Educational Philosophy

At Chicago Jewish Day School we educate children to think clearly and deeply, to gain knowledge and acquire judgment, and to respect diversity. We are committed to developing critical thinking and socially engaged intelligence that enables each individual to understand and participate effectively in the affairs of their community, country, Israel, and the world at large in a collaborative effort to achieve a common good. At Chicago Jewish Day School, we strive for learning to be authentic and meaningful and to inspire a passion for lifelong learning. This document defines our vision of excellence in education.

Deep Understanding
Through school experiences, our students gain creative-thinking and critical-thinking skills and develop a passion for lifelong learning. 

At Chicago Jewish Day School, we focus our teaching around thinking, stressing knowledge over information. Our inquiry based curriculum encourages a curious, questioning and critical stance and develops a deepening understanding of important ideas. Facts and skills are importantin a context and for a purpose. We challenge students by inviting them to think deeply about the issues that matter, helping them understand ideas from the inside out, and making connections between ideas and concepts. Students can then actively use these insights to apply what they have learned to their daily lives, expand understanding and even take action.

Active and Experiential Learning
At Chicago Jewish Day School, curriculum is authentic and meaningful. Students understand that what they learn in school is applicable to the broader outside world. Learning is integrated between the disciplines to demonstrate to students how ideas span the different content areas. Students play a vital role in formulating the questions, seeking out and creating answers, thinking through possibilities, and evaluating how successful they have been. Students’ own questions are truly valued and integral to the learning process. Learning is a matter of constructing ideas rather than passively absorbing information or practicing skills.

Student-Centered Learning
Chicago Jewish Day School provides a standard of excellence in both Jewish and General Studies through an integrated, multisensory curriculum that is attentive to students’ individual needs. 

At Chicago Jewish Day School, we take our cue from the students — and are particularly attentive to student individuality. The question, “What is best for the student?” is at the core of all decisions. Each student is unique. Therefore, policies as well as learning and behavioral expectations are established in a broad manner that allows for individualized decision-making that reflects our respect for the individual student and his/her needs. We celebrate the developmental stages of learning and provide for each student’s unique timetable for unfolding his/her abilities.

Intrinsic Motivation
At Chicago Jewish Day School, we offer our students more choices — and more responsibilities. Our educational policies and practices are driven by the central question, “What is the effect on students’ interest in learning, their desire to continue reading, thinking, and questioning?” This question helps to determine what students will and won’t be asked to do. Our goal is for each student to leave Chicago Jewish Day School with a passion for learning along with the academic tools they need to be life-long learners.

Social Justice (Tikun Olam)
Chicago Jewish Day School weaves values of Tikun Olam (repairing the world) into every aspect of the school experience. 

A sense of community and responsibility for oneself and others isn’t confined to the classroom; indeed, students are helped to explore how they fit into widening circles of care that extend beyond self, beyond friends, beyond their own religious/denominational group, and beyond their own country. Opportunities are offered not only to learn about, but also to put into action, a commitment to diversity and to improving the lives of others.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? 
If I am not for others, what am I? 
And if not now, when?”
–Rabbi Hillel 

Collaboration
The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interactions. At Chicago Jewish Day School children learn with and from one another in a caring community in both social as well as academic learning. Interdependence counts at least as much as independence. We help learners engage with ideas and drive each other’s thinking — to build knowledge, to care and to act.

Play
Children learn through play. They must be active participants in the construction of knowledge and need concrete experiences to shape thoughts and concepts. Teachers provide materials and an enriched environment so that children can be challenged and totally involved in play. The teachers pose questions and elicit answers among the students to expand the experience, thus guiding in the discovery of knowledge and facilitation of play.

Attending to the Whole Child
Chicago Jewish Day School establishes a safe, supportive environment which fosters the kind of trust and warmth that encourages students take risks and rise to challenges. At Chicago Jewish Day School, we believe in educating the whole child — taking into account the social, emotional, academic, spiritual, physical, and creative needs of a student. We are concerned with helping children become good learners and furthermore good people. Our social and academic learning are intertwined and each one enhances the other. At Chicago Jewish Day School, we set the tone and atmosphere for students to learn outside of their comfort zone and take risks as part of the learning process.


Resources

http://www.uvm.edu/~dewey/articles/proged.html
https://www.alfiekohn.org/article/progressive-education/
Inquiry Circles, Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels 
Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe