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DR. B’s BLOG

NOW THAT THE REPORTERS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS HAVE GONE

February 22, 2018
By Dr. Chaim Botwinick

Last week's horrific shootings at the Stoneman Douglas High School, (only a few short miles from HACS) has shaken the very core of our community's foundation; and, has now become what the media is unfortunately and sadly labeling as "society's new normal". 

 There are those who respond to this tragic event by meeting with politicians and participating in well-orchestrated and strategically posted photo-opts (not to minimize their intentions or efforts); there are others who engage in writing and talking thereby fueling the blame-game fire; there are those who are reaching out to families of dear lost ones, the injured and first responders  with love, unswerving support and hugs; and, yet there are others who are crying out to the heavens and beyond for immediate measures to be taken on the local, state and federal levels in order to increase school security, greater mental health awareness and the elimination of assault firearms -- all in the spirit of  sincere heartfelt efforts to minimize if not prevent the G-D forbid possibility of these horrendous atrocities from ever happening again.  

 All of these natural well intended activities and responses are expected and must be supported, But, happening at the same time is a challenge and an imperative which challenges our educational leadership, in ways never before imaginable.

 As a senior educator and as a proud General Studies Principal of HACS, I am profoundly concerned about the daunting impact these events have on the current and future psychological/emotional well-being of our precious children.

 As parents, it’s just not enough to say that we must protect and shield our children from the gruesome details of these events, when the very details of these events are within earshot of our children. How about the three parents who were talking to one another (during our school's carpool dismissal) about the details of the shooting in front of 4 of their 5-year-old children? What about the parent who insists on playing the radio during carpool, only to once again disregard what our children are hearing? What about the parents (you know who you are) who talk about these events and their gruesome details in the presence of their children at the Shabbos table, in Shul, or at the playground? 

 My dear friends, the impact of these events on our children are profound! Many of our children, especially the younger ones, are confused, perplexed, frightened and crying out for answers. As responsible mature adults and parents, we must be extremely vigilant and careful to have age-appropriate responses and conversations with our children; we must protect them from the harsh, brash and graphic words, descriptions and images of last week's horrendous surrealist carnage.  We must enable our little ones to feel safe, secure, loved and protected. We should never take for granted that a child's feeling or sense of security is happening by itself naturally --- because it isn't ....and it won't. 

 We must reject the phrase that we are "living in a new normal"! We need to change that phrase and bring back the "old normal" embedded in Jewish values, principles, and ways of life.

 If we are a light unto the nations and indeed a holy nation, the conversation begins at home, with our own children.

 So, next time we hug our children, tuck them into bed at night, or hug them first thing in the morning......lets remember that our children are the greatest most profoundly cherished gift Hashem can ever give us; and that we must redouble our efforts to monitor our speech, expressions, and sentiments in their presence.

 May HaShem bless all of our children with excellent health, mazal, simcha and hatzlacha; and may our children and their families never ever experience the events of last week. 

 And, may HaShem bless the families of those who perished last week with true comfort, love, strength and resolve.

 Our hearts are truly broken.

1 comment

Getting Smart with Your Smartphones - Part One

February 08, 2018
By Dr. Chaim Botwinick

 Part One:

 Over the past several years, there has been significant discussion and debate regarding the impact of cellphone/smartphone technology and social media on our children and their families.

 In full recognition of this daunting challenge, we at the HEBREW ACADEMY COMMUNITY SCHOOL are now implementing our new Digital Citizenship Curriculum, created and developed by Dr. Eli Shapiro and Mrs. Temima Feldman. But, we need you, the parent, to be our partners.

 As technology and its impact on the social, psychological and behavioral functioning of our youngsters grows, continued education for both students and parent in digital citizenship is critical.

 Never before in the history of modern technology (except perhaps television) has technology impacted us to the extent it is today. Instant communication, millisecond response rates, and freedom of "information flow" have truly revolutionized the manner in which we think, react and communicate. But, it has also unintentionally robbed us from quality precious time and attention to our children and family.

 As parents, how often do we "disconnect" our own smartphones; while we are supposedly helping our children with homework, during dinner, play time, on vacation, or even on the way to minyan (while driving, no less), or even during davening itself?

 Our children are very smart and truly perceptive. By refusing to disconnect our cellphones during these teachable quality moments, we as parents are in fact informing our children that they are less of a priority than answering the phone, making a call, texting a business associate or checking emails. It consciously and subconsciously creates a value system. Hence, we are creating a future generation who will be disconnected from the beauty and wonderment of quality time as well as familial interaction. Beware, there is no turning back the clock

 Maybe we have not yet paid the full price for this trade off, but, it’s almost guaranteed that a price is being paid! A moment lost with a child, at the expense of checking an email, is a price not worth taking.

 So, parents, please put down your cell phones. Look up at the precious innocent angelic faces of your children who are begging for your complete attention.  It’s a trade-off worth a lifetime.

 See you at my next BLOG (Part Two)

2 comments

THE PARENT-SCHOOL PARTNERSHIP

November 27, 2017
By Dr. Chaim Botwinick

At the Hebrew Academy Community School, we recently completed two very successful Parent/Teacher Conferences for grades K-8. The reactions and feedback we received from parents and teachers regarding the nature and scope of these individual conversations, were extremely positive and most valuable. In fact, we will be distributing a parent survey in order to validate this feedback.

As we know, the primary purpose of parent/teacher conferences is to ensure that parents have a clear perspective regarding the strengths and weaknesses of their children, and to explore ways (in partnership with teachers) to improve and ensure greater student academic growth (in Judaic and General studies) as well as their social/emotional development. It also affords our teachers the opportunity to hear directly from parents regarding their ideas, perceptions and concerns -- a sine qua non for effective parent-teacher relations and communications.

Transcending these important conversations needs to be a concerted effort and commitment to continued parent-teacher dialogue throughout the year. More often than not, these conferences are one-shot exchanges which only warrant follow-up if and when there are major problems or challenges facing the student.   

This reality begs a series of Jewish Day school challenges which are not necessarily specific or unique to HACS. Some of generic challenges include, but, are not limited to the following questions:

  • How often do our parents check-in with teachers during the course of the year, beyond parent-teacher conferences?
  • How often, do parents share their concerns with teachers and/or the administration about their children in order to ensure that the school staff are sensitive to specific or unique dynamics of the home?
  • How often do parents respond to requests for information in a time basis?
  • How often do parents discuss with their children the reasons  why a course of disciplinary action was taken by the teacher as a result of specific misbehavior or disruption in class?
  • How often do parents actually check the school's student assessment "dashboard" (in our case RenWeb), in order to  stay abreast of their child's academic progress in school?
  • How often do parents share with teachers and the administration successful and positive feedback about how their children are learning in school and at home?
  • How often do teachers hear about how parents and families celebrate the success of a child's progress in school and at home?
  • How often do parents get involved in the ongoing volunteer activities of the school?
  • How often do parents talk less than positively about the school, the teachers and administration in the presence and earshot of their children, whether it be at home, the market, in shul or in carpool?

These unfiltered conversations can obviously have a less than positive impact on children, and must be addressed responsibly.These are just a few of the many challenges we face when trying to address and support an environment for effective  "parent-school partnerships".

It's obvious that this "partnership" swings both ways. We at HACS are profoundly  committed to this challenge. We are continuously discussing and offering suggestions regarding  our evolving role as school-parent partners. 

Critical to this challenge will be to create the right conditions in our school and community which support a school culture that promotes and celebrates this evolving "partnership".

To quote one of my close mentors....."we have the best school and best talmidim and talmidot any school can be privileged to have.....the real challenge is, how do we bring their parents on board?"

The rest is commentary....

Please feel free to respond to this BLOG with your suggestions, comments and ideas. After all, that's what the "partnership" is all about.

 

Thank you,

Dr. B.

New Beginnings

November 01, 2017
By Dr. Chaim Botwinick

Now that the Holidays and the hurricanes are behind us (we hope), we are moving on to uninterrupted academics. This is evidenced by the inspiring teaching and learning taking place in our classrooms.

All of this exciting, intensive activity is, in addition, to our recent launch of MAP - Measuring Academic Progress, Florida’s new student assessment tool which replaces IOWA'S. This is being administered, across all grade levels, three times a year and will provide us with baseline data upon which to measure student academic progress. Results of our first MAP test are expected in two weeks.

At the top of our list of challenges (read opportunities) is the need to ensure that all of our students are receiving, in-real-time, academic and social support. To this end, faculty and administration are in constant touch to monitor student progress. What we do need, is parent-  partners letting us know how you feel your children are progressing. Your input is essential. Please note that interim progress reports are being sent to you shortly. Please review these reports with your child(ren).

In addition:

Our STEM program is moving full steam ahead (no pun intended). Keep an eye out for our new inaugural STEM Newsletter for a fuller perspective regarding this critically important science program.

School library is in full swing! Encourage your children to borrow books. We’ve added several outstanding books to our collection. Undoubtedly, continuous reading is a value and skill-set that will benefit you children for years to come.

Finally:

Please take the time to ask your child about what he-she is learning at school. Your on-going interest in your child's education is the best reinforcement. These conversations not only express your interest in your child, but also indicates that learning is important.

The Student Homework Task Force’s last meeting is scheduled for next week. Following these deliberations, we will be formulating and disseminating our new Student Homework policy, confident that it will be anchored in best practices.

Thank you for your partnership.

 

Dr. B.

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