June 14, 2007


Three sheepish eighth grade graduates were honored, and the additional ten or so Yeshiva students in Hart's program each were recognized for their accomplishments this year. This will be the last such ceremony for us here. Hart's therapists, teachers and I have been preparing him for his transfer to a new school this fall. (Of course, Hart is unaware that we adults have been working on the transfer for months.)

But, five years in one school with the same group of classmates and teachers is a long time in the life of a 13-year-old. As I looked around the gym at the usual gathering of staff, pupils, and parents, I realized that five years has been a long time for me, too. Over the years, I have attended weekly meetings, formal staffings, numerous assemblies, a number of Bar Mitzvahs, social events and holiday programs, with this same cadre. I have grown to know these kids and their parents, and to appreciate the tireless staff beyond measure.

The principal made a short speech. The graduates got diplomas, handshakes, and made their remarks. Classroom teachers handed out certificates for "improvement in reading," "love of mathematics," "excellence in science." For Hart, an award for "art and creativity."

Hart's academic growth these past few years has been minimal, despite everyone's Herculean efforts. This has been a subject of endless frustration. I can only wish that he will make greater progress in the new school.

Rabbi, who teaches religious studies to these young scholars, also distributed awards. Each was accompanied by a short d'var.* "Lamp of learning." Not Hart. "Listening attentively." No way. "Asking insightful questions." Hardly. "Excellence in Hebrew." Hah. And on through the alphabet. Until, "Lev Tov*--Being Good-Natured." [You are] sensitive to the well-being of God's creatures, you are friendly and good-hearted. You are willing to help out with a minyan* and fair in play.

I feel much despair over Hart's academic limitations of course, but suddenly I realized that a lev tov is an extraordinary achievement. It cannot be taught.

* Religious explanation.
* Literally, a good heart
* Having become Bar Mitzvah, Hart can be counted in a prayer quorum, which requires ten people.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Having a lev tov is indeed a wonderful thing. Which, as you rightly point out, not everyone can achieve. Even those with strong academic skills but soul-less interiors. Loved the fairy tale too!