OJCS is clearly meeting his needs
My priority with respect to a good school fit for my son has more to do with the character of the school (its warmth and respect for children and families) than with the academics. I wanted the option to provide my son with a fluent bilingual education. But his emotional well-being came first. And so OJCS was "on the table" this past fall, as an option I felt we needed to explore. My son rated his happiness last year (at his previous school) as a 2/10. In the fall of 2019, with a new teacher, his satisfaction was rated 5/10. I told my son I thought he deserved to enjoy school more than 5/10, and wanted him to see some options. He told me “There’s no use mom, I’m just a kid who doesn’t like school”. I felt very sad and hoped to prove him wrong. My son had a trial day at another private school which offered him the opportunity to achieve full bilingualism, and it was abundantly clear that this was not a good fit. By contrast, it was obvious that he truly enjoyed himself at his two brief trials at OJCS. OJCS's teachers and curriculum, of their own accord, had a lot to do with his enjoyment, but I credit Jennifer G. for making his trial an over the top success. She showed compassion and flexibility to accommodate some requests that would help my son feel at ease during his OJCS trial, as a child who is painfully shy in new situations. At my request, she helped put me in contact with a few families of children in the class where my son would be placed; this allowed him to be surrounded by a few familiar faces on his trial, dramatically reducing his nervousness. Changing schools can be very nerve wracking. However Jennifer put my son and me at ease; she was so warm and welcoming, and made sure to introduce us to lots of people at the school on our tour. OJCS could not have a better person working in admissions. No place is perfect and I think that my experiences with the education system have taught me that there will be variation teacher to teacher, and even group cohort to group cohort in schools, affecting how happy a child will be. I truly don’t think any school can be everything to everybody, but I really like the direction that I see OJCS is moving in. In the OJCS Blog, I learned that staff spent their PD day receiving training related to UPLS (unsolved problems and lagging skills), which is part of the collaborative problem-solving approach that I think is an incredibly important and valuable way in dealing with behavioural challenges with children. I was also impressed with the school's promotion of their 7 habits, which are beautiful guiding principals and values. One week after my son started OJCS, in Nov 2019, I asked him for his rating of his new school; he told me OJCS scored 7/10. My sadness over how he felt about school in the past has since faded. I suspect that as his friendships and bonds at OJCS deepen, this number is likely to keep climbing. This is a big relief to me as OJCS is clearly meeting his needs much better than they have been met elsewhere. I asked my son what was most challenging about his transition, in his first week. He mentioned that Hebrew and French were hardest for him, but when I asked him to tell me his favourite parts of his day, he surprised me stating Hebrew and French “because they were fun”! He has not said anything has been fun academically at school since kindergarten. His typical response to this question in the past would previously have been "recess". In one month’s time, my son learned to read in Hebrew (a new skill) and in his second month he has come home singing in Hebrew, and surprising me with little unexpected Jewish and Hebrew tidbits, frequently responding to me saying “ken” instead of “yes”. My son recently had testing - and apparently missed the OCDSB school board’s criteria for giftedness by a hair - which means that he was probably often bored at his previous school. This did seem to have some impact on his behaviour and my son was frequently socializing (and distracting others) due to boredom, which at times frustrated his teacher. Two months into OJCS, my son is engaged and has apparently been a teacher’s dream. I have not had the pleasure to see his teachers in action but I think it has everything to do with how they teach. Right when my son entered OJCS, the school has been open and interested in knowing about his learning strengths and needs. It is early days yet, but my suspicion is that he is much more likely to get the enrichment he needs academically with the small class size, and with the school's openness to meet individual needs. OJCS is not the road we initially thought we would take for our son, but we have been very pleased with our decision!
The Ottawa Jewish Community School