Town Hall Presentation – May 2015
“To Learn is To Teach, To Teach is to Learn.” Naomi Chase
“Mi kol milamdai hiskalti “ – a verse from Psalms, 119:99 and referenced in many other Jewish texts, seems apropos as I reflect on the school year just completed and share with you our educational visions for next year. There are several ways to understand the verse. One way is, “From all of my teachers have I learned,” and, indeed, I have learned from my faculty many important things about our Religious School. Hebrew’s almost limitless potential for double entendre offers yet another possible understanding of the verse which is; “More than from all of my teachers have I learned,” – which is to say, I have also learned from our students who in turn have learned from one another, and we have all learned from the parents of our students. These interpretations inform the changes we intend to make in our religious school next year.
First, teachers will be placed at more than one grade level.. This way, more of them will know more of our children. These interactions will be more representative of real congregational life. We will promote greater collaboration of Temple constituencies with learners. Students will demonstrate learning at events and services where more of the congregation will share it, and hopefully, our students will feel validated and connected to communal Jewish life. Content more clearly described and aligned in this way will help parents see what their children are learning, to appreciate the necessary scaffolding of instruction for application in real time. Personal life cycle events, weekly as well as holiday worship, and social action events will be equally weighted. Just as the psalmist described, more teachers will produce deeper learning, in and outside the synagogue.
New methods of instruction will be implemented. “Hebrew Through Movement,” a technique that physically engages learners as they acquire Hebrew language will precede phonics. 6th grade and up will use a new technology for Hebrew reading instruction and each student will work with a teenaged personal trainer. The new methodology is predicated on the notion that children should hear, mimic, and be comfortable with a language before they learn its technical mechanics. Older students are developmentally readier to process phonetic decoding. Teen partners (formerly Madrichim (teen leaders) whom we are renaming Vatikim, veterans or elders) will share the wisdom of their years as they remain students themselves, advancing the psalmist’s prescient idea that every learner has the potential to teach. Torah will be taught through Philosophical Inquiry at all grade levels. This method fosters curiosity and questions, the precursors of critical thinking and collaborative problem solving. Our students will share and inspire one another, learn to respect the diversity of their perspectives, and link themselves with an historic Jewish tradition on which this method is modelled. B’nei Mitzvah experiences will be more communal celebrations of our young people’s collective growth while still acknowledging the uniqueness of each individual student. This learning will drive continued encounters with Jewish texts well beyond that milestone. Library, Israel, Music and Art will be threaded throughout the curriculum to diversify instruction and add depth and scope to the whole educational profile. Jewish learning will truly be a lifelong endeavor.
We will be providing professional development and training over the summer to all instructors. Our new model pays homage to everything that has brought us to this moment when we can say, “Chazak chazak v’nitchazek, may we go from strength to strength.” We have observed and collected data all year. We have consulted with other synagogues and many experts around the country. We will be attentive to all that next year will teach us. You have an open invitation to join us in the classrooms and learn beside your children. We welcome your support and your feedback, so stay tuned and stay in touch.
Director of the Religious School, Congregation Ahavath Chesed
- What was new in Religious School (TIR) this year?
- What we have learned from the observations and data collected this year?
- What will be new next year?
- What do we need from parents?