Debi Swedelson Mishael
(Advanced warning: This is a trick question.) Which of the two students in this picture is on focused on classwork? The answer: Both of them!
It’s not often that I give a written test in our High School Religious School program. This summer, I have been collaborating with a group of educators in my community. We understand that an advanced assessment of our students will provide valuable information for us both in planning the unit of study and in determining the effectiveness of our instruction. Nonetheless, traditional pen and paper testing does not exactly mesh with my hands-on, interactive, make it fun and engaging teaching style. It’s probably been a decade or more since I’ve given, what most would consider, a “real” test.
by Debi Swedelson Mishael
I ask a question and all twelve of my students reply at the same time! It’s not a problem; It’s exactly what I planned to happen. In a typical classroom, the teachers poses a question, hands are raised (if you’re lucky) and one students is called upon to share their answer. That’s great if you are the one student talking, but what happens to the other eleven students? Are they sitting attentively, waiting eagerly to hear the opinion of their peer? One would hope so but reality and decades of experience with tired, hungry kids in an after-school program have taught me otherwise.
You might be surprised to learn that homework is done in my Religious School classroom. Before you dismiss the thought that it could work in your class, let me explain why it happens in mine.
I teach a Wednesday night, 8th grade class for my local congregation. My students are typical teens with too many demands on their time. Several years back, I noticed that some of my best students were absent more than I liked. I would frequently hear, “I’m sorry. I had too much homework to do. I couldn’t come to class.” I work hard to design lessons that are engaging, interactive and meaningful for my teens but they are useless (the lessons, not the teens) unless I have them IN my classroom. In a competition between Religious School and AP Chemistry, I’m afraid, Rashi and I take second place.
by Idie Benjamin and Dale Sides Cooperman
In a previous article Going Past Pretty to Sacred: What Early Childhood Classrooms Can Be, we wrote about early childhood classrooms as sacred spaces. A “scared space” may seem serious and solemn when referring to an early childhood classroom, but more than anything, it is a place of safety, comfort and joy. Creating a sacred space begins with creating a heymishe classroom.
Walk into Temple Beth Israel in Pomona, CA on any given school day, and you’ll find a committed group of madrikhim helping to create a magical school environment. Here’s how it works.
by Leah Zimmerman
Recently, a teacher on our staff and veteran Jewish educator sat down in the chair across my desk and said, “I don’t think you know what you have here, but you’ve created a team of teachers and madrikhim who really work together and it is making a big change around here.”
We are four months into the year and I volley between thinking, “Of course it’s working,” and, “I can’t believe it’s working.” As I walk through classes each day, I see small groups of students huddled around a teenager, teens working one on one with students, and teens running icebreakers or Hebrew games in the classroom while the teacher watches. I see teachers and madrikhim planning together discussing student needs and making plans for future lessons. There is a growing dynamic energy throughout our school as the social capital increases. We are spending resources to build relationships and as a result, we are seeing more relationships develop and influence the learning environment.