“It Mattered that I Came”: Addressing the Social and Emotional Well-being of Students
 Sorel Goldberg Loeb, DJCS Vice Principal

Over the past challenging year, our DJCS community has worked hard to create and sustain relationships across time and space. In some ways, this is nothing new to us as a people: We Jews have always engaged with people, texts and traditions from places and times very different from our own. We have always valued each individual life and created community by learning and celebrating together. In the past year we’ve seen again and again how learning together creates community, even in virtual space!

As we begin a second fall of online learning at DJCS, we’re very aware that our students may be experiencing a range of emotions and ongoing stresses resulting from the pandemic, an extended period of online learning and now the return to regular classrooms. We hope that our decision to offer our program online through the fall will provide our students and their families with a sense of continuity and security amid all the other changing circumstances.

As the year begins, we’ve devoted some of our professional preparation time to reflecting on the needs of our students in this unprecedented situation. Our staff is exploring how we can ensure that each student feels welcome and significant and that he or she is valued member of our community, using a framework developed through the “Responsive Curriculum” project. A key goal of this work is for each student, each day to feel “It mattered that I came”. 

For our staff this means planning activities that help students build relationships with one another and engage in learning through a variety of modalities that address different learning styles and interests. It means using techniques that help students be fully present and focused during class time, including times for moving our bodies, exploring new art projects or listening to music.  It means incorporating opportunities to make personal connections with the content of our curriculum, whether by learning how to introduce oneself in Hebrew, imagining how it feels to sleep outside in a Sukkah, or creating a personal response to a Jewish value or story.

We know that it is important for the social and emotional well-being of all students to feel a sense of safety, connection and belonging. Together we’re working to create class routines and activities that remind students that they are cared for as individuals and how to care, show respect and be responsible towards one another so that each and every one of us will know “it mattered that I came”!