Posts Tagged ‘teachers’
The Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy held its high school graduation on May 22. The lights were dimmed as the class of 2012 walked down the center aisle to the stage. The ceremony began with a blessing given to the parents and teachers of the 40 graduates.
The audience was then treated to a delightful video. Each student was featured as a baby and then as a high school graduate in cap and gown.
Inspiring speeches were given by Hebrew Academy board president Leah Klein and head of school Dr. Roni Raab. Graduating seniors Brianna Cohen (Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Congressional Award winner), Rebecca Masin (salutatorian), and Ron Lipkin (valedictorian) each spoke. They shared their thoughts about reaching the milestone of high school graduation.
One by one, graduates were called to center stage to receive their diplomas. Finally, there was one more “graduate” to address: English department chairperson Mrs. Ellen Averbook, who was retiring after 26 years of dedication to the RASG Hebrew Academy.
The entire graduating class has been accepted by prestigious universities, yeshivot and seminaries in the United States and worldwide. Many of the graduates were recipients of academic and athletic awards.
RASG Hebrew Academy is an Orthodox college and yeshiva preparatory day school serving children through grade 12. The school inspires and equips students to reach their fullest potential by focusing on their individual attributes and instilling eternal Torah values in a changing world.
For more information about the Hebrew Academy, contact Ami Eskanos at 305-532-6421, ext. 105, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With bows and arrows, and around a bonfire, parents and children joined the Pittsburgher Rebbe on Lag B’Omer in joyously singing “Bar Yochai,” “V’amartem” and “Amar Rabbi Akiva.” Rabbis, teachers and members of the Los Angeles Jewish community – with their spouses – joined the celebration.
Like most chassidic rebbes, the Pittsburgher Rebbe conducted a tisch following the dancing to mark the day. Tisch attendees received shirayim and berachos, heard a d’var Torah and, as is the custom, observed the upsherin of three-year-old children. The rebbe cut the first lock of hair.
The Pittsburgher Rebbe plans to return to L.A. for next year’s Lag B’Omer celebration.
The Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports that around 38,000 people in the Palestinian Authority on Saturday took exams to become public school teachers.
The exams are highly competitive, and the Palestinian Authority ministry of education will select only 1,400 candidates to fill vacant teaching positions in its schools.
The exams started at 10 a.m. in 150 halls across Judea and Samaria, PA ministry of education official Mustafa al-Audah told Ma’an.
The highly competitive selection process means many applicants may sit the exam six or seven times for a chance at a teaching position.
It was Yehudah’s third birthday party. Instead of calmly interacting with his guests, he either ignored them or bossed them around with his limited vocabulary of ten words. He ran around nonstop and elbowed every person in his path. Then, his mother, Shoshana, decided he needed some time to himself so she asked him to play quietly in the den for a few minutes. Yehudah became immersed in his legos and would not emerge from the den for an hour, building a complex helicopter and helipad.
A year later, just as Shoshana was ready to concede that Yehudah would never speak more than ten words, his vocabulary multiplied exponentially. Not only that, but he learned to read at the same time. While breathing a sigh of relief, Shoshana knew that Yehudah’s problems with school were not over. Sure enough, throughout kindergarten and first grade, his teachers would call her:
“Yehudah does not try hard enough! He simply is not living up to his potential.”
“I cannot get Yehudah to sit still. He is so disruptive.”
“It’s nice that Yehudah is so curious, but he has got to stop asking so many irrelevant questions.”
“I think Yehudah needs to be tested for a learning disability.”
After first grade, Yehudah was diagnosed with ADHD and placed into a special education classroom. However, even with this remediation, Yehudah was still disruptive and he would come home from school complaining that it was too easy and he was bored. It was in second grade that Yehudah came to see me.
After a few sessions, we were able to determine that Yehudah was indeed bored in a special education classroom because along with his ADHD, he was also gifted intellectually. Now, as a fifth grader, even though his reading skills are slightly delayed, he is doing ninth grade math. In addition, with the recognition of his learning disability (LD) and his ADHD, Yehudah was reintegrated into a mainstream classroom. With ADHD and LD, Yehudah is a typical “twice exceptional” child.
The term “twice exceptional” is still new in educational jargon – but it is something that is becoming more prevalent in my practice today. These children have a combination of exceptional intellectual power and uncommonly formidable mental roadblocks. That is, twice exceptional children are gifted intellectually and also can have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Aspergers Syndrome, Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD), or dyslexia.
Many times, these children can become problem students – even though they are head and shoulders above the crowd intellectually. A perfect example is Albert Einstein. Even though Einstein was brilliant when it came to visual and spatial reasoning, as a child he had behavioral problem, was a terrible speller, and had trouble verbally expressing himself. In many subjects, his report card grades were close to failing. Obviously, there was something else going on for the young Albert Einstein – though brilliant, his needs were not always met by the school system.
Research has established that children like Yehudah are the most underserved populations in the school system. Most of the time, children who are twice exceptional go through school without recognition of their considerable talents. Instead, they enter adult life without the necessary skills to compensate for their learning disabilities. Therefore, many of these children develop low self-esteem and believe that they are simply stupid and “not good at school.” The shocking news is that The US Department of Education estimates that 2%-5% of all students are both gifted intellectually and suffer from some form of learning disability.
How do we avoid losing out on the Einsteins of our generation? Children who are twice exceptional are often hard to categorize – sometimes their learning disability masks their brilliance, while at others, their brilliance masks their learning disability. How is it possible to identify these children? And, once they are identified, what can parents and schools do in order to make sure that their needs are met?
What teachers can do:
· Look for discrepancies: As gifted children who have learning disabilities are very hard to identify, look for discrepancies between a child’s “potential” and his actual work. If you feel that the child is simply being lazy because he could have done so much better based on his intellect, consider talking to his parents about getting him evaluated. Identification of twice exceptional students is the first step towards success.
· Differentiate instruction: In a class of twenty-five or more students, it is impossible to meet every student’s needs. However, through modification of teaching style or assignments, children with learning disabilities can better comprehend and complete their assigned work.
· Raise awareness: Talk to parents and colleagues about the existence of twice exceptional students. If parents and teachers look out for discrepancies in performance, they will be more likely to identify these students. In the long run, we will be educating a generation of students who will be better equipped as adults.
“Look me in the eye, young man!”
I cannot tell you how many times I heard that shrill, whining refrain. It started about the time I got to first grade. I heard it from parents, relatives, teachers, principals, and all manner of other people. I heard it so often I began to expect to hear it.
Sometimes it would be punctuated by a jab from a ruler or one of those rubber tipped pointers teachers used in those days. The teachers would say, “Look at me when I’m speaking to you!” I would squirm and continue looking at the floor, which would just make them madder. I would glance up at their hostile faces and feel squirmier and more uncomfortable and unable to form words, and I would quickly look away.
My father would say, “Look at me! What are you hiding?”
Everyone thought they understood my behavior. They thought it was simple: I was just no good.
“Nobody trusts a man who won’t look them in the eye.” “You look like a criminal.” “You’re up to something. I know it!”
Most of the time, I wasn’t. I didn’t know why they were getting agitated. I didn’t even understand what looking someone in the eye meant. And yet I felt ashamed, because people expected me to do it, and I knew it, and yet I didn’t. So what was wrong with me?
The above excerpt comes from the prologue of John Elder Robinson’s memoir, Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s. Robinson describes the painful experience of growing up in a time before Asperger’s Syndrome was widely recognized. Instead of his parents and teachers understanding his limitations (and strengths), they regarded him as a “problem child,” one who would never make it in the real world.
Fortunately, a lot has changed since Robinson was a child. Scientists, educators and psychologists have done extensive research on Asperger’s Syndrome, often identified as a mild form of autism. Perhaps the best way to help those with Asperger’s to succeed is to gain a better understanding of the workings of the syndrome.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s Syndrome was first described in the 1940s by an Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger, who noticed that he had many patients who were deficient in social and communicative skills even though they had normal language development and cognitive abilities. While many children on the autistic scale have trouble functioning socially, they also tend to develop language skills later; therefore, Dr. Asperger felt these children stood in a class of their own.
Professionals still debate as to whether Asperger’s Syndrome is “high-functioning autism” or whether it is its own disorder completely. Regardless, in 1994, Asperger’s Syndrome was added to The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as a separate disorder from autism. The main distinction between autism and Asperger’s Syndrome is that with Asperger’s there is no speech delay. In fact, children with Asperger’s generally have good language skills – even though their speech patterns might be unusual or their inflections inconsistent.
Children with autism often seem aloof and uninterested in others. This is not the case with children with Asperger’s – they usually want to fit in and interact with others – but simply do not know how to. They may be socially awkward, not pick up on social cues, or show a lack of empathy. In terms of non-verbal communication, children with Asperger’s will seem uninterested in a conversation, not understand the use of gestures, and like John Elder Robinson, avoid eye contact.
In their free time, children with Asperger’s often have particular interests that can border on obsession. They often like to collect categories of objects: baseball cards, rocks, cars, or clips. While many children with Asperger’s have excellent memory skills for statistics and rote memorization, they have trouble with abstract concepts.
Because of the many strengths children with Asperger’s Syndrome manifest, parents can become frustrated easily. We know that the child is cognitively capable, so we ask ourselves, “Why can’t they just act like everyone else?” While this frustration is a common phenomenon, it is important to understand that children with Asperger’s would love to function the way their siblings and family do. They simply cannot figure out how to act “normally.” It’s our job as parents and educators to give them the tools to better adapt to society.
As autistic adult writer Jim Sinclair wrote to parents of children with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome:
You didn’t lose a child to autism. You lost a child because the child you waited for never came into existence. That isn’t the fault of the autistic child who does exist, and it shouldn’t be our burden. We need and deserve families who can see us and value us for ourselves, not families whose vision of us is obscured by the ghosts of children who never lived. Grieve if you must, for your own lost dreams. But don’t mourn for us. We are alive. We are real. And we’re here waiting for you.
A few weeks ago in these pages you were introduced to Menifa – Leverage for Life, a nonprofit organization based in Israel that works with youth at risk who have dropped out of high school. There are 25,000 teens who live on the street and Menifa’s goal is to help them complete high school and reintegrate into society. Menifa has a high success rate, with 95% of teens in its programs returning to normative educational and social institutions.
Menifa provides a holistic program that addresses the academic, social and emotional needs of teens at risk. An important component is the outdoor therapy workshop. Outdoor therapy involves the use of challenges found in nature – rock climbing, white water rafting and hiking. The encounter with these challenges helps instill in the participant a sense of responsibility and belief in his or her ability to succeed in difficult conditions.
Each workshop is unique and tailored to the needs of a specific group of teens. Activities include climbing Masada, hiking parts of the Israel Trail, rappelling and ropes courses, desert survival and more. The kids sleep outdoors and are introduced to experiences which they have never before faced.
On the one hand the purpose of the workshop is therapeutic – to provide metaphoric obstacles that symbolize daily hardships. The workshop also emphasizes different topics relating to the Land and Zionism. This provides the teens with an opportunity to discover new things about their country and about themselves as part of the Jewish nation. The workshop also introduces environmental and ecological issues, making the kids more aware of their surroundings.
The outdoor therapy workshop has helped lead to fundamental changes in the lives of the teens who participate in them. They develop life skills including responsibility, leadership and the ability to get along in a group setting and they gain self-confidence from their accomplishments.
Fifteen year old Sara* is one of the teenagers who participated in the outdoor therapy workshop. Her favorite activity was the drum circle because, “Everybody danced and sang and we really let our energies out,” she explains. The social aspect of the outdoor therapy workshop is very important. “We learned to see the teachers from a different angle, different from what we see in school,” another teenager named Shelly* explained. “They are having fun with us.” Participants leave the retreat feeling closer to each other and to their teachers and staff. The social aspect of the workshop also teaches the teenagers about the importance of group responsibility. They take part in communal cooking and obstacle courses that show them the importance of each individual in the group. When one drops out, the entire group suffers.
Sara describes the biggest challenge she faced on the retreat. “It was very cold. We were freezing but we overcame it and saw that it is possible to live in the conditions of the desert if you are with your friends or with people that you like to be with. Then you can be in any condition”.
Before Sara came to Menifa, she was kicked out of her high school and had tried multiple schools. “I did not get along in any school. I looked for a while and I came to Menifa and they right away accepted me.”
When asked what her goal is, Sara says with a smile, “To succeed.”
*Names changed to conceal identity
The cost of operating a workshop for a group of up to 20 teenagers is $1,800. For further information please visit our website www.menifa.org.il or call (201) 203-2937.