Rashi’s kindergarteners are filled with wonder. They graduate eight years later as accomplished and engaged students with a strong sense of self who understand their obligation to make a difference in the world. What happens in between?

How do Rashi students get from being adorable to formidable? One piece of the puzzle lies in the structure of our Middle School.

“I feel like I came into my high school classes with a step up over other students,” recalls Rashi alumni Josh Sims Speyer (Rashi ‘13). “We had very small, intimate classes which were discussion-based so I became very comfortable talking to teachers and adults.” Rashi’s Middle School focuses on four pillars of personal growth: Academic, Social, Physical, and Spiritual Growth. Taking a hybrid approach to the traditional Middle School philosophy, Rashi’s Middle School faculty encourages social discovery while emphasizing academic learning. Rashi’s Middle School honors our students’ intelligence and challenges them to both stretch and deepen their understanding of integrated concepts. Classes are led using the Socratic method, providing students the opportunity to grapple with concepts and strengthening their sense of self.

Academic Growth

There is a continuation, in many ways, of the academic program from Lower School to Middle School. Students study the same subjects that are found in our lower grades, of course, at age-appropriate levels. However, instead of centralized classes led by one teacher, Rashi’s Middle School relies on subject experts to teach individual subject areas. Accordingly, students move from classroom to classroom throughout the day. Through rich debate, meaningful research, scientific experimentation, and engaged reading, Middle Schoolers learn to be deep, critical thinkers. Math levels are distinguished more distinctly in Middle School, allowing students who excel in math to explore high-school–level mathematical concepts. Rashi’s Middle Schoolers begin learning a third language in Grades 7 and 8 as they add Spanish.

A linchpin of Rashi’s Middle School is the role of Dean of Students, charged with nurturing students’ academic and leadership skills along with guiding them through the high school application process. Joni Fishman, Rashi’s Dean of Students, teaches Organizational Skills to all sixth graders, ensuring that they know themselves as learners in order to leverage their strengths and support their weaknesses to take on the responsibilities that come along with ramping up their academic studies and becoming young adults. Joni also advises our Student Government.

Social Growth

Our Middle Schoolers are often presented with opportunities to grow socially. As the oldest students in our building, they are encouraged to serve as mentors, leaders, and role models to others. Rashi’s student government is a very rich part of the Middle School experience. Its many branches make it easy for students to find a place that fits their interests and get involved regardless of obtaining an elected position. Activities of student government include creating social justice opportunities, organizing social events, and improving the community.

Each grade level in the Middle School participate in overnight trips: Grade 6 attends Nature’s Classroom, Grade 7 goes to Washington, DC, and Grade 8 takes a two-week trip to Israel. Aside from being stimulating, real-world learning experiences, these overnight trips serve to deepen bonds between our students and strengthen their sense of independence. Indeed, the difference in attitude and cohesion between a class before and after their Israel trip is remarkable.

We further encourage social cohesion in our Middle School by offering mixed-grade electives once a week. Three times per year, students enroll in electives spanning from advanced coding classes to athletic practice to volunteering with Jewish Coalition for Literacy to read with students at a local elementary school. Breaking down grade-level barriers provides an opportunity for our Middle Schoolers to expand their social groups while exploring an elective that serves to challenge skill sets that may not be stressed in other curricular areas.

Physical Growth

At Rashi, we honor our students’ adolescent years, supporting the profound physical change that they experience during this time. We offer Health and Wellness classes to help them better understand themselves, their place in the community, and the changes they are experiencing, along with an interscholastic sports program to challenge and enforce their sense of self-pride. Over the course of the school year, students can join Rashi’s soccer, basketball, baseball, and softball teams which compete with other independent Middle Schools in the Boston area.

In Health and Wellness class, Rashi’s Middle Schoolers are introduced to concepts of leadership, communication, empathy, anti-bias, and digital citizenship, all which serve to help them better form their sense of self.

Spiritual Growth

Jewish studies classes encourage students to grapple with Jewish text and profound ethical questions. Sharon Clevenger, our Middle School Rabbi, leads both minyanim, where students celebrating their bar or bat mitzvah are called to the Torah to read for their classmates, and Kabbalat Shabbat, a reflective time where students recall special moments from the week to check in with each other while welcoming Shabbat. Middle Schoolers are challenged to think critically in order to understand themselves and to empathize with others whose opinions, values or beliefs are not the same as their own. Rashi’s Middle School partners with the Anti-Defamation League to provide anti-bias training to our seventh graders who, in turn, lead discussions with the rest of the Middle School about what they learned.

A Bastion for Jewish Pre-teens

Rashi’s Middle School stewards students through a physically, emotionally, and socially complex life stage in such a way that they arrive in high school engaged, self-aware, and ready to thrive.

See our middle-schoolers in action. Watch Rashi’s Class of 2018 perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

This post has been contributed by a third party. The opinions, facts and any media content are presented solely by the author, and JewishBoston assumes no responsibility for them. Want to add your voice to the conversation? Publish your own post here.