When I was working in the public school system, I often struggled with clearly articulating our school’s goal of creating students who were responsible, respectful, and ethical. We were engaged in character education and providing positive behavior supports for students, but there was a word that was always on the tip of my tongue, but that I knew that the students’ parents and my colleagues would not recognize it.

The word is mensch. Here, at the Schechter School of Long Island, I can say to you that we are in the business of building mensches and you know what I mean. A mensch exhibits derekh eretz on a daily basis, moving through the world with respect for all.

Derekh eretz, however, as its literal translation infers is not a destination, but a path. Last week, Bonnie Cahn, our school counselor, and I met with the 6th graders (we will be meeting soon with the 7th and 8th grades) to discuss how to follow this path. We laid out four guideposts for them that will help keep them on their path: Respect for Myself; Respect for Others; Respect for Property; and Respect for Learning.

Together, these four Respects (kavod in Hebrew) will help our students Roar to Respect. Our sixth graders, with the help of Ms. Pitschi, worked to define how to demonstrate each of these Respects in a variety of school settings, from the classroom to the bathroom to the school bus. Soon, after we have the input of the 7th and 8th graders, we will see signs throughout the Middle School promoting our desire to Roar to Respect.

As we move into this New Year in just a few short days, our hope is that our Middle School students will recommit themselves to walking the path of derekh eretz.

Shanah Tova v’Shabbat Shalom!

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