Thursday, May 08, 2014

Sometimes it all just works . . .

היום שלשה ועשרים יום שהם שלשה שבועות ושני ימים בעמר
Today is twenty-three days, which is three weeks and two days of the omer
גבורה שבנצח
A day of strength in a week of perseverance

Yesterday was one of those days that worked from start to finish. A day to remember when things go awry.

I led minyan in the morning, and was surprised at the end of the service with a visit from an eight-year-old friend who had to run in to give me a hug before she boarded the bus for school.  She and I have always had a bond, and I know I will be a role model for her. So for her, a woman reading Torah, leading services, and wearing tefillin will be as it should be. May it be so for all of her generation.

Then home to put the finishing touches on my lessons plans for that evening. There are times that can be a struggle, but yesterday it was smooth sailing. In my course on the Jewish experience in America, it was time to teach the Jewish role in the Civil Rights Movement--a favorite lesson of mine. Sadly, these kids are fuzzy on that part of American history in general, most of them just knowing about Martin Luther King and little else. So it's eye-opening for them to learn about the rampant discrimination of the time and the actions of those--so many of them Jews--who fought to help right the wrongs.

Teaching my 7th grade Torah study class has been so difficult this trimester. Things that have worked with other classes just didn't work. The biggest issue is a couple of students who not just refuse to participate, but seem determined to make sure that no one got a chance to learn. Not really wanting to once again put a lot of effort into something that was sure to fail no matter what I did, I chose to show them the G-dcast on the Parashat Masei, use the accompanying curriculum, and hope for the best.

Then it was off to tutor a bar mitzvah student. He's a nice kid, but the training has gone a bit slower than I'd hoped. His Hebrew is not great, which definitely hinders the process. But the system I've developed is kicking in, as he can take the trope that he knows and layer that on the haftarah words. He's doing the decoding, often without my help. I told him how proud I was of him, how he has persevered, how he is really thinking and putting it all together. The smile on his face was a great reward.

Then it was off to teach. And to my surprise, it was a good double-header. It wasn't a surprise that the Jews in America class was engaged--most of them are interested in the topic. But it was nice that in our discussions they referenced earlier classes, making comparisons of the different eras in American history. I really feel like I'm teaching them something they will remember and apply in their lives that lie ahead.

But it was the Torah class that sealed the day for me. It wasn't the most enlightening class, I don't know what the kids will retain, but, for the most part, they followed along with the plan. And the activity, to make up a plan for a city, integrating ecological factors, housing and schools, transportation, commerce, power sources, entertainment and green spaces--intrigued them. There was silliness, but at least they created their towns. The most interesting moment was when I had to take a phone away from one of my most difficult students. She balked at first, but it was her third strike and she had to give it up. She pouted for a bit, but then, lo and behold, became more involved than she had ever been, and seemed not to miss the phone at all. She didn't whine about it, didn't bother me to give it back to her. In fact, I handed it back to her at the end of class without her even asking. A minor triumph, but a triumph none the less.

A true day of strength and perseverance, for both my students and me.

No comments: