- Outside the Classroom
- Upper Division
By Shayna Friedman, Director of Admission
It’s possible that there has never been a more challenging time to raise teenagers than today. With an increase in drug and alcohol usage, online and offline bullying, academic pressures, and rampant use of social media, parents seem to be losing sleep over their childrens’ well-being at a much earlier age.
The truth is, these challenges don’t just begin in high school. As young as 5th and 6th grade, kids are becoming exposed to a world of dangerous behaviors that have the ability to shape a young person’s life.
Parents are asking themselves the same question more and more: Where are the examples of teens who do thrive in high school and beyond? What habits do they possess, and how did they get them? What environments do I place my child in to ensure their success?
After educating some of the Denver area’s most successful high school students, we find that the students who truly thrive are those who stretch far beyond academic excellence. Yes, of course, good grades play a role (but that’s obvious, right?). But the happiest, most fulfilled, most confident teenagers have developed 4 core non-conventional life skills that parents often miss.
A child’s ability to stand up for him/herself and formulate an opinion that they can clearly articulate is one of the strongest skills a teen will carry with them throughout their lives.
Unfortunately, many school environments with large classroom sizes discourage students from exercising this skill. It’s easy to hide in the back of the classroom, not raise your hand, and not ask questions, which creates a disconnect between a child and their school environment. This is ultimately detrimental to a child’s confidence and sense of self, making it easy to “go with the crowd” and follow others’ behavior.
At Denver JDS, each child is encouraged and supported to formulate their own perspectives about each aspect of their education. Diversity in opinion is celebrated, not punished, and this is especially prevalent within Jewish learning. We believe that each child should study Jewish text and practice and think critically about what this means to them. No one Jewish perspective or level of practice is pushed on our students, and open dialogue is encouraged on a daily basis.
This not only teaches students to become critical thinkers but to become confident in asking questions, sharing their thoughts with confidence, advocating for their needs, and engaging in diverse and stimulating conversations with their peers.
"Denver JDS has not only taught me how to be a leader and stand up for what I believe in, but how to be proud of my Jewish identity coming first before anything." - Mia Gugino, Class of 2019.
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A key component of a child’s success in forming a positive self-identity is being a part of a community where they feel supported, included, and loved.
Yet, we all know how easy it is for high school students to slip through the cracks, not feel a part of the “popular group” and become isolated in their school environment. This is one of the most common traits you see amongst teens who suffer from depression and anxiety disorders.
The key to solving this is easy: Ensure that your teen is a part of a community where they feel needed, where their identity can be strengthened, and where they play an important role. This can be a particular club on campus, a sports team, the school play, or the school band. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the activity is, but being a part of something bigger than themselves goes miles with a teen’s confidence.
But, we believe in community engagement with a twist. The flip side to being involved in so many extracurriculars is that their identity and confidence become dependent on their involvement. What happens when the soccer season ends? Or the school play has its final show? We never want our students’ happiness to be dependent on external factors. We want to give them the skill of developing it from within.
This comes down to teaching teens an important lesson: Happiness and fulfillment is not about what you do. It’s simply about who you are, and how you act in your community on a daily basis.
This is why, at Denver JDS, our small and intimate school community is a part of their daily academic journey. It’s instilled in every classroom, every Friday Shabbat event, and every time they walk down the hall and interact with their peers. Our school is not just a school - it’s a community that each student is an important part of.
Denver JDS is currently open and accepting students for grades 9-12.
Interested in learning more? Schedule a call with us!
When you were a teen, were you the first to sign up for the student body elections? Or did you spearhead any new clubs on campus? Probably not. This is because, again, teens are often fearful of stepping out of their comfort zones and challenging themselves in front of their peers.
However, practicing leadership in a variety of ways is one of the fastest ways to turn a teen from shy and insecure, to confident and proud. Sure, the jump is often a scary one, but it shows teens that they can succeed at anything they put their minds to.
Leadership doesn’t have to be as big and bold as running for student council. In fact, at Denver JDS, we begin to instill this practice by having our high school students take an elementary student under their wing and mentor them throughout the year. For many of these high schoolers, this is the first time they’ve been given responsibility like this and are trusted to help someone. You can imagine the impact this one small initiative has on a teen’s confidence.
Once our high school students tackle smaller challenges like that, the sky is the limit. Our teens are taught and encouraged to become leaders in social and philanthropic organizations throughout Denver and beyond, and regularly spearhead new campus clubs and activities. They don’t shy away from taking on challenges - they’re excited to do it and ready to contribute to their community.
"Denver JDS has allowed me to grow into the confident, outgoing leader I am. It has allowed me to explore friendships with various kinds of people I seemingly had nothing in common with. The amazing Denver JDS family has made me who I am." - Shannon Silberman, Class of 2020
Whether you come from a public or private school, stepping into the “real” world can be a shock to the system after high school. This is why helping teens cultivate skills of kindness, empathy, and understanding is crucial to their emotional development and long-term success and is one of our top priorities at Denver JDS.
In many academic environments, students are often taught to be “response listeners”. This means that they’re accustomed to hearing what others are saying without the real intention of listening, but instead, with the intention of responding (or becoming defensive).
Think about it - do you have a habit of doing this yourself? When someone is speaking to you, are you fully present in what they’re saying, or are you preparing what you’re going to say next? This is a common habit that, unfortunately, many students develop at a young age in an academic setting.
However, one of the most common practices we see amongst the happiest, most fulfilled, and confident teens is that they listen with compassion to others’ opinions and experiences, no matter how far they are from their own. They know to be fully present when others are sharing and be open-minded to a diverse range of world views, judgment-free.
This is practiced daily in our classrooms and is one of the strongest habits our students develop and carry with them throughout their college years and beyond.
Denver Jewish Day School is currently accepting students for grades 9-12. We would be happy to learn more about your family and how we can help support your child in becoming the most well-rounded and confident version of themselves. Book a call with us here. We look forward to meeting you!