Expectations Part 2, By Chaim Heller, Head of School
While our focus is always on your child’s development as a thinker and learner, this year we are placing a strong emphasis on ethical and spiritual grounding, as well. Whether in the meaningful conversations that take place in modeh ani/tefillah/minyan/kabshab every week, or our desire to place reciprocal expectations in a Jewish values-based covenant, or our increased focus on explicit classroom guidance in these areas, we think our world needs more ethical and spiritual development.
And it is for our kids’ sake as well as for the world’s sake! Dr. Lisa Miller at Columbia University has been researching the impact of spirituality on child development, and what she has found is stark: adolescents who describe themselves as having a sense of personal spiritual connection are 80% less likely than their peers to abuse drugs and alcohol, 70% less likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, and 60% less likely to suffer from major depressive disorders. I believe Dr. Miller’s work is at the forefront of a wave of research around spiritual grounding in childhood, akin to the one in the 1990s that brought the importance of Social and Emotional Learning to our collective attention.
The fact that SDJA is turning as a school toward ethical and spiritual grounding does not mean that we do not have an obligation to be as academically innovative and creative as our peers. Quite the contrary. That is why our school believes that challenging minds and inspiring purpose go hand in hand.
We expect our students to be challenged by their teachers and peers and to challenge themselves. We expect them to be inspired by Jewish teaching to find a higher purpose and to lead lives of intention. We expect them to ask hard questions and imagine new possibilities, and to put their lives in joyful service of repairing the world.
We know that you share our expectations and we look forward to working with you to see them come to fruition in our children and our world.