Beth Tfiloh Lower School: Building Lifelong Character and Respect

By: Dr. Susan Holzman, Lower School Principal, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School
 
“Your students are so nice!”

That’s what Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School principals and faculty members hear time and again from their colleagues at other schools about our BT students. That kind of niceness is the result of Beth Tfiloh’s mission to grow Jewish citizens who are ready to face the world with poise, knowledge, and humanity.
Our students can trace the roots of this education back to lessons they learned in BT’s PreSchool and Lower School. BT’s Lower School places the highest importance on imbuing classrooms with a spirit of derech eretz — the code of proper behavior that binds us to each other as human beings and as Jews.

Derech eretz permeates every aspect of life in the Lower School. At the start of the school year, each class works together to create essential agreements for how the members of their small community will treat each other. These classroom rules are then combined and distilled into a set of Lower School guiding rules for the year.

This year the Lower School rules are:

• We care about everyone in our community and treat them with kindness and respect.
• We are grateful for our world and our things, so we take care of them.
• We work hard and stay safe.

We use these rules daily to guide our interactions with each other. When students are struggling with behavior, we return to our school rules to find out where they are having trouble and use them to guide self-reflection and changes in actions.

Creating Communities in the Lower School

Lower School teachers use techniques found in the Responsive Classroom model to create communities within their classrooms. As its website describes, Responsive Classroom is a "student-centered, social and emotional learning approach to teaching and discipline. It is comprised of a set of research, and evidence-based practices designed to create safe, joyful, and engaging classroom and school communities for both students and teachers.”
 


Each school day begins with a morning meeting that sets a positive tone for the day. Everyone is greeted by name, has an opportunity to share a thought, and work as a group to play a game or solve a problem. Throughout the day, teachers rely on techniques from Responsive Classroom for correcting behavior, offering choices, and encouraging independence. At the end of the day, children regroup with their teacher for a closing circle to reflect on the day’s successes and opportunities for growth. These closing circles bring peace and closure to a busy day at school.

Mindfulness in the Lower School

Beyond prioritizing respectful and kind interactions, we work with children to develop calm and productive classroom climates. Research tells us that children benefit from strategies that cultivate confidence in life and create classroom environments that are primed for learning. Commonly known as mindfulness strategies, these techniques teach children to reflect on their actions and their day. Mindfulness can enhance attention, learning, and peace of mind.

Teachers in Beth Tfiloh’s Lower School weave mindfulness into daily life. This might mean taking a few minutes to have students take deep breaths while counting slowly on their fingers, asking them to visualize a time or place where they feel relaxed and successful, or using a video to help them scan their bodies for tension points to relax. Students who can regulate their emotions tend to have stronger peer relationships, more empathy, and less anxiety. These are students who find it easier to ask for help and view mistakes as opportunities to grow and learn rather than failures.

Forming character is a crucial part of Beth Tfiloh students’ learning experience. Their rigorous general and Judaic dual-curriculum education includes learning to work cooperatively, reflecting and managing emotions, and respecting themselves and others. What better preparation for our busy complicated world can we offer?

To schedule your personal tour of our Lower School and see our faculty and students in action, contact the Beth Tfiloh admissions office: 410-413-2323, admissions@btfiloh.org.

Dr. Susan Holzman is Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School’s newly-appointed Lower School Principal. A highly respected educator, Dr. Holzman holds a doctorate in human development and psychology from Harvard University as well as a master’s degree in reading from Harvard.
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BETH TFILOH Dahan Community School
Roz & Marvin H. Weiner Family Campus | 3300 Old Court Road, Baltimore, MD 21208 | 410-486-1905 | mail@bethtfiloh.com