Just Community & Town Hall
Every week at Town Hall, our students and teachers come together to do exactly this. Together, they tackle challenging and controversial ideas -- but this isn’t debate club. Instead, Town Hall is a dialogue of learning; there are opinions aplenty, but there is also consideration, reception, and respect. At Shalhevet, we believe that conversation is the key to growth, and whether the subject is gun violence or college admissions, the only way forward is to talk about it -- together.
Democracy at Work
The Just Community of Shalhevet serves as an educational vehicle with which to teach students how to live and work in a democratic society in an ethical manner. The Just Community also is a means through which students are empowered to be active participants in their own education.
We take the lead in innovative Jewish education with our unique “Just Community” model of school governance. Developed at Harvard University as a way of teaching moral character traits such as respect, fairness, kindness, honesty and democratic values, the Just Community works through all aspects of students’ formal and informal education to create responsible and involved citizens ready to contribute to a democratic society. The founders of Shalhevet have modified the original model to incorporate Midot into the Just Community’s overall character goals. Our students learn to make mature ethical decisions reflecting Jewish values.
Three major components of Shalhevet’s Just Community
The three arms of Shalhevet’s Just Community teach critical skills and values that endure far beyond students’ high school years. Together, our authoritative classrooms, weekly Town Hall meetings and elected Fairness Committee merge with other Just Community components – classroom ethical dilemma discussions, community service, Zionist activities and parent education – to create young adults of both academic accomplishment and Menschlichkeit.
This approach to teaching and discipline retains the authority of the teacher and administrator, but gives a powerful voice to students, enabling them to participate in their own education. For example, while teachers set classroom policies, students are asked to discuss them in terms of fairness and effectiveness. Some policies may be modified to balance the needs of both teachers and students. Students learn to appreciate the need for fair policies that require responsibilities on the part of both student and teacher. Once these policies are accepted and “owned” by the student, motivation to achieve is increased and there are virtually no behavior management problems in the classroom.
A hallmark of Shalhevet for 19 years, the weekly Town Hall allows for students, teachers and administrators to discuss school policies, propose new activities and rules, as well as debate ethical concerns within school and in the larger community. Students learn to voice opinions, respect other points of view, balance needs of all parties and develop social sensitivity. This is one of the most powerful components in developing moral and ethical character.
Another unique aspect of the Just Community is a joint teacher-student Fairness Committee to assure that all members of the school community (students and teachers) are treated fairly, respectfully and responsibly. Here students learn the judicial process of justice for all, as well as developing analytic skills in negotiating values in conflict.