A Message from Dr. Starr

“The most beautiful as well as the most ugly inclinations of man
are not part of a fixed and biologically given human nature,
but result from the social process which creates man.”
[— Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom]
By Deborah R. Starr, Ed.D., Head of School

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The Educational Philosophy in the Elementary School at Temple Beth Am Day School has five tenets. The five are: Rigor, Flexibility, Broadening Horizons, Affective Education and 21st Century Learning. To fully capture what any one of them means, and how we implement it, would each warrant a Commentator column of its own. However, I want to share with you what we do regarding: Affective Education.

The truth is, any strong independent school, and many public schools, should be excellent regarding the first two: Rigor and Flexibility (although I would state that Temple Beth Am Day School is exemplary in both). Sometimes, Broadening Horizons depends on the resources available at a school; in that regard, we are blessed. Broadening Horizons, in a nutshell, is all about bringing our students off-campus for enriching opportunities (i.e., visiting museums, Kennedy Space Center, Philadelphia, Ellis Island, the Everglades, Wynwood Walls, Urban Farm, etc.) and also bringing artists, the ballet, the opera, authors, illustrators, explorers, musicians, etc. on campus (all have a financial cost). 21st Century Learning I have written about a few times in the past (but, may return to, again). But, why I want to highlight, in this column, our Affective Education program is because this is far and away what makes us so different from other schools and why I believe so many of our families choose to send their children here.

Affective learning is an important component of the environment and curriculum at Temple Beth Am Day School. The emotions, attitudes and values of our students complete their total education. Students have a structured, safe and consistent environment in which to develop their communication, self-control and interpersonal problem-solving skills in order to enhance relationships with their peers and adults. Teachers enable students to develop their social competency skills through specific lessons. These lessons come out of the Open Circle curriculum designed at Wellesley College. The program has extensive research validating its effectiveness and is a program eligible for Federal Funding under the auspices of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

This kindergarten through fifth grade curriculum includes, but is not limited to: learning how to calm down in emotional situations; how to problem-solve; how to identify dangerous and destructive situations; when to involve adults (the difference between “tattling” and getting help); how to give and receive compliments; how to listen attentively to others; how to be inclusive; etc. All teachers, administrators, specialists and School Counselor have been trained in the program. Students receive structured lessons twice a week. The students also follow a strict anti-bullying policy and learn to act accordingly. Bullying is complicated, it involves four components (i.e. the victim, the perpetrator, the adult and the bystander — who needs to become an upstander), and each person needs addressing and a skill-set. Our faculty has received Professional Development on The Bully-Free Classroom. Our School Counselor, Elementary School Director and faculty collaborated on creating a School Discipline Plan. All this matters to us and that is why it is a priority. Although Open Circle is a widely used program, nationally, we are the only school in Florida to be teaching it. Kudos to us.

Affective Education also is taught here through our own Jewish values embedded in the Middot curriculum taught at the school. Through our Middot curriculum, which has a 3-year cycle, students learn about and practice: Haverut (friendship); Gimilut Hasadim (acts of loving kindness); Rodeph Shalom (peace making); Hachnasat Orchim (welcoming guests); Tzedakah (charity projects to assist the less fortunate); Shmirat Halashon (watching one’s words); Bal Tashchit (caring for the environment); Kibud Av V’em (honoring one’s parents); Malbish Arumin (clothing the naked); Ma’akhil Re’evim (feeding the hungry); Bikkur Cholim (visiting the sick); and so much more. All teachers are responsible for this teaching. All students are expected to demonstrate these attitudinal characteristics, because the students’ character matters at Temple Beth Am Day School.

How many schools truly value Affective Education? How many have authentic curriculum and expectations for their students? How many provide valuable professional development for their teachers to be effective in teaching these social competency skills? How many truly want more than just academic automatons? I think I stand on solid ground when I say, not many.

More importantly, how many parents know that raising their children to be good people — mensches — contributing members of society, should even be a priority? I do not know. But, what I do know is that if you send your child here, to Temple Beth Am Day School, it does matter to you, because this is truly the niche that makes us unique.

Tell your friends about us. We have room to grow!