One unique element of a JCDSRI education is the integration of Jewish values into our curriculum. Starting a new school year and studying Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur give us many opportunities to explore and reinforce these values. How do we do this? We practice the important skills of thinking and reflecting.
In Learning and Leading With Habits of Mind, educators Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick define the act of reflecting as “to mentally wander through where we have been and to try to make some sense out of it.” The ability to reflect is an important habit of mind that will help our students develop as thoughtful learners. Perhaps more importantly, these skills will help our students grow into thoughtful human beings, able to contemplate choices, actions and interactions with friends, family and strangers.
Every class has been engaging in developmentally appropriate discussions that encourage our students to think about their behavior as we aim to start the year resolving to better ourselves. For our older students, organizing our thoughts and putting them down on paper expands the exercise into writing practice — strengthening our expressive writing skills at the same time. For example, our fifth graders explored some of the prayers of the Yamim Nora’im — the High Holidays. Inspired by the structure of these prayers, they wrote about times when they hurt or disappointed others and how they attempted to make amends. In reflecting about these experiences, students noted that efforts to heal the pain sometimes seemed invisible in light of the hurt they had caused. As a result, sometimes it felt like the harm would be remembered rather than the healing. They wrote about their mistake but also the amends they attempted for which they would like to be remembered. Michelle Raskin, 5th grade Judaic studies teacher, was impressed by her students’ ability to examine their behavior and write about it with honesty and maturity. Clearly their years practicing reflection at JCDSRI have helped them develop this critical Habit of Mind.