Education can never be the same for every learner. Each learner is different and enters the learning environment with different incoming knowledge, background experiences, potential, learning style and capacity to integrate and use the content. Some learners are more experiential, others are more cerebral. There are students who learn by listening and those who learn by reading. There are those who learn by doing and even those who grasp everything they’re taught, but cannot sit still or quietly while being exposed to the material. It is vitally important for us to realize that when it comes to learning, there is no “one way” of doing anything. There is, however, a way to reach almost every learner, and a program committed to excellence in education will find that way.
However, one thing is constant across the board. One thing applies to every single learner, no matter his or her age, ability or incoming knowledge base. All learners respond to a positive environment with encouraging feedback and are more motivated to achieve when exposed to it.
Negativity, either with words or body language, elicits a response that results in the learner not integrating the content as well as he or she could have. There should be no room for negativity in a learning environment.
It is vitally important for us to ensure that our children are exposed to positive, carefully constructed Jewish learning experiences. They are growing up in a world filled with choices and alternatives. Not all of the decisions they will make are easy. They will face peer pressure, witness or even suffer bullying, meet people who are dealing with addiction and even have friends who are experimenting with behaviors they’ve been warned against. A child who’s a product of a positive Religious School experience will have somewhat of an easier time making a “sacred,” well thought out decision. They may stand up for the victims, take a stand against the bullies and encourage positive behavior choices.
So as you move forward choosing schools and enrichment programs and pursuing learning opportunities for any learner in your family, please remember that if all a program offers is a one-size-fits-all, it is not a program committed to education. Here in Orange County, we are blessed with a variety of excellent Religious School programs. Each program or synagogue offers something different, tailored toward meeting the needs of its distinct congregation. I urge you to investigate and find the right place for your family. Generally, a family will join a congregation that embodies the same philosophy and values they adhere to. This will ground your children and reinforce what they are learning at home. Happy learning! ✿
Sue Penn is the mother of three, Education Director at University Synagogue, president of Jewish Reconstructionist Educators of North America and a member of the Jewish Educators Assembly.