by Carol Oseran Starin
When I was a Sunday School kid, we had weekly ‘worship services’ in the sanctuary. The challenge for me was to figure out how far back I could sit so that I could talk about fool around without getting caught.
When I was an 18-year old teacher the challenge was to figure out which two kids to sit between.
Older and wiser. Tefillah provides so many opportunities. And, as Ira Wise points out, there are important things to consider. Within Ira’s five points, I have interspersed ideas from other members of our Let Me Count the Was Advisory Group.
by Laurie Bellet
The other day, I uncovered our family baby carriage, polished the chrome, and folded the blankets neatly within. I am going to be a Bubbe! This baby will sleep in the same pram as did her Daddy. She will be wrapped in the same blankets, lovingly crafted by her Great-Grandmother. Honoring our past, brings us love in the present.
I was surrounded by precious memories when I received a copy of Torah Aura’s new lifecycle book The Circle of Jewish Life. I opened it directly to the part about baby naming, since that is where my family currently places itself on the circle. Yet, no matter what stage of life a family is at, this book brings into focus our history, our rituals and the connection we have, to one another, through our life cycle moments.
I am always pleased, and a little perplexed, when I receive requests for learning activities to compliment life cycle curricula. Pleased, because the content area is so very rich, perplexed, for the very same reason. There are, in fact, so many experiences we can offer our students, to honor each stage of the life of a Jewish family.
This year, our school community is fortunate to have many babies, newborn, or expected shortly. When their teacher is pregnant, students rush to me, eager to make a wimple.
by Carol Oseran Starin
This year, 5768, is a shmittah year, a year of sabbatical for the land. The Torah tells us that every seventh year the land is to lie fallow and debts are to be remitted. The word shmittah means ‘release.’ Shmittah is a fascinating and ingenious concept. In current-day practice it also brings with it a lot of controversy. Since the shmittah year only comes around once every seven years, plan some time for a bit of self-study and then bring shmittah to your school and classrooms. Tu b’Shevat and other times you talk about caring for the environment and resource conservation are good times to include shmittah.
Shmittah provides opportunities for all sorts of lessons:
by Joel Lurie Grishaver
The word is on the street, “Hebrew School is useless.” While the forces that be have done their best to render the Hebrew School impotent by (a) dropping its hours below the minimum needed, (2) not providing it with sufficient funds, (c) not developing adequate training vehicles for staff, and (d) refusing to treat it with respect, the Hebrew school is alive and making a difference.
Let’s take a simple example. A Hebrew school that used to have an excellent reputation reports that a majority of its fourth and fifth graders are failing to retain the majority of Hebrew and Tefillah material they have been taught. Other curricular areas are being reduced to allow extra drill of “Hebrew reading.” The secondary result will be an expansion of the number of students who will receive extra tutoring to help them keep pace. In some schools a large percentage of the students are “on tutoring.” The next step for this process is logically on line tutoring. It is both cheaper and more flexible. From there it is just a short ride down the slippery slope to replacing Hebrew school with on-line learning. Irony here, is that the teachers are not to blame, the curriculum is not to blame, even the parents commitment is not to blame — the villain here is a compromise made with the devil by all of those parties. They’ve all made a compromise to lower their standards enough to please the lowest common denominator. It’s a cycle that seems to go round and round.
Given this vicious cycle it is important to keep our eye on the ball.
To dissect that ball, keep reading.
by Laurie Bellet
The other afternoon, during ‘open studio’ time, I overheard a delightful conversation between two first grade girls. It went something like this:
Child 1 – “My Mom drew me such a good castle. She didn’t think it was good but I think she is a great draw-er.”
Child 2 – “Why was your Mom drawing for you? Why didn’t you just draw it yourself?”
Child 1 – “I don’t draw very well. My Mom is much better at it.”
Child 2 – “Well, you’ll never get better if you don’t practice. Besides, you are a really good builder, and if you do the drawing yourself, the picture would truly be yours.”
Child 2 had articulated what many of us, as teachers or parents, forget. Children need to actually do their own art work, however flawed it might appear, in order to own and learn from the experience.
Nowadays, there are so many ways that students can turn out “perfect products.” We have die cut shapes that are holiday specific, lovely wood or fabric kits for ritual wares and even velvet or translucent coloring activities. A dedicated teacher could also spend hours cutting proper shapes or perfect Hebrew letters. There is definitely a place for these activities and a time that the product is what you are after. But, we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that prepackaged materials offer a comprehensive learning adventure.
When children are given freedom to innovate their own art or craft activities, the learning opportunities abound.