The Power of Small

Recently, we read the parsha Vayera where we learn about the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim(welcoming guests). Avraham welcomed three strangers into his tent and offered them food and drink. Little did he know that he was hosting three angels that would bring Sarah, his wife, the news that she would one day have a child. We too welcomed guests this past week as we hosted our first two Open Houses. Visitors experienced the warmth, creativity, and vibrancy of our school. All guests were personally greeted in each classroom by a student ambassador who stepped away from the lesson to shake hands, introduce him/herself, and explain what the visitors were observing. Even our kindergarteners, only two months into the school year, rose to the challenge – and what an impact it made. All our guests commented on how impressed they were by our students.

Our school is an easy one to tour because in every room you seen engaged students, passionate teachers, and bulletin boards/hallways that showcase student learning, Jewish/secular integration, and innovation. Before I began my tours, I prefaced them by telling our guests that they might only see five students in the classroom. It was important to frame what this can offer. Our small classes translate to a teacher student ratio that one could only dream of in a larger setting. It results in teachers knowing their students incredibly well. There is a lot written today about personalized learning, but most often what follows is an article about the ability for websites and computer programs to match students’ needs. At our school, when we talk about personalized learning, it means that the teacher has a close relationship with the student and can speak to his/her strengths, challenges, and interests. Research has shown that student achievement is directly linked to the relationships formed by teachers and students as well as between and amongst classmates. We see this happening on a daily basis. Recently, I heard two compelling anecdotes from students new to our school. A first grader commented to his mom, “I like my new school better because I never have to wait for other kids to finish. My teacher always has something for me to do.” And then, there was this comment from an older student, “At my old school, there were so many cliques and people were separated into groups. At Cohen Hillel, we all play in one big group. It’s much better this way.”

I came across a great quote. It said, “Nothing is bigger than childhood.” I interpreted it to mean that this is the time when children have opportunities for big fun, big thinking, and big freedom to express themselves. In a small school, children feel safe and excited to try new things with adults who support them and classmates who know them well. Friendships span grades and students care about each other in a close-knit community. This the power of small; for now, it is who we are. Our goal is to grow and yet retain the values, excellence, and benefits of being a smaller school. We need your help in spreading the word. Encourage your friends to come to an Open House, or book a private tour with me so they can experience the gift of a Cohen Hillel education. Great things are happening; it is the power of small. May we continue to go from strength to strength.