by Rabbi Uri Feldman, Head of School, Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael (Chestnut Hill, MA)
The Torah U’Mesorah Mashgiach Training Program
Meeting Our Students’ Needs
Within any school setting, there are inevitably students who need the extraordinary: A helping hand or extra guidance beyond that provided by the classroom teacher. Yet, sometimes it is not easy for teachers to recognize when a student needs additional support. To equip teachers to identify when students may be encountering social-emotional or learning challenges, Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael High School in Chestnut Hill, MA, is participating in a newly-launched year-long Mashgiach training program offered through Torah U’Mesorah. Our participation was made possible by a generous grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation and is managed by Gateways (through the B’Yadenu Initiative).
The program focuses on training a small number of a school’s faculty to identify the needs of students who may be experiencing academic, behavioral or social difficulties. Program topics include Anxiety Disorder in children and adolescents, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, anger management and dealing with trauma. Though the program focuses on aiding those students who present with challenges, its goal is to promote a healthier school community for all students. To this end the course also covers technology awareness and techniques for promoting emotionally healthy students. At Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael, we currently have one teacher participating in the program.
After completing the training, the faculty “Mashgiach” plays two important roles: The first is to serve as a resource for fellow faculty members. Teachers and administrators are able to discuss a variety of mental health issues they see students encountering at school and to work with the Mashgiach on strategies to meet these students’ needs. Second, the Mashgiach is a resource for students who consult with them and offers guidance and emotional support. Importantly, the Mashgiach is also empowered to refer students to a mental health professional, when appropriate.
The Mashgiach training program is based out of New York, and Torah U’Mesorah has accommodated our school, as well as many others across the country, by live streaming the weekly sessions. Presenters have included Dr. David Pelcovitz, Rabbi Dr. Zev Brown, and Dr. Norman Blumenthal, among others.
Although we are only halfway through the training, our school has already begun to benefit from our participation. Our designated Mashgiach has ”turnkeyed” the training to the rest of the faculty. As a result, we have begun to develop a common understanding about emotional health issues and to learn how we can best support our students. We look forward to identifying students’ early trouble signs and teachers collaborating to find interventions. Our ultimate goal is to meet every student’s needs and ensure that no student falls through the cracks.