My name is Michele Markley. My daughter Mia is a third grader and my son Adam is in first grade. Full disclosure, my husband is a rabbi. So most people might look at me and say, well OBVIOUSLY you were going to send your kids to Rashi. But if you ask anyone in admissions here, you will quickly learn that this was not at all the case.
We had heard AMAZING things about Rashi and thought it was a terrific school, but we pay taxes in Needham, a wonderful school district. My husband and I both grew up in public schools. His mother was a public school teacher. I am a public school special education teacher. There are so many amazing things about public school so why would we PAY to send our children to Rashi?
I had pretty much decided that we were going to send our children to our local school when we attended Rashi’s annual dinner with friends. The theme of the night was the social justice focus at Rashi. We watched a video and learned all about the different ways that social justice is embodied at Rashi. When we left, my husband Todd and I turned to each other and realized, maybe we needed to give this place another chance. The idea that our children would be going to school each day where social justice, community, and other crucial values in our minds were being taught each and every moment was something we might not having given enough attention to. Of course there are important values taught in public school, TO BE SURE. But the other reality in public school is that we are under different pressures.
By the time children reach third grade in public schools in Massachusetts, they need to take the PARCC or MCAS standardized tests. Therefore, there has become this sense that we need to start teaching certain skills earlier. This leads to a lot of pressure for kids to master certain skills, even if they aren’t quite developmentally ready to do so. This rush to squeeze in everything we need to teach does not leave a lot of room for in-depth exploration much of the time.
At Rashi, my children have been exposed to programming robots, weaving, hearing from a number of different social justice organizations, partnering with NewBridge for multigenerational programs and so much more. And these are not one-shot deals- they are part of an integrated curriculum, being touched upon in a number of the different curricular areas. Even more importantly for me, though, these experiences teach critical thinking skills, problem solving, teamwork, compassion, and perseverance. I hear many stories from both Mia and Adam about needing to work out challenging issues through testing different solutions and working together with peers. These are the skills I want them to be developing.
My daughter’s amazing second grade teacher (just one of the many gifted teachers we have had here thus far) dedicated a significant amount of time teaching about multiple intelligences and the importance of making mistakes and putting forth effort in order to grow our brains. That year, Mia had gotten the idea that she wasn’t good at math. The social emotional learning she was doing in class, paired with the extra reminders from her teacher, allowed Mia to realize that she was in control of her success. She left second grade a much more confident mathematician. Each and every day, there is something new that happens here which reminds me that we could not have made a better decision for our children’s education, for their emotional well-being, and for their development as quality human beings on this earth.