This week, I joined a small group of adults in a visit to a presentation that the SINAI students at Ma'ayanot High School for Girls in Teaneck offered.
Each one of the girls in the school — each with a significant, and significantly different, developmental challenge — read a description of something she’d done, working with others, to improve the school’s environment or to help other people.
It is extraordinarily moving to watch these young women, and to watch their teachers watching them.
If there were world enough, and time — and of course money — then every child would have an education like the Sinai students get. Not the content, of course, but the specificity.
Each one of these girls — like their peers in other Sinai schools, housed in other larger schools — gets an education tailored to her own needs, challenges, weaknesses, and strengths. But it’s more than that.
All of the teachers and administrators watch each of their girls carefully and shrewdly and with enormous patience. Like the best teachers in any setting, they are tolerant and open-minded, but they are not pushovers. They do not stand for bad behavior, or for laziness, although they do understand and make room for individual quirks and fears. It’s a firm but unmistakable love, and the girls clearly are comfortable knowing that they can stretch and that they can fail and that they won’t be allowed to fall.
Neurotypical children can get by more easily without such close supervision, but they too could benefit from it.
I have no idea how teachers can come up with the patience they need at Sinai, but then I can’t understand how any teacher can up with any patience any of the time. (It’s one of the many reasons why I’m not a teacher.) But I can recognize the gift of patience and attention and dedication when I see it.
Teachers Appreciation Week was from May 5 to May 11, so it’s just ended; perhaps unsurprisingly, it runs right into Mother’s Day. But just as mothers and fathers are to be valued and appreciated and loved every day, not just on that Sunday in May and then in June, teachers should be valued every day. When they’re good, what they do is magic.
At Ma’ayanot this week, with the Sinai girls, I got to see some of that magic in action.