Save The Child

cheder children rabbi turkeltaubBy Rabbi Dovid Abenson, for TLS. Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, instructed us to the secret of Chinuch. “Chanoch Lenaar Al Pi Darko “- educate the child according to his individual needs. Unfortunately, the current field of education does not conform to this advice. It is us, the educators and pupils, who find ourselves having to conform to the “system”. This means, to have to keep up with the system, to be part of the competition between schools, which is a direct result of trying to “please the system.”
As a result, the importance of the individual child is set aside. The pressure of the system is felt all the way, and a pupil who cannot keep up with the expected standard is labelled “slow”, or “not clever enough”, eventually endowing him with the famous description, “a problem”. In truth, the child might indeed be clever, he might not be at all slow, but he just does not fit into the pattern of the system that demands academic excellence at an early age. 
“Chanoch Lenaar Al Pi Darko”. This means that some pupils have different requirements to other pupils- for example, they are only ready to start serious learning at a much later age than other children. There are children who will only be able to pick up Aleph Beis, or secular reading, at the age of 6 or 7 years, instead of at 3 or 4 years. But the “system” has set down 3 or 4 years as the age, so the child is put under undue pressure, he struggles but he is not yet ready, and the inevitable result is failure. Had he been given the extra years he needs to play, had he been given the chance to start serious learning a couple of years later, the result would have been completely different. Instead of frustration and failure, it would have been fulfilment and success.
This is the meaning of “Al Pi Darkoi”.
There is nothing wrong with a child feeling the need to play whilst he is young, and if that is denied to him, then he will play when he is older. Each child is a world on its own with great potentials, and in order to give him the opportunity to fulfil his potentials, the system, at times, must be adapted for the sake of the child.
Furthermore, Chinuch is not just imparting knowledge. As important as the knowledge is in itself, the techniques used in teaching are equally vital. We must try to make the lessons alive for the pupils.
The world around us is full of instant gratification. In games, computer knowledge, cellular phones, etc. Our teaching methods must compete with all this. We have to find ways to make learning pleasurable and stimulating, and where possible, to use visual teaching to enhance clarity. We must try to go for simplicity, and basic understanding of the subject matter, thus enabling the talmid to build on firm foundations and so, eventually, advance further.

Do not distance yourself from your pupils. A warm “Hello” in the street and a few kind words of friendship can make a world of difference to the advancement of the child. See how far those dedicated to the Kiruv movements will go in their efforts to save a child. Undaunted, with fierce determinations, pushing aside all obstacles, they have just one aim in front of them. Save that child! Without asking questions, without checking to see if he has a learning problem, is dysllexic or ADD, they welcome him inside, teach him Alef Beis, some Brochos, they do anything they can to save the child.
And us? A child who is not coping well in school, who cannot keep up with the system is already stigmatised. There are 6 and 7 years olds who have already thick files on them, documenting them as failures to be rejected by school after school. Where is our Ahavas Yisroel?   Where is our heart that should be crying out- “save the child”!
Of course, school must have a system. But do we have the right to ignore the fact that each child is an individual? Are we right in making excuses of “no money” and “no manpower” thus abandoning our responsibility to save the child? If something acknowledged as being sufficiently important, money can be found, and educational expertise could be made available. But the heart, and the will, must be there to save the child at all costs.
It is our attitude that must change. Unfortunately, we do not see the vital importance of every yiddishe child, we do not understand the inestimable value of saving each pupil. No school wants “problem cases”. No school wants this great challenge. Yet the missionaries fight for these children, the Kiruv movement will give anything to save such a child- after he has given up all his yiddiskkeit and “dropped out”.
We could do it. When our children complain that a task is too difficult, we tell them, “you can do it if you try! You can do it if you really want to! Ain Dover homed lanai horizon!” We need to say these words to ourselves. With love and patience we could overcome all seemingly insurmountable problems. Let us open our doors and our hearts to every child who so desperately needs us. Let us teach our children Midos Tovos too, so that they should learn to be caring and compassionate to children who are maybe different to them, who cannot learn like them.
Practically, this means that each Kehilla must pool its resources together for this purpose, to give substantial financial backing to the schools. Through this they will enable the Mechanchim to give each pupil individual care, to subdivide classes where necessary, and to call in professionals for diagnosis and help. The Kehilla must realise its heavy responsibility for Kiruv Kerovim- our own relatives, our own children – the future of Klal Yisroel.
Let us work together to save the child.

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  1. I’m not sure if rabbi abenson is aware of the situation in Lakewood. Some mosdos have thousands of pupils, the DO have a special classes for kids that are slower than the rest (yes, Alef beis at age seven is slower!). What exactly is he proposing? Are rabbeim and moras are dedicated and there is a system in place for Childeren who need special education, we have self contained classes etc and yes files of information on each child who needs personal assistance.
    Lakewood is not a tiny kehila like gatshead with 300 families!

  2. You think Lakewood does not have this problem?????????????
    There is no place in the world that makes people be in a box, more than Lakewood!!!

    Because some positive steps to help a handful of kids are being done, does not in any way minimize the problem.
    This article is right on, however it stops short of any type of implementation.
    We need leadership to speak with one voice to instruct and inform the masses of what our priorities should be.
    If not, we will continue down this slippery slope into confusion and despair. With our only hope of a bail out by mashiach!

  3. I would like to humbly reply to #5
    Implementation was explained in the previous Mishpacha article (last week’s edition) and part of it was printed a few days ago on the Lakewood Scoop.
    If the Mosdos were professionally trained in this area, detecting under developed skills at a young age and thereafter given the tools to rectify them, we would not have the problems we are having today with “Kids at Risk” and the lack of simchas hachayim in learning.
    At our organization, this can be achieved very successfully B”H.( In the long run, much resource money will be saved by the schools.)

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