Our 12-year-old son is not doing well in his 7th grade local yeshiva class.
We are considering moving him to another local yeshiva in mid-year, as things are rapidly deteriorating. We are not asking for specific advice, as you do not know him or us. But can you share with us what questions to ask and answers to give when making this difficult decision?
Rabbi Horowitz Responds
Two weeks ago, we discussed the following questions parents ought to explore before making the decision to switch their child’s school setting:
Which mechanech (educator) knows my child best? Which rav knows our family best?
This week, we will talk about the following:
Have we explored all possible reasons for our son’s lack of success in the current setting? Is the difficulty he is experiencing a one-year phenomenon or does it follow a pattern of poor performance over a number of years?
There are many reasons why a child underachieves in a particular school setting. But they can be broken down to three basic categories: The shortcomings of the school he is currently attending, educational or social challenges that he may have, and poor chemistry between him (and family) and the current school.
I would encourage you to begin by focusing on the second of the aforementioned points, namely your child’s learning and social profile. That component will help you address the other two segments more easily. This is because it is not uncommon for parents to switch their child’s school, only to find out later that the issues that complicated their child’s experience in the initial school followed him/her to the new setting. (A similar pattern often manifests itself with “retention” – having an underachieving child repeat a particular grade, hoping things will improve in the next round. Recent studies indicate that in a significant percentage of these cases, the problems are merely ignored and not solved at all.)
Start by thinking back to the past few years of your son’s school experience and ask yourselves if there were any signs of the problems he is currently having. Keep in mind that children, like adults, rarely change their learning styles and/or personality traits. We hope to improve the weaker points of our overall temperament – but our DNA doesn’t change.
I encourage you to explore the learning profile of your son in order to better understand the challenges he is facing this year. Is he a visual, auditory or textual learner? (Keep in mind that I only addressed the main learning patterns despite there being other, lesser- known styles such as kinesthetic learners.) Does he have attention issues such as ADD? Does he have impulse control challenges? (Please visit my website, www.rabbihorowitz.com, to review three columns I wrote on learning profiles named “Different Strokes” along with three columns on ADD.)
Answering all of these questions will help you understand your son better, as you try engaging in a forensic analysis of what is really going wrong this year. Having this information will also help you develop the “medical records” (see previous column) you can share with individuals whose advice you may seek in deciding if you ought to switch schools.
Finally, I would strongly suggest that you get an educational evaluation from a credentialed professional. Most school districts in the United States offer free educational/psychological assessments of students – including those who attend non-public schools. Your child’s principal or the director of special services can probably direct you to the appropriate office to arrange for an evaluation. If you find it difficult to access district services, consider contacting Mrs. Leah Steinberg, director of Agudath Israel’s Project LEARN (Limud Education Advocacy and Referral Network). LEARN helps parents navigate the path from determining that their child has special education needs to obtaining the services they are legally entitled to. Mrs. Steinberg can be contacted at 212-797-9000 x 325, or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Part III: More questions: How well does our child adjust to change? Are we truly open to exploring the way we parent our children?
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder andmenahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey,and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S.To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s D’var Torah sefer, Growing With the Parshah, or his popular parenting tapesand CDs (including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children”) please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-352-7100 x 133.