By Mariashi Groner, Director, Charlotte Jewish Day School
What skills will allow students to navigate the 21st century, and how can the elementary school years best prepare them for success? The dual secular and Judaic curriculum at Charlotte Jewish Day School is the perfect formula for success in this ever-changing world. With information at their fingertips, I can say with confidence that rote memorization of facts, neat handwriting and mastering the dewy decimal system will not be an indicator of success for our kids!
So what are the skills every 21st century student should possess?
1. A strong moral compass. Doing the right thing. Being a mensch.
2. Believing in yourself. Having a strong identity.
3. Critical thinking skills. The ability to apply reasoning and logic to unfamiliar ideas and situations.
4. Multilingual skills. Children who speak more than one language have better problem-solving skills and creative thinking.
As strong as the CJDS General Studies curriculum is, there is no doubt that everything on this list is strengthened by our Judaica curriculum.
Using an ancient text to keep students grounded in this modern world is a learning tool like no other. The Torah gives us a blueprint for living to our highest potential. Judaism focuses on relationships – the relationship between us and G-d, between G-d and the Jewish people, between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, and between human beings. Between their belief in G-d and their connection to their Jewish soul, our kids develop a stronger sense of “self” than most kids their age. They learn from the Torah stories that time and time again, the Jews stand strong and persevere through the best and worst of times. And that standing up to “do the right thing” is just what we do. Our children’s strong moral compass and high self-esteem blossom from their Torah study.
In the 4th and 5th grade, when our Judaica teachers introduce Rashi (a medieval) commentary and teach the kids to dissect Jewish text, their critical thinking skills are challenged in a way that they don’t even realize. They are taught to think until their little brains “hurt”…exercising the brain in a way that is not typical of elementary school children.
And, of course, the Hebrew immersion that our students are exposed to at such a young age has been proven to dramatically impact mental agility and creative problem solving. Evidence shows that time spent on another language strongly reinforces the core subject areas of reading, language literacy, social studies and math.
Every child is loved at Charlotte Jewish Day School. And because we love every child, we cannot and will not rest until we find the path of success for each one. We have 92 children at the school this year, and there are 92 different paths. We spend more time talking, meeting, discussing and strategizing how to best meet each individual child’s needs than doing anything else, and I am most proud of that.
Our standardized scores are outstanding, and we are outperforming the independent schools; but even more outstanding is that our pool for enrollment is not chosen by academic ability.
CJDS graduates leave our school after the 5th grade and thrive wherever they go – whether it be a large public school, a charter school or another private school. Transition? What transition?!? There is no doubt that our strong, secular curriculum prepares them for the road ahead, but it is the gift of a Jewish Day School that is giving them so much more than that. And I truly believe it is the combination of the dual curriculum and a strong spiritual center that makes our graduates successful in this ever-changing world.