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09/22/2016 - Professionally Speaking: A Educator’s Perspective by Volunteers Danielle Luzon and Claudie Harari, Pedagogic Specialists

Most of the children who come to Negba’s after-school Houses possess behavioral and psychological difficulties. They rebel against everything, and fail continually at school. Within Negba’s framework, they find calmness, affection and acceptance that every child should receive in a normative family.

In addition to the vital programming and services provided at Negba, its staff also cares about the children’s progress in school, and close relationships are developed and maintained with the children’s school principals, teachers and guidance counselors so the children will acquire the best learning skills to help them advance in their lives.

Although many of Negba’s children receive individualized tutoring and supplemental learning at school, we found that these efforts were essentially a review of what the children experience daily in school, and that they needed a different framework. So at Negba we utilize informal educational enrichment activities, including the use of games and computers, with the goal of changing the children’s attitude towards the concept of learning.

At the same time, in order to examine and more precisely understand the difficulties, we conducted a comprehensive assessment of the children’s academic capabilities in a number of areas. The conclusions were alarming. Approximately 80% of Negba’s children are below the average levels of children in their grades; their Hebrew reading is poor, and their English reading is very low. Levels are better in mathematics, thanks to an adaptive math technology computer program used at Negba, which demonstrates that the children are able to learn and progress when given appropriate learning tools.

It is no wonder, then, that due to severe learning deficiencies, the inability to keep pace with classroom progress, and a great lack in fundamental skills – which become even worse over time - children lose interest in school and become unmotivated.

But it is not enough to merely recognize that the children lack a desire to learn, suffer in the classroom, and feel that they are constant failures. To us this situation is unacceptable, and we want to change it. Our motto is: “Learning is like paving a road. It’s not a matter of knowledge, but of strategy, which can be acquired.” So, at Negba we established priorities and a plan of action:

• Establish a homework assistance program which concentrates on learning strategies which will develop independence, responsibility and a sense of organization, and help the children transition from passive learning (at school) to active learning (i.e., doing homework).

To do this Negba utilizes trained personnel, and thanks to the new tools offered to the children, homework is viewed more positively by them.

• Refine activities that encourage reading to improve language control and enrich vocabulary.

Doing so fosters exposure to the outside world and develops the ability for expression, both verbal and written. After all, reading is the road that leads to the development of cognitive abilities.

• Empower the educational counselors with the task of reading children's books aloud.

We led a series of workshops for the educational counselors to teach them techniques for reading aloud: How to use intonation, speech rhythm, how to use the pictures in a book, and so on. The ultimate goal is to infuse the children with a passion to read for pleasure, to become absorbed into the world of a story, and to personalize it. As one 10 year-old reader commented: "I can picture whatever I want. I can imagine each character any way I want."

The next step (which we are currently building) is to establish a multi-annual program with pedagogical goals based on the ages and interests of children which also strengthen their social and ethical values.

The Professionally Speaking column periodically invites a specialist to share a point of view on Negba’s activities and provide insight into the lives of Negba’s children.

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