Where Do We Learn To Be A Mensch? A Collaborative Approach to Social-Emotional Learning

  • Upper Division
Dr. Rachel Gall, Denver JDS psychologist

By Dr. Rachel Gall, Denver JDS psychologist
and Kaitlyn West, Denver JDS counseling intern

As defined by Denver JDS students, a mensch is a person of integrity and honor, someone who does the right thing without being asked. The counseling and advisory departments have partnered to introduce MenschSkills this year, a weekly life skills and health class offered to sixth through ninth grade students.

But as excited as we are about MenschSkills, you as parents and caregivers have been teaching and modeling these values to your students their whole lives!

When children are young, what it means to be a mensch, to do the “right thing,” is fairly straightforward. We learn to share our toys, comfort a friend who is upset, clean up our messes, and do a mitzvah for someone in need.

As our children get older, doing the “right thing” becomes more nebulous. What does it mean to be a mensch when you promised your best friend you wouldn’t tell their secret that they were cutting themselves, but you are starting to think they really need help? What does it mean to be a mensch when your friends are teasing a classmate over a group text and you feel it has gone too far, but you don’t want to be the next target? What is the “right thing” to do when you are feeling pressured to move faster sexually than you are comfortable with, and you don’t know what to say?

Check in with yourself — how would you would handle these situations? What is it like to imagine your child navigating these complex scenarios?

These all-too-real situations are nuanced, emotionally charged, and loaded with ethical and religious questions. If we address them only at school, or only at home, we miss the opportunity to partner together to bring these conversations into our students’ lives.

That is why Josh Lake and I have begun hosting MenschSkills Parent Breakfasts each month. These breakfasts often include a sample MenschSkills lesson or an expert guest speaker. There are so many reasons we are excited about partnering with you!

Parents learn about our approach to health education so we can share a common language in having these conversations at home and school.

  • We share current research about statistics and trends, neuroscience and the developing brain, and strategies for dealing with challenging issues.
  • It’s an opportunity to hear experts in the field talk about their specialty areas.
  • We help each other keep up on the latest lingo, slang terms, substances, social media trends… you name it!
  • Parents get support in starting the conversation at home with your students — providing extra connection!
  • As school staff, we have a grasp on social dynamics and current issues that are affecting our students.
  • It’s a place for parents to get advice and support from other parents who are also asking questions or dealing with similar challenges.

Our next MenschSkills Parent Breakfast is open to all Denver JDS parents in the Upper Division. Join us on Tuesday, January 22 from 8-9:30 a.m. in the Lower Division Discovery Lab to hear from Colt Smith, clinical outreach associate at Sandstone Care, who will answer questions related to drug/alcohol use and teens. Click here to register for this free event. 

Questions? Contact me (Dr. Rachel Gall) or Josh Lake.

Want to get an email each time a new blog post goes up? Just click the yellow bell button above this post. Then click on "Blog" and select "Next." Fill out your contact information and select "Sign Up."