Did You Ever Think Of How A Child Sees The School Year?
By Rabbi Yeshaya Weber

Schools generally have a corridor along which the classrooms are situated. For the child entering the system, it’s like entering a giant corridor – the school year – but he sees his whole school career within those walls as a circle that has no end.

In the previous article we defined the differences between a person who has a job teaching, and an educator. One of the prominent differences is that an educator’s work is never done. His job is ongoing and continuous, because he works with a child’s personal development. He implements his educational approach by means of a well thought-out program whose goal it is to benefit the child academically and emotionally, to have an impact on all aspects of his experience and to shape them in a positive and healthy way. This applies to the child’s talents, dreams, and habits, and primarily to the building of a positive self-image and self-confidence.

This curriculum ought to be the fruit of the deliberation of the educator. (How many educators among us understand the significance of "educational deliberation," and how many know how to implement it?) Part of an educator’s job is to be aware of the child’s character and personality, to sense what his needs are and construct a program for him – with general, yet flexible boundaries – whose purpose is to teach and benefit the child according to his situation and his personal rate of progress.

As a first step in building this program, the educator has to get into the child’s mindset and understand, first of all, how the child sees and understands the school system into which he is placed, how he connects with the educational structure and process, and how he sees himself within it.

For the child, school is a technical framework driven by a time factor. The child counts the hours, the lessons, seasons, school days, and vacation days. Generally, in school, there’s a long corridor where the classrooms are located. For the child, entering the system is like entering a giant corridor – the school year – but he sees his whole school career within those walls as a circle that has no end. There are stations in this corridor, either intermediate or primary stations, permanent or temporary ones. The child leaves the point of origin, keeps going, and in the end, finds himself back at the starting point. This is what gives him the sense of being in a never-ending continuum.

There are children (fortunately the majority, though these numbers are shrinking) who are blessed with traits that aid in survival: patience and forbearance, as well as basic academic, social, and diplomatic abilities. Yes, these are also needed these days to support and assist their journey. Then there are others who are not so well endowed, and who find their entire school career very challenging.

In this long (and dark) corridor, various people stand duty; namely, the teachers, whose job it is to direct the confused children and to show them the proper path, to guide and direct. But they may not sense that it is also necessary to help and support the children regarding their individual concerns. There are always exceptions to the rule (individuals who make a point of offering support and assistance and others who do so occasionally), but most teachers don’t even understand that actually helping children – as opposed to just guiding them along the way – is part of their job.

A clever child knows how to handle his school career. He prepares himself a way station for when he needs it, uses opportunities to circumvent obstacles, and knows how to take advantage of hiding in the corner. That’s how he successfully manages to cope and to survive.

A child who is not that clever stops at every obstacle, and stands there wondering what to do and how to get around it. He trips, falls, is held up, and lags behind.

Teachers need to know how to be flexible and adjust to the child, to be on top of the clever children and more patient with those who are more awkward. But are the teachers flexible in their approach to the various types of children they encounter?

The child, with whatever qualities he may have, walks along the corridor until at the end he goes back to the starting point, to the end of the school year, which leads to the beginning of the next year. But as far as he is concerned, it’s no different than the previous year. Yes, the teacher is different, perhaps the stations are located somewhere else, and what’s in between is somewhat different, but that’s all external, small changes in minor details. In the larger picture, in essence, it’s all the same.

The child who finds it difficult to traverse this intense and pressurized course is forced in the end to prepare some sort of escape hatch for himself, so that he doesn’t become overwhelmed. He prepares his own way stations tailored to his needs (for the child knows that if he won’t look out for himself and his needs, nobody in the system will do it for him!). He sets up breaks for himself, relieving some of the unremitting pressure.

At the same time, since it is he who is arranging this, he is also detaching from the system. His unsupervised breaks become more frequent, causing the child to feel less connected to the system. He may establish his own space in which he is the boss and does what he wants, but he is really in an empty bubble. He doesn’t see himself as being a part of his surroundings; his focus is on himself and his own needs.

This is altogether different from a child who is in a system in which educators focus on the child, in which the child is the center of attention around whom the system operates. It all works around him, and the child understands this. He can breathe easily from the very start, for there is no threat to his being. On the contrary, he feels safe to leave his limited perceptions and can progress forward. He has the courage to look out around him because his self-esteem is protected.

This child doesn’t see a long, depressing road ahead of him. He learns to proceed step by step, seeing only the steps within reach, and they are clear and non-threatening to him. This limited range of demands is calming. He feels he can handle a task that has a visible beginning and end. He has a good chance of achieving success after success, because one leads to the next.

The people on the job don’t merely show him the way; they encourage him while directing him, support him and give him the strength and desire to go on.

When they bring him to the awareness of his abilities and talents, they give him self-confidence. They create a space for the child within which he can maneuver. He progresses using his talents, directed by his educator in how to use those talents for goals which the educator – his guide – planned when preparing the curriculum tailored to that child.

The child will then bond with the teachers who work with him, giving the teachers a feeling of success and supporting the path they are taking – because the child’s success is the teachers’ success. This bond is the feedback that the child provides the teacher, showing that his educational goals are viable.

* * *

Question: My ten-year-old son doesn’t like to read. When I give him a book and try to convince him to read, he does me a "favor" and reads, though not with much enjoyment. What should I do? Should I continue to pressure him or not? What can I do to encourage him to read?

Answer: When a child just doesn’t like to read, there’s a reason, and it probably has to do with specific reading problems which are not open and obvious. The child himself may not even be aware of them. All he knows is that it’s difficult for him to read – even when it’s for his enjoyment – yet he doesn’t know why this is so.

Parents are not expected to be reading diagnosticians, but they are definitely responsible to do all they can to discover the cause of the reading difficulties. We have to make sure our children read properly, and enable them to have quality and satisfying reading experiences.

In your situation, you should take him for a professional evaluation. At the evaluation you will also learn how to correct his reading habits and his reading. Improving the reading habits will provide a strong foundation for improved fluency and reading comprehension.

There are also methods to use which are quite helpful, such as reading a story to a child with the child pointing at the words and reading along silently. An even simpler approach is listening to a tape while following along in the text. This should be followed by a series of questions like: What did you read in this paragraph? Which paragraphs establish the setting and which develop the plot? What is the climax of the story?

If reading is merely a technical skill without any personal pleasure involved, the point, which is to internalize the message of the book, is missing.


Teachers need to know how to be flexible and adjust to the child, to be on top of the clever children and more patient with those who are more awkward.




This child doesn’t see a long, depressing road ahead of him. He learns to proceed step by step, seeing only the steps within reach, and they are clear and non-threatening to him.


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