We had a wonderful Parent Education Night on Wednesday evening with Rebbitzen Esther Friedman who presented the Temperament Theory and weaved it into Jewish philosophy. Thank you to our PTA for sponsoring this wonderful event and thank you to all of you who came out (in the rain!) and made the evening a success.
One of the thoughts Mrs. Friedman shared really resonated with me. She said, “What do we really want from our children’s schools? It boils down to two things: We want our kids to be mentches and we want them to love to learn.”
How do we create life-long learners?
This morning, as I was reading the text of Parshat Noach, I was reminded of the directive from G-d to Noach to put a “tzohar” in the ark. Rashi (the leading commentator on the Torah) asks, what is a tzohar? It is an unusual word. Rashi gives two possible translations for this word; 1. a window (for light) or 2. a precious stone that creates light. There are technical difficulties with both translations that the other solves which compelled Rashi to offer two explanations, however there are layers of meaning in each word and so the two explanations also have a deeper lesson.
The word Teiva(ark) also means “word” in Hebrew, alluding to the Torah. The safe-haven from the stormy world of life is Torah in particular and all knowledge and education in general…our minds are the harbors of our thoughts and attitudes that create our outlooks and the way we show up to life. And our minds, like the ark, need both a window that lets light in and a precious stone that creates its own light.
A life-long learner is someone with a growth minded attitude. The person who always has a window open for new ideas and a different perspective. But he does not just rely on the wisdom that is brought to him by others, he also has his own inner light that he produces himself. He is not a parrot that repeats verbatim what his mother said or his father said or his friend said. You know those people? You can hear the exact inflection of Mom (or Dad or Friend) in every word. Rather, he uses his own mind too, to filter, analyze and to innovate. The combination of open-mindedness and self-reliance molds a life-long learner.
The Montessori classroom has this duality. The multi-age classroom nurtures humility and openness. The children are surrounded by other children of varying ages and are encouraged to share and learn from each other. Naturally, the younger children learn easily from the older children but of course the opposite happens too. A kindergartner can learn a social skill from a three year old. And what a gift! At such a young age these children learn that there is what to learn from everyone. At the same time, the classroom demands independence, responsibility and self-motivation in a non-competitive, yet stimulating atmosphere. The children are buoyed by their accomplishments and are eager to learn more. Indeed, our classrooms are little Teivot, arks; havens from the storms of life that will prepare them so well to ride those waves expertly when they venture out.
Dassie and Chana