Yeshiva day schools promoting their elementary school programs have observed in recent years that open house events are generally not the most widely attended or best-received recruitment tools.
School leaders at the Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva in Edison took stock of that fact and decided to totally redesign their open house event in December, to make it far more engaging for parents and prospective students. In the words of Head of School Rabbi Michael Ribalt, “We want families to experience the magic happening here regularly and to experience a day as their child would; they will be seeing lessons happening and also hearing the reasoning behind our unique approach.”
In RPRY’s new open house approach, parents will attend three mini class sessions, of 10-15 minutes each, where a teacher will present a brief lesson and then a learning specialist will narrate the rationale and the methodology behind the lesson. The three mini class sessions will represent the Early Childhood, the Lower School and the Middle School divisions of the school.
As Chana Luchins, principal of general studies, explained: “We seek to demystify our curriculum, to give every parent the framework for what their children will be experiencing and how the curriculum builds our students’ capacity for self-reflection and persistence in learning.” Sara Fischer, admissions coordinator at the school, added that the open house is designed “to emphasize the carefully planned, intentionality of the entire learning experience at RPRY.”
Parents attending the RPRY Open House on Sunday December 11, from 10 a.m.-noon, will also get to meet teachers, current students and their parents, and school administrators. They will observe that RPRY offers ideally sized classes of 15 students, led by a teacher and supported by a learning specialist—a pioneering approach that enables the teacher to better engage all students, including those needing greater enrichment and those needing additional support.
At the same time that the parents are sampling the RPRY approach, their young children (ages 3-10) will be treated to a TaleWise Science Show, with crafts, play time and other activities in a supervised environment.
“Our goal at RPRY is to prepare our students to excel in high school, where they’ll be expected to have a strong sense of self-reliance,” Ribalt said. “Every aspect of our curriculum is intentional, to help move our students to meet that goal. At the same time, we help our students develop a strong connection to Hashem, with emunah and love. The skills they develop here enable them to reflect on the messages of the Torah, at a high level, and all the school experiences—events, programs, extracurricular activities and other learning opportunities—are designed to accentuate those essential skills, of self-reflection and grit, or persistence, in learning.”
Luchins offered an example of how the school fosters self-reflection: A teacher conducts a review, with their students, before a test and asks each of them to circle the prospective test questions they are not sure how to answer and to come up with a plan of action to address those questions. In this way, the students learn how to self-regulate and to build their skills as lifelong learners. Ribalt stated that the school also uses lots of regular assessments of students to inform instruction and allow teachers to tailor instruction to match the students’ strengths and areas of challenge.
By Harry Glazer