over the past SIX months of really, really hard work and effort from the child and the parents, real accomplishment and baby steps, but steps none the less towards rebuilding their relationship, was about to go down the tubes because the principal was not willing to do his part.

That meant that the child's opportunities to get into colleges or vocational/training programs will be pulled from under him if he is denied his diploma. I noted that as upset as they seemed, the principal must have done a great job of upsetting their son over such narishkeiten, he probably sent him straight for a smoke a drink or a drag!

I then pointed out ways the principal for such a specially designed school could and maybe should have handled the situation differently to bring about a different outcome. For instance:

Let's call the other student Max.

"Max, is that an iphone you are holding? Its against the rules, give it up"

"Rebbe., its not mine, it belongs to Tzvi and he doesn’t know I borrowed it"

"Max, YOU, broke the rules, YOU will have to tell Tzvi that YOU turned in his iphone and if he can identify it lunchtime, he can pick it up At the end of the day"

"Tzvi, Rebbe, caught me with your iphone, come tell him it is yours, not mine."

The Rebbe could have said to Tzvi "is it true, is this yours? Did you know Max had it?" And even if Tzvi was completely innocent the Rebbe could have said "Tzvi, I have a problem here, since Max broke the rules with your iphone, I will have to hold on to it until the end of the day and we will have to find a way for Max to make it up to you. Please come to my office at 4 o'clock to pick up your phone and figure this out."

In this way the principal keeps Max accountable while acknowledges Tzvi's innocence. But he also forces both boys into following the rules by still walking away with the phone. Win/win all around no judgment being passed out.

But in reality what did this so-called mechanech do? He berates and insults Tzvi telling him to stay away its not his business when he is dangling HIS property in front of him basically inciting him and then accusing him of chutzpah. In addition he causes Max to lie and cheat, he then expels Tzvi causing anger and friction between him and his parents and killing his self esteem and self confidence probably sending him off for a smoke, a drink and a drag. Good Job! Is that really why HE was hired for this particular job?

Please, please don’t blame the iphone. It is quite obvious this principal has no training and has no clue how destructive he is. It would certainly seem that he has more of a problem with Tzvi than with the ipod/ iphone. Maybe you should give him an opportunity to apologize to Tzvi. Just a thought.

The parents responded: thanks to your insight we know how to address the problem.

PLEASE NOTE: THE NAMES WERE CHANGED


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5. Perhaps a Torah Umesorah Board of Expelling Children     5/13/09 - 11:40 AM
Expert Teacher

We need to develop a Board made up of a Rav with years of successful classroom experience with teenagers, retired principals.a psychologist,a social worker,an expert educated teacher, and a parent of an at risk child.These people should be given the power to decide if a child should be expelled from a yeshiva.Until the child's case is decided he should be required to attend his old yeshiva.At the meeting the Board should give suggestions to everyone interacting with the child.

Change his class, put him in detention,keep him in the principal's office but do not reward him by allowing him to stay home for days while his parents try to find him a new yeshiva.This can take months or never at all.

Even the best principal in the world is a nogaya bedavar because the event happened in his building.We need an impartial decision for the child. Everyone should be welcomed to present the facts including the child.

Many years ago my son, a high school senior, was expelled for organizing a protest in a very prominent yeshiva. We were never called and a letter was never sent home.I found out from my son.He was a bright respectful child who tried to get away with following minor school rules.I got him back into the yeshiva by taking him to a psychologist and asking the doctor to call the principal to tell him that my son was emotionally sick and was in treatment, and he could not expel a child who became emotionally ill if he was in treatment.The punishment was that he stayed home for six weeks wasting his life away and learning how not to treat children.We also had to send him for therapy until he graduated.The day after graduation he had a remarkable recovery.Today he is BH a very emotionally healthy responsible father.Baruch Hashem that he gave me the insight how to outsmart this principal.This is how a bright student with excellent behavior grades from all of his teachers was treated. Is this story not mind boggling?


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6. Thanks for Sherring     5/13/09 - 12:54 PM
Benzion Twerski

Sherree:

While I read your account of Tzvi and Max, I did so with a mixture of fascination and boredom. Let me explain.

I hear these stories nearly every week. This is just another one. Ho hum.

The fascination is that someone else hears the same travesties as I do. That means that some of the opinions I have about how mechanchim need to be trained before entering a school building have merit.

I wish to add a few points. Expulsion is a conclusion that is usually reached in moments of anger precisely when no one is in condition to make any decisions that involve serious consequences – ever. Yet, this route is exploited so often it makes me sick. Every menahel, rosh yeshiva, and rebbe ALWAYS has the obligation to work with the talmid – no matter what the issues is. If rejection is the chosen method, the mechanech is derelict. I am aware of a yeshiva where several members of the hanhala fast an entire day before taking the step of expelling a talmid.

Another very serious issue is that of respect/chutzpah. I guess you think I am against respect or pro-chutzpah. Chas veshalom. I am just against any rebbe, anytime, anywhere, being the judge about what constitutes respect or chutzpah toward them. The reason is very simple. The bias and anger over one’s own ego makes this judgment invalid (not necessarily wrong). One cannot be justified in punishing a talmid because of chutzpah or lack of respect toward them. No one will convince me different.

Moshe Rabbenu would not be a kosher witness for his son’s wedding. Not because he is at risk of lying, but because the inherent bias invalidates him. I also feel strongly that the yeshiva is not the place to teach kavod haTorah (though modeling it is terrific). That should be taught at home. Conversely, kibud av v’em should be taught in yeshiva. When one demands kavod, it should ALWAYS be for someone else, or it is rendered ineffective (not because the message is wrong).

A third point is that this menahel got sucked into a personal issue here. He seems to have taken the violation of rules as reflecting a rebellion against the authority of the yeshiva and the member of the hanhala. Instead of wasting effort in dealing with this unsolvable problem, the issue here is that someone is in need of guidance and chinuch. How can this experience be used to teach a talmid something valuable? The rebbe that focuses on a problem this way stands to gain everything and lose nothing.

Let me relate a story. Reb Zaidel Epstein ZT”L was a rebbe in RJJ many years ago. He had just finished saying a shiur, and the bochurim were beginning to leave the room to whatever came next for them. One bochur came running in and asked Reb Zaidel to sign a document for him. Reb Zaidel realized he did not have a pen, and he asked if someone had one. A bochur sitting in the back of the room took out a pen and casually flipped it to the front of the room to Reb Zaidel. To the onlooker, this was not nice at all. Reb Zaidel signed the form, walked to the bochur in the back, and handed him the pen while saying thank you. No mussar, no speeches, no berating, no addressing respect or chutzpah. Just modeling the behavior that was appropriate. That bochur is a rosh yeshiva today.

Our mechanchim desperately need training, more training, and still more. I applaud the mesiras nefesh they have to give their time and effort to chinuch despite the usually poor salaries. But I am frightened by the damage they can inflict while hoping for positive outcomes.


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7. Food For Thought     5/13/09 - 1:21 PM
Anonymous

The Lubavitcher Rebbe said about a situation where members of a school board were forcing a principal to expel a student from school. They were unfortunately successful. But, everyone lost out. In short order the board members lost their wealth, and were very depressed.

The Rebbe said, "Since you took away a child's Parnassah Ruchni, Hashem is taking away your Parnassah Gashmi. You used your power to harm someone else, so your power was removed from you".

Principals and board members think about this next time you are in this situation.


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8.     5/13/09 - 2:43 PM
Anonymous

"Our mechanchim desperately need training, more training, and still more."

"Training" means preparation and planning--responsibilities currently excluded from our communal agenda. 99.9% of chinuch-bound bochurim with whom I am familiar will seek employment when their kollel stipend expires. At that point, there is already a family to support and hefty bills to pay, leaving neither time nor resources at all for vocational training of any sort. Additionally, while many in the chinuch field are motivated by idealism and sincere inspiration and possess the necessary talent and skills, too many others turn to chinuch as a last resort to which they may turn for an income despite lack of professional training.

In the public school system, lehavdil, employment requires schooling, standardized testing, accreditation, many hours of field work, constant professional development--not to mention fingerprinting and background investigation. We, by contrast remain trustingly "heimish," and so no standards or accreditation are demanded--on many levels.

One idealistic, sincere, capable bochur with whom I am acquainted seeks a career in chinuch; he also happens to learn brilliantly and with hasmada, and displays a deep-running yiraas shamayim--characteristics to which his Rabbeim and chaverim enthusiastically attest. His parents believe in a 'plan,' and so they urged him to enroll in some bein hazmanim courses in education. The bochur's Rosh Yeshiva protested, explaining that his remains "a yeshiva for serious learners; boys focused upon chinuch or kiruv can learn elsewhere." This is the hadracha we are offering. It takes a very confident--or very chutzpadik--20 year old to think independently of his Rosh Yeshiva and embark on an alternate route.

(PS The bochur renounced his plan.)


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9. Aye Aye     5/13/09 - 9:23 PM
shtarkebachur

Chutzpah is what you need. Chutzpah yasgi is one of the blessings of today's generation. We need more of it. Too many bochurim are unhappy because they're too scared to break out of the mold. And it's getting real moldy.


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10. It’s Not What We Teach; It’s What They Learn     5/14/09 - 12:35 AM
Ak

Rav Twerski, Thanks for your insights - that kavod/respect issues should be put to the side in dealing with problems, we cannot judge others because of our egos, see problems as a learning opportunity.

Principals use temporary expulsion to give them power, so parents and kids come back on all fours begging to be accepted and willing to accept all the conditions. The problem is that this is based on the view that the kid is the only problem and we must teach him a lesson , that if he does not behave there are consequences.

But the important question isn’t who’s right; it’s whose perspective predicts various outcomes. It doesn’t matter what lesson a parent intended to teach by, say, giving a child a “time out” (or some other punishment). If the child experiences this as a form of love withdrawal, then that’s what will determine the effect. Similarly, parents may offer praise in the hope of providing encouragement, but children may resent the judgment implicit in being informed they did a “good job,” or they may grow increasingly dependent on pleasing the people in positions of authority.

From both punishments and rewards, moreover, kids may derive a lesson of conditionality: I’m loved – and lovable – only when I do what I’m told. Of course, most parents would insist that they love their children no matter what. But, as one group of researchers put it in a book about controlling styles of parenting, “It is the child’s own experience of this behavior that is likely to have the greatest impact on the child’s subsequent development.” It’s the message that’s received, not the one that the adults think they’re sending, that counts.

Exactly the same point applies in a school setting since educators, too, may use carrots and sticks on students. We may think we’re emphasizing the importance of punctuality by issuing a detention for being late, or that we’re making a statement about the need to be respectful when we suspend a student for yelling an obscenity, or that we’re supporting the value of certain behaviors when we offer a reward for engaging in them.

But what if the student who’s being punished or rewarded doesn’t see it that way? What if his or her response is, “That’s not fair!” or “Next time I won’t get caught,” or “I guess when you have more power you can make other people suffer if they don’t do what you want,” or “If they have to reward me for x, then x must be something I wouldn’t want to do.”

We protest that the student has it all wrong, that the intervention really is fair, the consequence is justified, the reward system makes perfect sense. But if the student doesn’t share our view, then what we did cannot possibly have the intended effect.

'Results don’t follow from behaviors but from the meaning attached to behaviors.' - From article by Alfie Kohn


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11. Collaborative problem solving + relationship     5/14/09 - 1:00 AM
Ak

Hi,

I would approach the problem with the child and approach the principal in a respectful manner using CPS meaning addressing the concerns of all parties - Once we put concerns on the table , we can find mutually satisfactory solutions.

Usually principals are concerned with defiance and breaking of rules - often one can change their perceptions of the child's behavior by explaining the concerns of the child and challenges that explain poor coping skills - lacking cognitive skills such as 'executive functions, impulsivity, emotional difficulties. Lacking skills and concerns give a different explanation of what happened and naturally open the conversation up to different interventions.

When dealing with kids the starting point should be using empathy and reassurance that you are willing to work with the child, he is not in trouble, you are not mad at him, you have noticed there is a problem and you want his input in helping to solve the problem.

The whole learning process, both intellectual, social and moral education depends on trust and acceptance. Kids won't be honest or open up or trust you if you are going to impose a consequence. Putting their concerns on the table gains their trust to work with them solve the problem.

So we now explore the various concerns of the child - here the need for the iphone. The principal can then put his concerns on the table - not just say it is against the rules and hopefully together various solutions can be suggested which address both concerns and are mutually satisfactory. This is not negotiation - negotiation is the duelling of solutions.

The litmus test - was this a learning experience for the child ( not a teaching experience), does the child feel closer to the principal now, see him as a help, trust him to support him, will the kid see the principal as a confidant/mentor to whom he can go and seek advice and conversation?

I suggest reading Ross Greene's book 'Lost at school' using CPS in a school setting, also great for parents.


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12. a word from the battlefront     5/14/09 - 7:43 AM
tb

Re: the IPhone

Some points from the classroom:

a. Chareidi Yeshivos should start drafting, printing and handing out to parents and students written disciplinary codes. It doesn't solve everything, but it clearly states the rules and what happens if you break them. IPhones and other tech devices are well-suited to this kind of approach. Either, no IPhones, cells, gaming devices, ipods or all tech devices must be kept in backpack at all times or conventional cells only, etc.

b. Just as you are betting that the Menahel is overzealous, I am betting that the 17 year old with the Iphone in his Tefilin bag is not a first-time offender. I'm going to make a leap and say that likely he has gotten into a few scrapes before. Does that give the Menahel the right to expel? Not necessarily. But, our problems in school are a bit more complex than overzealous Mechanchim.

If we at least attempt to print things up and have kids and parents sign them, if we decide on proper consequences and alert parents and kids of them (including confiscation, detention, suspension, etc) than the Yeshivaworld will be a bit better off and then only the sons of wealthy benefactors and board members will be permitted to slip through the cracks and slide on as has always been the case. :)


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13. a word about Rabbi Wein's Yeshiva     5/14/09 - 7:45 AM
tb

I can't tell you how many times I have heard people lament the loss of Rabbi Wein's Yeshiva Derech. What he created and provided for the boys in Monsey is gone and desperately, desperately needed. What happened? Where are the successors to Rabbi Wein who can take up the mantle? Who believes as he did in educating the individual and providing a high school education with a moderate Yeshivish approach that would fit the parents and the moderate kids? I wish I could ask Rabbi Wein to spearhead its resurgence.


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14. Tb #12     5/14/09 - 11:43 AM
Anonymous

Requiring the signing of disciplinary codes encourages dishonesty. Many pple will sign bec they have to, then proceed to do what they want. Some pple will conform to the rule bec they feel guilty lying or fear getting caught, but few and far between are those who will alter their values and character as a result of compulsory signing of paperwork. Though this may achieve the desired result on some level (eg-less ipods on school grounds)it does nothing in the way of real chinuch for those who may need it most.


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15. signed agreements and code books     5/14/09 - 1:57 PM
sherree

At least this allow everyone to work from the same knowledge base and not from the angle of surprises and mind reading "you should have known", OR new rules brought on from left field.

It also allows for thought processes and the concept of renegotiating contracts and drawing up adendums or petitions to revise them. These are also good lessons and learning opportunities for kids.

Kids and parents also have the opportunity to add to or reconfigure contracts together with the administration at the time of the meeting and signing of contracts; that is the right time to speak about the rules and whether or not one can abide by them or not.


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16. We don't force parents and kids to pinky swear     5/14/09 - 4:54 PM
tb

Um, anonymous. I feel sorry that you live in a world where requiring students and parents to be aware of a behavior code would be an invitation to lie. What we are doing is spelling out what is and isn't acceptable in the school (i.e. technology, classroom behavior, hallway rules) and outlining specific consequences. By signing, you are just confirming that you have read the code of conduct and are aware of the rules and consequences.

It's done in MO Yeshivos and Public Schools all the time. It's time the other Yeshivos fell in line. It isn't failproof, but it makes it very much less personal and leaves less room for emotional decisions.


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17. tb 16     5/14/09 - 5:21 PM
Anonymous

My opposition isnt to "awareness of a behavior code;" it is about replacing discussion and thought with control mechanisms when alternate solutions exist. Ideally, behavior codes should be spoken about and explained with an invitation to children to contribute some ideas of their own to the 'contract,' which can be written up together and mutually signed. It doesn't mean students have to like all the rules and expectations set forth, but they have to be introduced in a way which demonstrates goodwill and respect for their perspective with chinuch as the ultimate goal.

The way it often currently works, a written behavior code is sent home with registration materials for the parent and student to sign. In my boys' mesivta, for example we sign a form renouncing and forbidding the use of cell-phones in yeshiva, period. My sons are among a handful of boys who neither own a cellphone nor bring one to yeshiva. You can blame the parents if you'd like, but i believe the problem lies with the challenge of managing so many children--this invites the school's need to control behavior rather than offer chinuch.


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18. Rules     5/14/09 - 5:28 PM
Ak

Hi, The point I think Anon is making and one that I subscribe is that lists of rules handed out in a top-down fashion without student participation or discussion has no educational value. Signing a contract is even worse , implying kids won't follow the rules if they don't sign and turning the teacher-pupil relationship into some type of contractual one. The big problem with rules as opposed to ' expectations ' is that when rules are broken , what is called or implied is punishment , consequences etc . When expectations are not being met , we try and solve problems. You don't solve problems by negotiating , that is getting into a power struggle , it is dueling solutions. Problem solving is addressing the concerns of all . Putting a list of rules and consequences and punishing everyone might get behavior , but certainly no internaization of any values.

Instead of rules , talk about values and midos , talk about community . There is a book - Beyond discipline , moving away from compliance to community. You solve problems by addressing concerns , giving kids a vision for the future , treat the whole child , not just the external behavior.


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19. ak and anon     5/14/09 - 7:45 PM
tb

Ak, you and I have been down this road before and I can't really have a meaningful dialogue with you. You don't give any indication about what you do for a living or if you have ever worked in education or have ever spent any considerable time observing or serving in classroom situations with an average of 23+ children per class which is the norm at most traditional schools.

Anon, while I understand your frustration, I think you are missing something very valuable by mixing up two things. We do have to be Mechanech the whole child and look out for the individual in all this. We do have to talk about things with children and hear them out sometimes. We do not, however, have to hear them out on rules like the ones that follow which are standard in these behavior code lists:

1. no technology in school or out of the backpack 2. no behaviors that will physically harm another child or the teacher 3. no destruction of property 4. no skipping class 5. unexcused lateness to class This is only a partial list, but these are things we need in order to run a school.

We all must abide by similar rules at work. This isn't oppressive to children. Our future employers do not have to discuss the rules of their workplace with us. They merely must lay them out and make sure we are aware of them. That includes a dress code, btw, in place in most work environments. We do not explain to employees why tank tops are not permitted at work or ask how they feel about it or what they think is fair. We do not consult with them on restricting their use of the internet while at the office. Most offices now monitor internet use. Private shopping is often not allowed in the workplace, blogging, etc. No one is having a conversation about that first.

Being Mechanech a child with humility, kindness, compassion and connectedness is an entirely separate requirement of educators and school administrators. The logistics of running a school/class with groups of people functioning in one place for hours at a time are much more clear-cut.


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20. Great news!     5/16/09 - 4:10 PM
CB

This shabbos we hosted two second-year seminary students, both studying towards a degree in education in a very professional program here in EY. The director of the ed program, who also teaches some classes, is the supervisor for all special ed programs in Chinuch Atzmai in Yerushalayim and has many, many years of teaching experience, both mainstream and special ed, under her belt. The girls were describing some of their classes and the theories they are learning. I asked them what they had been taught about behavior management and they told me that their director outlined the various theories and approaches and then taught them the preferred method: Collaborative Problem Solving!! She also emphasised that "behavior modification" is something done to animals, not children. Aah, progress!


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21. CPS and Brain Plasticity     5/17/09 - 1:27 PM
Ak

Hi,

Thanks for sharing . It is great news .There are educators who are adopting a ' working with approach as opposed to ' doing to' to kids. I have heard here in Israel a distortion of the baskets approach as it was previously known - basket A - parent imposing his will , basket C - ignoring the problem for the time being - Basket A and C is typically - choose your battles parenting . Basket B according to NON CPS people is about negotiating issues. Plan B or basket B according to CPS is not negotiation , negotiation is essentially the dueling of solutions , who can get the best deal. Plan B is essentially putting both concerns on the table and then looking for various alternative solutions which can address both concerns in a mutually satisfactory manner. Ross Greene's book Lost at school is a great resource for using CPS both in a home and school setting.

There is a frum neurologist here in Israel , worked also in the USA who has 2 chapters in his book , also translated into Hebrew on CPS. People in English speaking countries have such an advantage of having access to so much helpful knowledge and experience. His take on CPS is more from a neurologist's standpoint.

'Neuroscience has changed considerably in the past 20 years. An example of change over period is the concept of brain plasticity. Brain plasticity refers to the brain's ability to rewire itself, relocating information processing functions to different brain areas and/or neural networks. Two decades ago, it was believed that brain networks were static after its initial formation period. Now that belief has changed. The study of brain plasticity has profound implications in human learning and behaviour, and as such, for mental health.'

In his book , on book on ADHD Amnon Gimpel http://www.tocureadhd.com/ reviews different interventions. Brain exercise therapy through physical and brain exercises , thinking is said to make physical changes in the brain. CPS is recommended not only as Dr Greene says to help promote lacking skills and relationship , but CPS makes actual positive physical changes in the brain.


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22. to tb #13 - cheder in Passaic     5/19/09 - 4:01 PM
Shaindy

The Cheder in Passaic is doing many of the things discussed here -- well-trained mechanchim, no competition, building self-esteem, educating the indivudual ... I know a couple of families who just love it. (but I think they have through 6th grade currently, so it's not going to help if your kids are currently in mesivta.)


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23. to Shaindy     5/24/09 - 7:55 AM
tb

It is precisely at Mesivta that the Yeshivos stop being willing to allow for and educate in a moderate Yeshivish way. I don't hear that the Cheder in Passaic is moderate. I'm sorry. And, as I said, the Cheder is an elementary school.

Rabbi Wein provided a moderate Yeshivish High School where Talmidim got a good secular studies education in addition to a good background in learning. This is vital for two reasons: 1) many parents today want their boys to go on to college to be able to support their families, not all want the Kollel track for their boys 2) many of our parents are astute enough to know that their boys do not all thrive on ridiculously long hours of learning with late learning every night of the week. Many of our teen boys are good boys, but are completely squeezed by this kind of heavy Gemara-learning schedule. We are losing some of them because of that.

If the Cheder is willing to abandon that style which has become the only acceptable route in Monsey than Kol Hakovod to them, but first they will have to succeed as an elementary school and set up a Mesivta defying the norm.


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24. progressive education     5/24/09 - 11:19 AM
Ak

Hi,

In an age where teachers of information are becoming obselete , we really just need Gemorah , limudei kodesh etc , english and for some maths If one is learning limudei chol in the trational ' direct instruction' way , we are wasting our time. Never before has the value of teaching how to think being appreciated and this makes Yeshivah learning much more relevant than limudie chol taught in the tradtional way . The same goes for teaching values - rules and consequences teaches the kid to ask what's in it for me , problem solving teaches the kid to ask - do these actions express torah values , the type of person I want to be .

In many ways a yeshiva education - gemorrah etc and the chavrusah - chaburah - shiur system is far closer to ' Progressive education than traditional schools which focus on grades, the end product, direct instruction with kids reconstructing teacher thinking , memory , learning to test etc. When it comes to dealing with the child , I am glad to hear that a working with approach is being used to deal with problems and not lists of rules and consequences , something typical of tradional schools.

From a list - what is considered ' Progressive education - I consder how 6 of the 8 criterea are found in a torah education.

Attending to the whole child - not only academics , also midos and spiritual development - the more the academics , the less Torah ,mussar and midos

Community - the more academic the more competitive , seperate learning as opposes to the interdependence fostered by torah learning, making chaburas or making the honors roll

Collaboration - problems are solved working with children , not doing to them. In traditional schools the behaviors are important , motives and reasons are irrelevant. In a Torah education the feelings and motives are just as important , we want change of the inside . In traditional schools behavior is important just to facilitate the transmission of information, not an end in itself

Deep understanding - invite them to think deeply about issues ,it is the process that counts , not lists of facts, skills or seperate disciplines , Torah is multidisiplinary , it is the kids questions that count , not the teachers questions

Active learning - discussion ie encouraged , kids asking questions , assessment is done by the questions asked , the level of understanding

Intrinsic motivation - as the Chovos hatalmid says , education is about lighting the flame and not filling the pail , In torah , education is not the preparation for life but life itself , in traditional education what counts is the grade , 'performance' and 'achievement,' but not 'discovery' or 'exploration' or 'curiosity'as in torah .

Ak


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25.     5/24/09 - 3:20 PM
yoni

people can't educate themselves until they're taught how, and that usualy requires some form of direct instruction.


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26. DI=transmission vs Constructivism     5/24/09 - 3:59 PM
Ak

Hi, Actually a long time before we start formal learning kids are making sense of the world around them, making meaning and constructing knowledge and the Torah tells us don't try to be the sage on the stage but stimulate questions , be the guide by the side. For sure a teacher is needed to ' facilitate learning' but that is rather different from the DI model of scripted lessons transmitting information and skills. Constructivism is about kids constructing meaning , thinking . Yoni check out constructivist educators like Constance Kamii (maths) de Vries , Piaget , John Dewey etc . Even at the beginning of learning , it is all about questions, stimulating thinking etc learning focusing more on making meaning than drilling skills and memorizing facts . I suggest reading Alfie Kohn's The schools our children deserve for an analysis of both approaches.


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27. yoni     5/24/09 - 4:11 PM
Anonymous

Huh? Think of how much an infant teaches himself about the world through curiosity, observation and independent learning. Self-education is innate to the homo sapien. Teaching by direct instruction, at least today, has a lot more to do with control than with teaching.


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28. 26 and 27     5/24/09 - 4:52 PM
Anonymous

Is it possible that both direct instruction as well as a more independent 'meaning making' approach both have their complementary places within the chinuh process? It's not either/or, black/white...


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29. Unlearning how we learned     5/25/09 - 9:46 AM
Ak

Hi,

Anon 28 'Is it possible that both direct instruction as well as a more independent 'meaning making' approach both have their complementary places within the chinuh process? It's not either/or, black/white...'

Traditionalists like Hirsh focus on the transmission model - DI and if there is any construction of meaning it is reconstructing teacher thinking. DI and constructivism are not complementary to each other.

Constructivists say kids who have been exposed to traditional learning have to unlearn , how they learned.

Here are a few paragraphs from Alfie Kohn which may help to explain the issue

The consensus that we need tougher standards is closely connected to the notion that we need to go back to basics -- what might be called the "bunch o' facts" model of instruction. Traditionalists typically believe we can make students learn by the sheer force of didactic instruction, by having the teacher stand at the front of the room, perhaps writing on the blackboard while disgorging information that everyone else in the room is supposed to lap up and copy down. The teacher tells; the students listen. And when they aren't listening, they're reading things like textbooks in such a way as to absorb information. Then come the quizzes, compulsory recitations and other ways of proving that they remember what they were told.

Here education is conceived as transferring or transmitting facts, pouring knowledge into empty vessels. This transmission model is found in first grade classrooms devoted to the explicit teaching of phonics and in high school honors classes where teachers slap transparencies on the overhead projector and lecture endlessly about Romantic poets or genetic codes. As a rule, the more that standardized tests are used (and their results emphasized), the more we would expect schools to adopt this approach to teaching students of all ages.

This model, which remains the dominant one in the United States, enjoys the advantage of being familiar to most of us from our own days in school. If most parents accept it -- and judge teachers and schools on the basis of how efficiently information is poured into their children -- it may be because no one has ever invited them to reconsider it. For us to question the reliance on lectures, work sheets, drills and memorization, we must confront the possibility that we spent a good chunk of our childhoods doing stuff that was exactly as pointless as we suspected it was at the time.

But cognitive scientists tell us that we're not passive receptacles, and learning isn't just a matter of heaping new information on top of the knowledge we already have. It is a matter of coming across something unexpected, something that can't easily be explained by the informal theories we have already developed. To resolve that conflict, we have to reorganize our way of understanding so we can accommodate the new reality we've just encountered.

The best kind of teaching takes its cue from the understanding that people are active learners. In such a classroom, students are constantly making decisions, becoming participants in their own education. Each is part of a community of learners, coming to understand ideas from the inside out with one another's help. They still acquire facts and skills, but in a context and for a purpose. Their questions drive the curriculum. Learning to think like scientists and historians matters more than memorizing lists of definitions and dates.

It's simply not true that one must learn to read before being able to read for understanding; it makes a lot more sense to learn to read by reading for understanding. Exactly the same may be said of math: Wise educators don't teach addition and subtraction as prerequisites for pursuing interesting problems; they teach these skills through interesting problems. Students -- including disadvantaged and "at-risk" students -- learn skills most effectively if they're invited from the beginning to think in a sophisticated way about the underlying concepts.

Unfortunately, that kind of instruction is rare, and we are paying the price. Many newspapers carried big headlines last year when U.S. high schoolers proved significantly less adept at math than their counterparts around the globe. Less attention was given to the researchers' conclusion that our students are at a disadvantage precisely because of the prevalence of back-to-basics ideology in this country. American classrooms are devoted more to memorizing and practicing rules and skills, at the expense of helping students understand what they're doing.

Consider the way many 13-year-old American students dealt with a problem that appeared in the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The question was: "An army bus holds 36 soldiers. If 1,128 soldiers are being bused to their training site, how many buses are needed?" If you divide 1,128 by 36, you get 31 with a remainder of 12, meaning it would take 32 buses to transport the soldiers. Most students did the division correctly, but fewer than one out of four got the question right. The most common answer was "31 remainder 12."


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30. ak     5/25/09 - 10:47 AM
Anonymous

For the division prob u cite, kids still need direct instruction in division AND the meaning making approach to help them think the extra step required to account for an additional bus to transport the 'remainder.' In fact,I would say you gave a great example of how both approaches can scaffold one another in cognitive processes to foster relevant skills and thinking.


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31. Constructivist - maths     5/25/09 - 1:13 PM
Ak

Hi,

The way division is taught,is first to spend a lot of time with kids with word problems and they trying to figure out an answer and the teacher guiding them by questioning their thinking. By dealing with relevant problems, there is the proper context and purpose which supports undertanding. Learning technique and then meaning does not work.

On the parenting forum here I have shared - Yeshiva/school forum a thread on constructivist education.

I will share links on the back-to-basics = maths , reading issues. Constance Kamii, a pupil of Piaget explains why kids need to make meaning, undertand before they learn technique.

Ak


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32. on a combo of approaches     5/26/09 - 7:46 AM
tb

Believe it or not, my kids do learn math the way AK describes in a school with a written behavior code that includes consequences that they did not creatively come up with in discussion with their authority figures. Bottom line: educating children requires different approaches, sometimes employed at exactly the same time. It is a complex process. It is definately not black and white. Those of us who do not stand in a classroom all day every day do need to defer (that's right, I said defer) to those who do. We should all hear each other out. Teachers can and should attend workshops and read up on ideas that are presented by laypeople such as AK, but--as in any other profession--the bottom line should come from a pool of educators who work in the field. And, to be fair, that bottom line should include many different working methodologies that we discuss within our teaching community. There is more discussion among us than you think and there is more that should take place.


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33.     5/26/09 - 3:12 PM
Anonymous

Hi,

So why would a school follow one approach for academics and another for moral and social learning ( discipline ). It is a failure to grasp that both intellectual and social/moral learning must be actively constructed by the learner , not just reconstructing teacher thinking.

The debate is not one between lay people and teachers but you will find plenty of academics, teachers etc on both sides of the behaviorist/constructivist divide and of course parents who are interested in the educational approach both to academics and also to discipline their children are subjected to.

To his detractors - those who have not succeeded in justifying traditional education and are ignoring the facts on the ground , Alfie Kohn is just a lay person who has no educational degree. For the many students , teachers , academics who believe in the constructivist tradition he is a mentor and guide , his books are being studied in universities and Jonathon Kozol says he rightfully takes his place among educators such as Dewey, Bruner, Piaget and Holt. One can check out Deborah Meier if Alfie Kohn is to lay for one.

Alfie Kohn is very unsettling for many educators when he says (what Rabbonim have been saying for years )that traditional secular education kids have been receiving is a waste of time .

Imho , in many way AKs writing is what Jewish education is about. I regularly discuss him with 2 Roshei Kollel + kehilos here in Israel and his words very much resonate with them.

If one is happy and got confidence in the traditional educational system , both intellectual and social/moral aspects ( discipline ) great , I am not !


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34. on academics and elementary school teachers     6/15/09 - 8:05 AM
tb

I appreciate the last response. I am not "happy with" the current state of affairs in the majority of Yeshivot; however, I do not see the suggestions of Alfie Kohn as practical in an elementary school classroom. It is interesting that you mention "academics" when discussing supporters of this approach. It has been my experience in these years teaching that parents who are "academics" have very little practical understanding of the classroom and the school culture for young children. With this, they still seem to feel that they can opine, suggest, insist on their theories being implemented because they are--as you say yourself--"academics."

I know it seems like I am always getting my back up when you comment, but academics and elementary school teachers are completely different breeds. What I do is quite specialized. I do think it is fair to ask that those who opine/suggest/insist/urge teachers/schools to change their ways be actively involved in working in that environment. If you are not in fact an elementary school teacher/principal, then I don't think your suggestions from the outside can carry any substantial weight and I do think you should be prepared to actively teach elementary age students and/or work in administration prior to espousing any major shifts in practical applications.


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35. tb     6/15/09 - 1:20 PM
Anonymous

Yes the more academic perspective appears somewhat idealistic to those of us in the field; this reality does not preclude our ability to take away something valuable from these ideals to inspire and improve our work. You don't have to swallow the academic viepoint whole, but AK expresses more than a kernel of truth in his thinking. While you may experience the suggestions as 'in the clouds,' the danger of keeping our heads toward the ground lies in relinquishing opportunities to expand our thinking in ways that lead us upward. It's about being open to new directions, even--and perhaps especially--after decades in the classroom. An ideal may not offer us practical tools but it gives direction and shape to the chinuch tools we teachers continuously invent and reinvent as we meet new children in new times.


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36. anonymous     6/15/09 - 7:54 PM
tb

I just don't agree with most of what he says. That's all. I'm not closed to new ways of thought.


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37. To TB     6/16/09 - 3:02 PM
CB

You might find Dr. Benzion Sorotzkin a bit more palatable. Check out his articles and audios of his lectures, specifically on the Dangers of Competition and Rewards.

BTW, my sister has been an elementary school teacher for over 20 years, now working as a mentor to teachers, and she is going the Ross Greene/Alfie Kohn route. If what's good for children isn't practical within the current system, doesn't that indicate that something fundamental in the system is broken? Should we keep on doing what's bad for children merely for the sake of short-term expediency?


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38. High Scope /Ann Epstein     6/16/09 - 5:55 PM
Ak

Hi,

When I talk about academics I mean those involved in education departments or writers/observers - people involved with teachers and observing them. Just as there are academics from all persuasions , so too are there elementary school teachers who represent different philosophies of education. So one cannot claim the high ground simply because one is a teacher. There are teachers who would share one teaching approach and there are others who do not.

check out http://www.delsolschool.org/ - scroll down to ds - difference kids from 3-12 When I read Ann Epstein / High Scope , I get excited here are the KEY ELEMENTS OF HighScope'S ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM PRACTICES

HighScope can customize a training for your teaching team to help you improve teaching in any of these areas:

Active learning approach. Teachers set up learning experiences so children are actively involved with people, materials, events, and ideas. In these experiences, children "learn by doing," often working with hands-on materials and carrying out projects of their own choosing.

Daily schedule. Children learn best when each day follows a consistent schedule, which is carefully planned to include individual, small-group, and large-group experiences and a balance of teacher-planned and child-planned activity.

Plan-do-review. This three-step process can be a powerful learning tool that builds on children's intrinsic motivation. Each day includes a plan-do-review time, lasting an hour or more, in which children plan, carry out, and then reflect upon an activity of their own choosing.

The classroom. The physical setting plays an important role in stimulating children's learning. The room is divided into five or more distinct "interest" areas, such as reading and writing, math, science, art, and computers. In each area, a wide range of appealing materials are stored in consistent, accessible locations so children can get out the materials they need for their work and put them away independently.

Instructional activities. Teachers plan small-group workshops that focus on concepts and skills in each subject area as defined by state and local standards and the curriculum materials provided by the district. The emphasis is on hands-on projects in which children work with manipulative materials, apply skills to solve practical problems, and learn to communicate the results of their efforts in a variety of formats. Many experiences require cooperative work.

Teacher-child interaction. Teachers learn to avoid the use of reward and punishment to manage children and instead focus on creating a positive social climate in which each child is valued and respected and expectations and limits are clear. Adults help children use a problem-solving approach to resolve difficulties and conflicts.

Child assessment. Teachers document children's progress by collecting brief anecdotal notes recording observations of children's important behaviors and by compiling portfolios of student work samples and other kinds of documents that are evidence of children's progress. These assessment methods supplement traditional standardized achievement tests to provide a complete and balanced picture of children's progress.

Imho this is a far cry from traditional schools - the ones that alienate our kids from learning , destroying any natural curiosity that kids have for making sense of the world around them.


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39. to cb     6/17/09 - 7:40 PM
tb

"If what's good for children isn't practical within the current system, doesn't that indicate that something fundamental in the system is broken?"

I never said that. I think we can actually make some practical changes within the current system. I'm just not in line with Alfie Kohn's thinking.


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40.     6/17/09 - 8:04 PM
Anonymous

Active learning approach--We do that in our school. Should it be done more often and in more classes? Probably, but it is implemented quite often.

Daily schedule--I think daily schedule is an overlooked component of a successful school day. It is under addressed in the Yeshivot. Not in the way you mean, though.

Plan-do-review--I don't agree with an hour a day, especially in most age levels. On a smaller scale and with guidance (which is impractical in most Yeshiva settings)it is doable and it is being done. Structure is not your enemy, trust me. Creativity and empowering our children to be active learners can happen within a traditional school setting. You just having seen it in action, obviously.

The classroom--I agree that this is again an under addressed area of of concern in our Yeshivot. I have and do teach in a school where center-based learning is implemented in the younger grades. I have always used it in the lower elem. grades, but it is often not applicable in Middle School. Again, quite impractival given the reality of a typical Yeshiva classroom setting in upper grades. Needs to be discussed and revised across the grades. You don't even allude to grade differences and grade concerns. Moments like these make it easy for me to discount your theories. It isn't that it is impossible or unimportant, it is the blanket way in which you lay it out. Just smacks of a complete lack of interaction within an elementary setting.

Instructional activities--have had and do have workshops on cooperative learning. Implemented in our school in a regimented way. It is one approach we like to use. Have seen it in other schools too. Again, not good to be wedded to one approach and devoted to its implementation in such a big way. Must keep that toolbox full and adaptable to various grades, learning environments, students, and even to particular class dynamics.

Teacher-child interaction--teachers in our incentive-based systems do value and respect the children and do make expectations quite clear. Problem-solving is one tool in the toolbox. It doesn't always work at school just as it does not always work at home.

Child assessment--have worked with teachers who have taught at schools who use this method of assessment and many do not find it successful and/or practical. We do use portfolios across the grades, as do other Yeshivot in which I have taught.

"Imho this is a far cry from traditional schools - the ones that alienate our kids from learning , destroying any natural curiosity that kids have for making sense of the world around them."

This last statement cripples your case. It indicates an extremely biased and negative assessment of traditional schools. Not all our children are alienated from learning or have their natural curiosity destroyed. It is a shame that you or your children have not had better experiences within our current system, but we cannot base our practical strategies on bitterness and theories that are at best subjective and at worst impractical. We do need to be open to new strategies and keep that toolbox well-supplied, but we needn't condemn an entire complex system (with many kinds of schools and teachers within it).


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41. the last point by point comment was mine     6/17/09 - 8:05 PM
tb


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42. high scope - Ann Epstein     6/22/09 - 2:34 AM
Ak

Tb,

I welcome attempts by teachers within the traditional schooling system to try despite the ' learning by transmission' bias of the system attempting to teach according to constructivist principles , that kids learn essentially by talking and discussing ideas, kids learn by doing, kids need also learning which is child directed in which children plan, carry out, and then reflect upon an activity of their own choosing.

Even apparently cutting-edge developments in teaching, like differentiated instruction, different learning styles fail to ask the important questions, such as: Isn't the student still conceived as a passive receptacle? He or she is just receiving information in a different way?

'An Oregon teacher in her 50’s once summarized her professional growth in one short sentence: “The longer I teach, the less I talk.” She’d come to realize that only by making sure she didn’t monopolize the classroom was there a real chance for her students to talk – and therefore to learn. Given how much silence (that is, student silence) is valued in the Old School, that last idea may be counterintuitive, but, as a British educator explained, “Talking is not merely a way of conveying existing ideas to others; it is also a way by which we explore ideas, clarify them and make them our own.” Every minute a teacher is doing the talking is a minute this isn’t happening.'

The Direct Instruction model - learning by transmission advocates claim that what's important is the teachers script, class discipline and the size of the class is not important. When interaction between kids themselves , kids and teachers, when kids learn by talking class size is a factor that cannot be ignored and must be dealt with.

'I had a fascinating conversation with a teacher who has been teaching physics for 15 years in L.A. and the surrounding area. She teaches 200 students on most days (in groups of 40 or so), at least three of the classes have the same test-prep curriculum. She feels bored. Ready to “move on”—but to what? I asked her to describe what she wishes she could do—even if it were unrealistic. Her wishes? Small classes so she could explore science more deeply with kids, the opportunity to do some interdisciplinary teaching with colleagues, to be able to approach physics from directions that might not match the state exam, to expand her own intellectual horizons alongside of and separate from her students. What kid wouldn’t say, “amen”?' - Deborah Meier

Now I and my kids have been priveleged to have the few teachers who have managed to ignite the flame, create genuine interest so a kid would come home and autonmously seek out to learn more, but the ' teach to test ' paradigm of most teachers fosters comments from kids - I knew the material before the exam and forgot it all as soon as I finished it.

Tb,

I would like to address some of your comments directly

' Needs to be discussed and revised across the grades. You don't even allude to grade differences and grade concerns. Moments like these make it easy for me to discount your theories. '

Because you say you are an elemtentary school teacher and in light that you were discounting the ideas I was expressing I thought it would be appropriate to share some High- Scope with you. The link to the DeL Sol school kids 3-12 addresses the issues of grade and age differences , we can discuss the issue.

You give me too much credit by calling what I write my theories , at best I try to convey ideas and best practice that have been thoroughly researched and implemented. Imho opinion it is better to try and learn from the likes of ' Ann Epstein and High Scope ' , it is not so easy to discount them.

'It isn't that it is impossible or unimportant, it is the blanket way in which you lay it out. Just smacks of a complete lack of interaction within an elementary setting. ' - I copy-pasted from the High-Scope site , I would not attribute to Ann Epstein/High Scope a complete lack of interaction within an elementary setting.

'child interaction--teachers in our incentive-based systems do value and respect the children and do make expectations quite clear. - incentive based systems not only are bad for the process and love of learning but children perceive their value and acceptance according to the grades they receive. It is based on having kids compete against each other , your success comes at my expense. As CB mentioned kids are not animals that you need to give them doggy biscuits to get them to learn.

Problem-solving is one tool in the toolbox. It doesn't always work at school just as it does not always work at home. '

Problem solving is an approach to social-moral learning and how to meet unmet expectations. It is not a tool to get compliance and docility.

I have to run

more later

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