Imagine being invited to a banquet, where you are promised the most sumptuous feast, featuring gourmet foods of the highest caliber. First, they bring you the soup. You lift the spoon to your lips, the aroma is tantalizing. You are about to savor the first velvety mouthful when waiters come and tell you to quickly drink up the soup, here comes the fish course. So you take hasty mouthfuls of soup whilst trying to cut up the pine nut and goji berry crusted halibut on a bed of julienned vegetables. No sooner do you try a bite when it is whisked away. Here comes the rack of lamb and so it continues…could you enjoy such a meal?
With all the current pressures in our school system today, Torah learning is starting to look a little like this banquet. Alef-beis, nekudos, shorashim, suffixes, prefixes, pesukim, mishnayos, gemara, one course after another with barely a moment in between to savor and digest. The result? The fast learners have major indigestion. The slower ones are going hungry.
In my evaluation and remediation work, often it is just a case of “slowing down the banquet” so that each course can be fully chewed and digested before moving onto the next.
When kids have the necessary skills to learn, the learning will be enjoyable and satisfying. That is why in my work I emphasize the importance of “foundation skills”. These are the basic skills that must be acquired in an order clearly prescribed by our Mesorah, and each must be mastered before moving on to learn the next. Different kids will naturally move through the stages at different rates, but we can ill-afford to skip even one step or rush ahead. Hence the injunction “chanoch l’na’ar al pi darko”. Educate the child according to his path, not the parent’s, rebbe’s, the school curriculum, the societal expectations or anything else.
Of course in a class of thirty kids how could a rebbe teach each student at a different rate?
But can we afford not to?
A skill missed may be a neshama lost.
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]