by Joel Lurie Grishaver
Since the election, “values” have been a big thing. We know that “values” in the context of the election meant, “No abortions,” and “No same sex marriage.” Jewish values are completely different. The president made it clear that he works from his value system and never compromises it; a Jewish commitment to values is from the start, a commitment to compromise. With on three exceptions, murder, sexual assault, and idolatry, all Jewish values are to be compromised. For example, Jews are against abortion EXCEPT when the health of the mother is at stake—AND—most Jewish scholars (and the ideologs of the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionst movements include “mental health”).
by Lizabeth A. Fogel
What does it mean to teach? I am going to start with a brief overview of a few educational ideas and then in subsequent columns I will get down to the nuts and bolts of what you need to know to survive in the classroom. In the future I will share with you useful way to: Handle classroom management issues, use curriculum guides, work with student with special needs, differentiate your lessons, and a plethora of other topics.
What I would like you to do now is think of teaching from three different perspectives: As an art, a science, and as a reflective practice. In 1957 Gilbert Highet a renowned critic and professor of literature wrote The Art of Teaching where he postulated that successful teaching must be considered an art. He believed it involved two things—emotions and values. By this he meant we must get our students excited about learning and we must believe that there is no such thing as an unteachable student.
by Laurie Bellet
This is a follow up to Laurie’s last piece on bulletin boards, which can be found here.
Great mail this week!
From Doreen, regarding student names:
“I take photos of each class and mount them separately on colored papers. I have the children write their names near their faces, using an arrow if necessary. The colored sheets help me find the paper quickly at the beginning of class.”
Photos are terrific! Recently, I substituted for my friend Debi, a first grade teacher. In her lesson plans I found thumbnail photos of each child along with every name. This allowed me to greet each child as s/he walked through the door.
You can also tag student books with their photos to easily return an errant book to its reader. Texts like Ot even have a place to glue in a photo.
by Joel Lurie Grishaver
I have this adult Talmud class that has been going for more than fifteen years and that has been more or less the same people for five years. We were studying a passage from Sanhedrin that discusses the end of time, specifically resurrection of the dead. My class hated the text. It kept confronting them with ideas that they did not like, with ideas that challenged their own belief system. It fell into this rhythm where they ganged up on the text, shooting it as fool of holes as possible. Essentially, even though they knew that I was not imposing the Talmud belief system, they were uncomfortable differing with it dramatically. Meanwhile, I began defending the text, explaining its thinking on its terms again each of their challenges. The discussion got a little heated. At one point as the voices on both sides began to be raised, and the tone got harsher, I asked, “Are we fighting?” It was a joke, thinking of my relationship with different people in my life, but on a certain level it was a serious comment. The class protested, “no we are actually learning more tonight than most nights.” I think there are a couple of big lessons that comes out of that moment.
First, when we teach text, we need to invite our students to really engage the text. That means not just learning what the text says, but using the text to learn what they believe. Here was a text that could seem obscure that made big difference to those in the room.
Second, there is a difference between speaking for the text and speaking for yourself. This does not mean that the teacher cannot share their own thoughts (if they are clearly stated as such) but a text teacher has a responsibility to speak for the text on its own terms. That is a big part of the process.
Three, the Jewish tradition celebrates arguing, not fighting. Inviting your students to get passionate about their beliefs—and fairly challenging those beliefs—is powerful teaching. When we act as Jewish teachers, we are never merely conveying information or simple understandings, instead, we are always inviting dialogue—and that dialogue when it is honest, sometimes involves arguments. Conflict can make for good teaching and good learning.
by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and Paul Golin
Most of us would be embarrassed to learn we’ve been using hurtful or insulting language without even realizing it. Perhaps you’ve had to gently explain to a family member that while rugs or vases from Asia may be called “oriental,” people from Asia are “Asian.” Or that terms for African Americans once appropriately used in the names of organizations like the NAACP have since become offensive to some. For us, once we learned that the term “gypped” emerged from negative stereotypes given to Gypsies, we never let the word cross our lips again (and have settled into the more ethnically-neutral phraseology “ripped off”).
An awareness of language is especially crucial for those of us trying to welcome the increasing number of newcomers into the Jewish community—there’s hardly a Jewish family in America today that doesn’t include at least one family member married to a person who was not born Jewish. It is time that our language catches up to this reality.
The first step is to immediately expunge “goy”/”goyim”, “shagetz” and “shiksa” from our vocabulary, particularly because of the Biblical source of the latter two (abomination). Whatever “goy”/”goyim” once meant in the Bible (nation/s or people/s other than Israel), traveling through the Yiddish language certainly changed its meaning from neutral to negative. It marks someone as an outsider, not only different from Jews but not as good, as in the phrase “goyish kup” meaning “stupid.” Yet the word is still in constant use today, like in cutesy headlines from Jewish newspapers (‘Boy Meets Goy’ Vexes ‘Sex and the City’ As Show Enters Final Season).