How enjoyable or useful would it be to sit through an advanced class in Chinese literature if you could not speak Chinese? When students are struggling to understand texts because of missing foundation skills, the love of learning is lost. When people do not feel successful they will blame themselves, feeling “stupid”, or depressed. Alternatively, they will blame the “system”. Those not successful in learning often feel angry towards parents, rebbeim, yeshiva and ultimately, Hashem. When students do not find enjoyment and satisfaction with learning, they may seek it elsewhere beyond the yeshiva walls.
These words from my Rebbe, Rabbi Matisyahu Salamon shlita, have guided my work:
…….. “Many of the children whom we call “dropouts” have not become like that because they have a bigger Yetzer hara than other people, but because they feel less cared for than other people. Those children who fall through the cracks of our educational system have very often lost out on those fundamental skills that they should have acquired earlier in life. If we could only give them a little more care, a little extra understanding or a little more help, an invaluable chizuk can be achieved, giving these people a feeling of self-esteem. Instead, chas v’shalom, dropping out altogether. They will now want to achieve and stay within the fold, carrying on to reach high madregos, which otherwise they would never have dreamed of before……”
Kids who are not learning effectively will frequently misbehave. Many of these students receive medications, which alter the behavior but do nothing to address the underlying lack of skills.
13-year-old Michoel A.* had been medicated for nearly two years. His parents approached me for help. To obtain a correct analysis of Michoel’s learning issues, I asked the parents to take him off medication before the evaluation and remediation. The evaluation revealed underdeveloped skills in letter and vowel recognition. Before restarting medication I worked with Michoel on developing the missing skills. Sure enough, once the learning issues were addressed, his behavior improved and medication was no longer required.
I have seen students whose “behavioral” problems were really the result of unresolved eye-problems, mixing up just two letters or not understanding the rebbe because he failed to translate key terms. To quote psychologist Dr. Ross Greene “kids do well if they can”. Addressing foundation skills should be the first step in helping them do well.
Rabbi Abenson is the founder and director of ShaarHatalmud, a unique yeshivah-based online program, which incorporates learning all Kodesh subjects, from Kriah all the way up to learning Gemara, Rishonim and Shulchan Oruch. He also conducts evaluations, remediation and training, and consults with school principals to improve students’ underdeveloped skills.
Rabbi Dovid Abenson can be contacted at:
Email: [email protected]