At Chicago Jewish Day School, we believe in an approach to learning in which all stages of development are celebrated. Each child is a unique individual with his or her own rate and pattern of maturation. The job of a teacher is to accept each student at his or her current stage and to facilitate his or her advancement to the next stage.
Children are natural planners at all stages of development, and they respond well to a daily schedule. Clear boundaries and structure allow them to confidently participate in activities and games.
Academic achievement is advanced through an integrated social and academic curriculum. Research confirms that the time spent on social and emotional learning is earned back in classroom that run more effectively and efficiently. Furthermore, social skills are intertwined with cognitive growth and intellectual progress. A person who can listen well and frame a good question, who has the assertiveness to pose questions, and who can examine a situation from a number of perspectives will be a strong learner. Our social/emotional and academic curriculum foster safe, challenging, and joyful classrooms. All these skills — essential to academic learning — are modeled daily through our social skills program, Responsive Classroom. Responsive Classroom is an approach to teaching and learning that fosters safe, challenging, and joyful classrooms and schools.
Middle School Advisory
Our advisory program for our upper grades is a continuation of Responsive Classroom approach that we use in our lower grades. Our belief is that when children feel understood, safe, valued and respected, they learn to value and respect others which benefits them emotionally as well as academically. Advisory offers students a consistent, dependent opportunity to get to know themselves and each other through intellectually challenging games, activities and discussions. We use this time to specifically address the social and emotional issues of young adolescents such as identity-formation, coping with change, emerging sexuality, the influence of popular culture, as well as the academic issues of developing good study and organizational habits. Each grade has an advisor who remains with them for their three years of middle school and facilitates their advisory period. We also invite community organizations in for workshops and presentations. For example, The Chicago Women’s Health Clinic presented a program on puberty, sexuality, and sexual health combined with discussions on Jewish values for our Grades Seven and Eight and series of workshops centered about the issue of self-esteem lead by the Response Center for our Grade Six students.
One hallmark of CJDS is our dedication to programming across the grades of the school. We believe significant learning occurs when students have the opportunity to interact with other students, both younger and older. In addition to informal opportunities such as lunch and recess, two formal programs promote a mentoring and cooperative learning relationship between older and younger children: Mishpachot (families) and Reading Buddies.
At the beginning of each year, students are assigned to a school mishpacha (family) with a faculty member and students from each grade. Students participate in school-wide Shabbat and holiday celebrations together as a mishpacha, along with other set learning times that are built into the school year.
Our Reading Buddies program is an incredible opportunity for our older children to practice reading, and for the younger children to experience being read to by an older child. Bonds develop between Reading Buddies across the grade levels that extend to recess, play and the celebration of life-cycle events.