Wednesday, May 18, 2011

School Daze

היום שלשים יום שהם ארבעה שבועות ושני ימים לעמר
Today is thirty days, which is four weeks and two days, of the omer
גבורה שבהוד
A day of strength in a week of humility

This evening was the last session of religious school at Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo, the synagogue where I teach seventh and eighth graders. This completes my second year of teaching there. They have asked me back for next year, and I have accepted their offer.

It was far from smooth sailing this year. Some teachings that went over well last year didn't work this year. I had less individual discipline problems, but the group of students in my first trimester core class  at times got the best of me. And for some reason there were more attendance issue this year. It seemed like I had a different group of kids each week.

But these issues made me work harder, look for new ways to engage my students. Through the Bureau of Jewish Education I learned new classroom management techniques. My involvement in the LINK Fellowship at the Contemporary Jewish Museum gave me new insights into curriculum, which led me to better ways to structure my lesson plans. Sometime mid-year I hit my stride, and my last trimester core class went very well. There was lots of active participation during the lessons. And the meditation element that I introduced at the start of each session seemed to resonate with quite a few of the kids. So while it's not easy to figure out how much of this year's teachings reached my students, I know some of them will move on in their lives knowing they have the ability to ground and center themselves when the atmosphere around them is full of stress.

Both strength and humility are important attributes for teachers. Strength is needed to stay on course with kids whose goal is to distract  you; humility opens your eyes to see when those detours can lead to more and sometimes more important learning. The knowledge I gain from my students makes me a better teacher.

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