Philosophy and Purpose of the Torah School of Greater Washington
|The Torah School of Greater Washington has been established to educate, motivate, challenge, and inspire Jewish children of all backgrounds without regard to race, color, country of origin, or sex. Our students are provided with a curriculum of excellence in both Judaic and secular studies which equips them with all the tools necessary to successfully continue their higher education. This includes a strong emphasis on the basics (e.g. English and Hebrew literacy, writing skills, mathematics, geography) and on higher thinking and comprehension skills. Our youngsters develop pride as Jews and Americans and a strong love for Eretz Yisrael.
The ambiance which permeates the Torah School is that of warmth and caring. Our outstanding staff members serve as role models whose main interest is what is best for each child. They understand that, as Hiam Ginott wrote,
“Concerning a teacher’s influence: I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or dehumanized.”
However, the job of the Jewish educator goes beyond this. HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, ZT’L, wrote that:
One who teaches Torah “must transmit the sanctity and the love of Torah because these are the elements which develop fear and love of G-d.”
HaRav Moshe Feinstein, ZT’L, said that:
“It is our responsibility to clearly and consciously instruct in a manner that will enable our Talmidim to understand both intellectually and emotionally the centrality of Torah to our lives.”
We must impart to our boys and girls the vibrancy, beauty, and meaning of life when based upon these values. The Bible, with all its details about the conduct of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, must be “handed over” as a handbook for practical living. Furthermore, the concept of Derech Eretz Kadmah LaTorah, that proper interpersonal relationships take precedence over everything, is stressed in all areas of our curriculum and conduct. Thereby, our students learn that a Ben/Bas Torah must strive for self-improvement in his/her relationship with both G-d and man.
Our definition of excellence is a personalized one. We emphasize to our youngsters that their jobs are to maximize their individual potentials through total effort in all they do. We, as their teachers, must recognize this in order to, as King Solomon instructed, “teach the child in his own way.” The children, in turn, must internalize this in order to develop confidence and a positive self-image. A vital by-product to this approach is encouraging the expression of creativity (e.g. art, music, drama, thought).
Because we believe that learning is a life-long process, we must motivate our students to retain their youthful enthusiasm for the acquisition of knowledge. A prerequisite for achieving this goal is genuine, sincere excitement exhibited by the teacher. The following are methods to bring about this result.
1. Show students the relevance of their studies to their lives. Just about anything can be applied to a real-life situation. When it is, it becomes easier to understand and far more meaningful to students.
2. Get students involved in activities that go beyond typical paper and pencil tasks. Use hands-on activities as much as possible.
3. Provide opportunities for students to talk to each other about what they are thinking and allow them to share ideas about solving problems.
4. Let students work with partners or in small groups so the pressure of having to find the correct answer on their own is greatly reduced.
5. Present students with situations or problems that could have a number of solutions – not just one right or wrong answer.
6. Build on what students already know, while presenting a problem that’s interesting enough to pursue.
7. Give students a variety of learning experiences, so they don’t do the same types of tasks every day.
8. Make learning fun. Just about any subject that’s interesting to kids (e.g. music, food, sports) makes applying what they have studied challenging and fun.
9. Ensure that all students enjoy success at some level.
10. Make sure that all students have the opportunity to participate in enriching activities.
Finally, the “school” and the “home” must view themselves as partners in the most important venture (and adventure) of their lives. We must work together, encourage each other, and share our thoughts and observations. Only in this way will our boys and girls get the maximum benefit from their educational experience. The Torah School of Greater Washington encourages on-going communication between parents and educators in order to best achieve those goals for which we strive.