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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘song’

To Sing A New Song… Our Children And Students

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

When I was a principal, I would often walk through the halls of my school during class. When I did, I would glance in the classrooms and, even with the doors closed and in the relative silence of the hallway, I would be able to identify what I considered a “successful” classroom.

It is, of course, easy to identify an “unsuccessful” classroom – when students are not paying attention; when they are disruptive; when the teacher sits behind the desk and shows no enthusiasm for his material or the delivery of it. These are “red flags” that cry out, unsuccessful. But successful? For me, when I saw students engaged in the instruction and, most importantly, when I saw them actively participating then I knew there was successful teaching and learning going on. That is, if I could see evidence of students learning independently then I knew I was witnessing a successful classroom. Without exception, when I saw a classroom with students participating, I saw a teacher with a smile on his face.

That smile told me that my teacher found joy not just in the material he was teaching – after all, in Jewish day schools and yeshivas is not all our material valuable and worthy of our joyous review and teaching? – but, more importantly, the joy of his students’ learning!

Thinking back on that time, I think about the advice a colleague shared with his teachers. He told them, “Make your classroom like your home and treat your students as your guests.” And another, who wisely noted that teaching, is really just another form of “parenting.”

We intuitively understand the close connection between parenting and teaching. After all, we refer to our colleges as our alma maters – our “nurturing mothers.”

Teaching and parenting. Two sides of the same coin. In both, it is essential that we are “successful.” The question is, What does that mean?

When I was in the classroom, I cherished the moments when I reviewed text and ideas with my students but my greatest joy was when they were able to take what I shared with them and discover something new and unique.

I reveled in their independence. It seems odd to say that as a teacher, when for so many the role of teacher is to “pass along” knowledge. But learning is not and should not be passive.   Students are not mere vessels to be filled with information.

There is much a student or child can do simply by “following instruction.” Swimming is not one of them! To swim is to be independent, is to have the judgment and intelligence to read changing variables and tides, to be able manage shallow shoals and dangerous depths. That is what a teacher – and a parent – must prepare a student and child to do.

Not long ago, a mother and father wrote to a rebbi, saying they had waited for the day when their son, who had always been a caring and good student, “would pick up a Gemarah on his own on a Shabbos afternoon.” That day finally arrived just as their son was getting ready to graduate 12th grade.

That school succeeded!  Those parents succeeded!

The child could swim!

* * *

As the child, so too the Children of Israel.

There were two great songs recorded in the Torah, the more famous being Az Yashir. “Then sang Moshe and B’nai Yisrael this shirah…”, praising the splitting of the yam suf and allowing the Children of Israel to be free at last from their bondage in Mitzrayim.   The other, less well known, is tucked away near the end of Chukas, a short song of gratitude for the uninterrupted supply of water (the well!) throughout the forty years sojourn in the desert.  “Then Israel sang this song; ‘Come up, O well, announce it! Well that the princes dug, that the nobles of the people excavated, through a lawgiver, with their staff. A gift from the Wilderness.” The song then traces the path of the well /water that followed the nation, no matter how high the elevation or difficult the terrain. The gift went from the valley to the heights. And from the heights to the valley in the field of Moab, at the top of the peak, overlooking the surface of the wilderness.

The irony of childhood is that it is only after it is over, when we are adults and independent, do we realize that we were in a period of innocence, that we could not have become what we’ve become without the guidance and wisdom of our parents.

So too, as the Children of Israel sang, they finally understood that they could never have made it without God’s constant and consistent be’er –well – supply of water, but make it they did. They are about to enter the Land, and are leaving God a note of thanks, very much like the bride tucking a thank you note for her parents before leaving for the Chupah, or the student for his rebbi before graduation. They are saying “thank you” knowing that they are able to move forward independently because they had been nurtured and loved – and prepared and expected to be independent!

The Promised Land was a long, hard forty years away. The ‘Song of the Well’ was celebrated at the end of that long journey. Throughout that journey, Moshe taught many important lessons, lessons that B’nai Yisrael fortunately absorbed.

When they first escaped Mitzrayim, the people were burdened with a slave mentality; they were like little children who had to be taught everything, even how to say “thank you” for their deliverance.   Thus, az yashir Moshe and B’nai Yisrael. But then, forty years hence, after hardships and joys, after the lessons of Sinai, including more than half of Torah mitzvoth bein adam l’chaveiro, with countless lessons of gratitude and appreciation conveyed everywhere in the Torah it was “graduation” time, it was time to step forward as a proud, independent nation. It was time for Moshe, as a parent and teacher would, to sit back confident and gratified that the children will do the right thing, they will say “thank you” to God.

They had learned to learn on their own.

Was it hard for Moshe to stay silent and not sing with them? Of course. It was hard for him and for them. It is always “easier” for parents to “do for” their children; it is always easier for the teacher to tell the student what he or she needs to know. But how much more joyous, how much more satisfying, how much more meaningful to have brought children and students to the place where they can “do it themselves”?

Moshe, the archetypal parent and teacher, has shown how to raise children and teach students. He is shepping the nachas!

Moshe is not simply hearing a repetition of the song he led B’nei Yisrael in singing. He is hearing a new song. And that is the greatest joy of the parent and the teacher, to hear his or her child or student sing a “new song”, a song that could never have been sung without their love, guidance and faith – faith in the child to one day walk forward as an individual!

Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

Live: Lipa Schmeltzer & Corrine Allal – Ein Li Eretz Acheret

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Video of the Day

The Fountainheads Passover Song

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Video of the Day

Sounds Israeli: The Idan Raichel Project

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Idan Raichel burst on to the Israeli musical scene in 2003, inviting collaborations from artists of multiple ethnicities and singing in languages as diverse as Spanish, Arabic, Amharic and Swahili. The resulting highly evocative music – blending African, Latin American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern sounds – made Raichel one of his country’s biggest musical breakthroughs.

Here’s a live version of his 2010 hit song “Mima’amakim” (Out of the depths).

Visit CifWatch.

Adam Levick

Staying Warm, On the Cheap

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Ah, fall.

The magnificent display of changing colors as the trees stage their annual pageant, the indescribable pleasure of leaves crunching beneath your feet, the delightful crispness in the air after endless weeks of heat and humidity; it is hard not to enjoy the magic of autumn.

Bummer that fall has to turns into winter.

Not that the winter doesn’t have many redeeming qualities, but with the advent of winter comes (at least in my little corner of the world) snow, ice, bone chilling cold and by extension, high heating bills.

I can’t halt the precipitation and I have no way of keeping the temperature above freezing, but if there is one thing I can do, it is help you put your heating bills on a diet.

Let me begin by saying that while I am all for saving money, I am not advocating that you keep your thermostat at sixty degrees, nor am I suggesting that you dress your family in hats and gloves inside the house in order to save money. And while there is no doubt that new windows or a new heating system will pay for themselves over time, they are both major expenditures that many of us are just not prepared to make at this point in time. But there are definitely inexpensive ways to trim heating bills as the thermostat starts to dip lower and lower.

Start with your windows. It goes without saying that you should keep them closed. If you have storm windows, keep them shut as well. Check for drafts and use caulking and/or weather stripping or even old towels or t-shirts as needed to keep cold air at bay. Consider hanging heavier weight curtains during the winter, leaving them open during the day to allow the sun to heat your home for free, and closing them at night to provide an extra layer of insulation against the frigid air. For the seriously frugal, consider spending a few dollars on an inexpensive sealing kit that, with the help of plastic film, double sided tape and a blow dryer, virtually shrink wraps your windows and creates an extra layer of insulation.

The same advice goes for doors. Install a door sweep at the bottom to block any cold air that might be seeping in through the cracks and install weather stripping as needed. Contemplate getting (or even making) one of those long fabric snakes to block any drafts that may be coming in at the bottom of your door. Don’t have one? Take a towel, roll it up and place it right in front of the door. It will work just as well.

Invest in a programmable thermostat. Yes, you do have to buy one and if you aren’t handy you will have to pay someone to install it, but it is one of those gadgets that pays for itself. Keep your house running several degrees colder during the day when no one is home and at night when everyone is tucked into bed, while ensuring that it is toasty warm when you wake up and when everyone comes home at the end of the day.

Remember your good friend from the summer, Mr. Ceiling Fan? While running in normal mode (counter-clockwise), it moves air around the room, providing a cooling effect. Switch it to reverse and it will take all the warm air that is gathering at the top of your room (remember eighth grade science class when you learned that heat rises?) and push the delightfully warm air back down to the lower part of the room, where the humans are.

Do yourself a favor and invest in down blankets for every member of the family. A natural insulator, they are comfortable in the summer, yet seriously warm in the winter. If you have never tried flannel sheets, the added delicious warmth they provide makes them worth considering. Cover bare floors with rugs and your toes will thank you when you hop out of bed in the morning as well. And once we are talking insulation, check with a contractor and see how much it costs to insulate your attic, which will also be money well spent.

While this might seem obvious, move furniture away from your heating sources, be they vents, registers or radiators. Do you want the back of the couch to be warm and toasty or your kids? For those of you with forced hot air heating, change the furnace filter on a monthly basis, which will both save on energy costs as well as minimize dust in your home. Decide if you want to go with replacement filters, which are extremely inexpensive, or washable filters which, while more costly, can last for several years with proper care. If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, keep the flue closed when the fireplace isn’t in use to prevent heat loss through the chimney.

Sandy Eller

Pink Eye Essentials

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Approximately fifteen to twenty million Americans are afflicted annually with the epidemic keratoconjunctivitis, an infection or irritation of the thin, clear membrane, known as the conjunctiva, that lies over the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. More commonly known as conjunctivitis or pink eye, because of the uncharacteristic red and possibly swollen appearance the eye takes on during this condition, it is most commonly caused by either or a viral or bacterial infection. It can also be the result of an allergic reaction or other irritants. In newborns it may be due to a blocked tear duct. Both bacterial and viral pink eye can be highly contagious and can easily be spread for as long as two weeks after signs or symptoms first appear.

The most common symptoms of pink eye include redness, itchiness, tearing, discharge that forms a crust at night and a gritty feeling in the eye. Symptoms can appear in one or both eyes. It is important to see a doctor in order to get a proper diagnosis as well as determining a proper course of treatment, if applicable. Doctors recommend that those with contagious conjunctivitis remain at home from work or school until they are no longer contagious. While conjunctivitis can occur in both children and adults, it is found more frequently in children, as it can spread rapidly in communal settings such as classrooms, day care centers and summer camps.

The American Academy of Ophthamology estimates that more than three million school days are missed annually because of pink eye. Outbreaks of conjunctivitis are more prevalent in densely populated countries such as Japan, which has over a million cases annually. Approximately two percent of all primary care visits and one percent of emergency room visits are related to conjunctivitis.

According to the National Institutes for Health, most cases of conjunctivitis are viral in origin and are generally accompanied by other bodily infections including measles, the flu or the common cold. Viral conjunctivitis, which often begins in one eye and can spread to the other eye in just a few days, is generally accompanied by a watery discharge and can spread to others through the air by coughing or sneezing. In most cases, there is no treatment for viral conjunctivitis. The condition will resolve itself after the virus has run its course, which can take as long as fourteen to twenty one days.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is often accompanied by a slightly thicker yellow or green discharge that can form a crust on the eye when sleeping. It is generally treated with antibiotic ointments or eye drops which kill the bacteria responsible for pink eye. Patients with the bacterial form can generally return to school or work after twenty four hours, when they are no longer contagious, and symptoms should subside within a few days.

Conjunctivitis caused by either allergies or an irritant can be improved by eliminating exposure to the allergen or any potential triggers. In the case of allergic conjunctivitis, which is characterized by itchiness, tearing and puffy eyelids, both antihistamines and avoidance of the allergen should provide relief. Wearing eye protection when working in the wind, heat, cold or with chemicals, as well as avoiding excessive smoke and perfume, should prevent instances of pink eye caused by irritants.

Good hygiene is the key to limiting the spread of contagious forms of pink eye. The bacteria or virus can survive on items or hard surfaces touched by an infected person and spread it to others for as long as seven weeks. For those with infectious conjunctivitis, the Mayo Clinic recommends frequent hand washing, changing towels, washcloths and pillow cases daily, discarding all eye makeup as well as not sharing towels, linens, eye makeup or any personal eye care items. Avoid touching your eyes and if you do, wash your hands immediately.

Contact lens wearers should not wear their lenses until the infection has cleared. While regular contact lenses can be disinfected before wearing, disposable lenses should be thrown out, as should all accessories that could carry the infection, including contact lens solution and cases.

Home treatment for conjunctivitis includes frequent hand washing and using compresses (cool for allergies, warm in all other occurrences) to provide relief. Wipe eyes from the inside corner outward, using a different compress for each eye in order to avoid spreading the infection. Non-prescription artificial tears may also relieve itching and burning, although the same bottle of drops should never be used for both an infected eye and an uninfected eye. Folk remedies to alleviate pink eye symptoms include placing cooled chamomile tea bags on the eyes or using an eye wash made of either eyebright, an anti-inflammatory wild herb found in Europe, or boric acid.

Sandy Eller

Celebrating Two Decades Of Special Education At YESS!

Friday, August 17th, 2012

What began twenty years ago as a support group for parents of six learning disabled children in Queens who could not find a yeshiva capable of accommodating their educational needs, has evolved into a full scale institution that not only works with its students to master academic challenges, but provides them with a Torah education as well.

The Yeshiva Education for Special Students (YESS!) is a full-scale program for children diagnosed with language processing disorders, attention difficulties and learning disabilities, including auditory or visual processing issues. Currently located in space rented from Yeshiva of Central Queens (YCQ) in the Kew Gardens Hills section of Queens, YESS! has an enrollment of thirty children ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade. Annual tuition is $24,000, with considerable fundraising done by the school’s board of trustees in order to subsidize tuition costs for all students.

“Until YESS! was started twenty years ago, there were no Jewish programs for kids with disabilities,” explained YESS! director for the last eleven years, Rabbi Yaakov Lustig, M.S. “These kids had no choice but to attend public schools, because there were no yeshivas that could provide appropriately for them. While maybe the kids could learn some skills in the public schools they attended, they were lacking normal healthy social interaction with other Jewish children.”

Neva Goldstein, one of the founding parents at YESS!, and current school president, recalls the difficulties she faced when her son Avishai was just five and relegated to public school because there was no yeshiva program that could accommodate his developmental language based disabilities.

“The only yeshiva program at the time was in New Jersey and because they had to accommodate the local parent body first we couldn’t get a placement there,” recalled Mrs. Goldstein. “The public school program tried to be accommodating of my son’s religious needs but there were still mishaps. Even though I made sure to keep him out of school on days like Halloween, they still took the kids to see Santa Claus at Kings Plaza. One day they called me, telling me they were going to McDonalds and they wanted to know what my son could eat. I was there in just five minutes to pick him up and bring him home. Just imagine. My son, in his blue velvet yarmulke with little ducks on it and his tzitzis, was going to go to McDonalds.”

Mrs. Goldstein still gets emotional when she recalls a heartbreaking conversation that took place with her son the night before he was scheduled to start kindergarten in a public school.

“Avishai was crying and I asked him what was wrong. He said to me, ‘There is no Shabbat in my school. I want to go to yeshiva.’ I promised him that if I had to turn the world upside down, he was going to a yeshiva. It is the pain in his eyes that has driven me all these years.”

The original YESS! program was housed for ten years in the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, located just across the street from the yeshiva’s current location. Today YESS!’ self-contained program offers a full range of services, with therapists providing speech, occupational and physical therapy on site, in addition to providing a complete Limudei Kodesh and General Studies curriculum. YESS! is endorsed by the Vaad Harabonim of Queens and has a permanent charter from the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York, thereby incorporating it under New York State Education Law.

“We spend two to three weeks at the beginning of the school year tailoring an individual program for each student,” said Rabbi Lustig. “We use that as our bible, with individualized programs for each of our students so that we can help them develop the skills they need in order to foster independence and help them become independent learners.”

Each class at YESS! encompasses a three year age range and has anywhere from four to eight students, with a teacher to student ratio that is no greater than four to one. Students, who are high functioning, both socially and emotionally, come from all five boroughs of New York City as well as nearby Westchester, Nassau and Rockland counties. The school’s faculty includes New York State certified special educators with master’s degrees in special education and assistant teachers who are currently working on master’s degrees in special education or other related fields.

Sandy Eller

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/celebrating-two-decades-of-special-education-at-yess/2012/08/17/

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