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When Children Do Not Fit The Mold – Part 1 | Rabbi Dovid Abenson

Several years ago I wrote an article for The Lakewood Scoop about how our yeshiva/day school system is failing our out-of-the-box children. The response from the public was incredible. I received many supporting comments from readers who were struggling with their own children, or who had themselves struggled as children. The pain is real. Chazal state in Sanhedrin 4:5 that each person must look at himself and say “bishvili nivrei olam” for my sake the world was created. Yet how can a child feel valued and beloved by Hashem when told by a rebbi “there’s no place in our yeshiva for boys like you” Or “You don’t fit the mould”?

A quick survey of the biographies of our great gedolim through history reveals they were not always the typical children that are the dreams of every classroom rebbi today. They learned in small groups with a private tutor, until the rebbi would declare he had no more to teach the child and they would move on to greater teachers. How would an illui, such as those who illuminated our previous generations, fair in a typical elementary yeshiva today? Would he be allowed to shine and develop at his own pace even if his knowledge would quickly outshine that of the entire staff or would he be bored and labelled chutzpadik? Is it possible that such genius is failing to be nurtured in our current system? Brilliant children are forced either to turn to secular pursuits for their stimulation or worse, end up numbing their untapped mental energy with drugs because they do not fit into the system.

And what of the children who take longer to process information, develop at a slower pace or have different learning styles? Many of the students I have helped over the years were able to avoid the ADHD medications being suggested by the rebbi, simply by addressing certain missing foundational skills in their learning. Once they could learn successfully, their motivation returned and their behavioural problems disappeared. These children were failing because the system failed them. They had not managed to pick up the requisite skills for learning first time around because these skills are not being explicitly taught. It is just assumed kids will eventually “catch on”. Many do. Too many do not.

For the most part Torah schools are doing a great job. However my decades of work as an educational consultant, incorporating kriah and Gemara remediation, show me that many are being left behind. Even one would be too many. Chazal teaches in Sanhedrin 4:5 that he who saves a life is as if he saves an entire world. Each student is a malei olam. For his sake the world was created. For his sake the educational system was created. For his sake this article is being written. I shall highlight two problems I see in the system which seem to go counter to a Torah perspective before offering some practical suggestions that may help more children taste success in learning.

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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:
Tel. 15147393629
Cell/Whatsapp 15149935300
Email: ravabenson@shaarhatalmud.com
Website: ShaarHatalmud.com

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