by Lali Ray
Does anyone else’s mind work the way mine does? I can be working on a project and read or see something totally unrelated that triggers a new insight (or sometimes reinforces an old insight!) into whatever I am working on. This happened to me last week.
I have been working with a congregation here in Long Island on development of an updated curriculum. Their desire to update their curriculum was triggered by a “sudden” realization that there was no rhyme or reason to their current Hebrew curriculum. Everyone seemed to be teaching a “different” Hebrew. It was also clear that there was not sufficient thought given to the sequence of subjects in the rest of the curriculum.
One of the subjects they decided to revise was Jewish Values/Mitzvot. They are planning to use “Jewish Values from Alef to Tav” in their “Bet” class. This particular congregation starts their children a year earlier than most, so their “Bet” would probably be someone else’s “Alef.” Anyway, the first part of the “trigger” was working with some teachers who are unaccustomed to the individual booklet approach and, like many of us, suspicious of anything new. I had my own suspicions that they would take whatever they were given and teach it in the same way they would teach any book or subject.
by Lali Ray
All of the principals and teachers I’ve seen and talked with in the last month are in the state of “closure” for their school year. Some of them are just glad it’s over. They don’t want to think about next year until at least August 1. The others are already planning how in the next year they will excite the students, enthuse the teachers and accomplish still more than they did last year. Some are sort of half way between. The latter are winding down, ordering books and the like, but basically glad to be doing something else for a while.
by Joel Lurie Grishaver
It amazes me that no one has gotten it! Everyone has been talking about The Truman Show. It is the topic du jour, but no one has figured out that: (1) it is a movie about God, (2) it is really dealing with new age issues like “healing services,” and (3) it is a profoundly Christian movie. It is Christian in the sense that it is a movie deeply rooted in Christian mythology, not that it is trying to get you to jump in the river and declare that you are saved.
The essential problem with believing in a personal, loving God is that of personal freedom. The more often we are “touched by an angel,” the more often God intervenes in our life with “little miracles,” the more often God speaks to us—and cues us and warns us—the less we get to be “us.” I once asked Scott, a sixteen-year-old, what he would do if his mother were in the back seat every time he went out on a date. His answer was, “I would not go out on any more dates.” I then asked him what he would do if his mother wasn’t around any more. His response was, “I don’t know how I would go on.”
As we mentioned last week, Joel recently won the prestigious 1998 Covenant Award, which recognizes the finest Jewish teachers in North America for their contributions to Jewish education. We also want to recognize the two other Covenant Award winners. Rabbi Elana Kanter was ordained by JTS in 1989 and since then has been involved in Jewish day schools as a teacher and an administrator in New York, Atlanta, Providence and Birmingham. She currently serves as the Associate Rabbi for Education at Temple Beth-El in Birmingham. Anne Lidsky just completed her 18th year as Director of Education at Temple Jeremiah in Northfield, IL. Anne is a licensed clinical psychologist and for the past 15 years has been a therapist and support group leader for the Les Turner ALS foundation. Congratulations to both Elana and Ann!
by Joel Lurie Grishaver
David Elkinds, a professor at Tuffs University and the author of All Grown Up with No Place to Go says “Its important to remember that [early adolescents] are as unfamiliar with their expanded thinking abilities as they are with their reconfigured bodies. Contrary to popular belief, it is actually ‘overthinking’ not thoughtlessness, that characterizes middle school students. Caught up in their own transformations, adolescents assume that everyone else is preoccupied with the same subject which engrosses them, namely themselves.”
Here is what I know about teaching 7th graders.