These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[PEP Student] Student Teaching, I

Posted on February 29, 2012 by W. Keller

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By William Keller

Last year, student teaching at Lander Grinspoon Academy, I was thrown into teaching on my first day. Although I was flustered by the flurry of activity I wasn’t ready for, I felt like I was a part of the school immediately.  Here at Maimo everybody has been welcoming, but for the most part I feel like I’ve been wandering these halls trying to find my place for the past two days.

The students have been really nice to me but I feel like a skillsaw scrapping the top of the piece of wood I’m supposed to cut – unable to find traction and dig into what I’m supposed to be doing here.  I feel like I finally had my breakthrough experience after lunch on my second day.  After the students finish lunch they participate in chugim (clubs with different focuses) such as strategic games, photography, running, sports, leadership etc.  I found a student on his own unsure of what to do because he had just transferred to the school from Israel, had limited English and didn’t know where he needed to be.  I suggested we find the list of chugim and pick one that worked for him.  He settled on sports and a few minutes later he was running around engaging with his peers – not worried about language because everybody on the court spoke basketball.  As I watched him I realized that I needed to find my activity to bring me in.

I noticed another student off to the side doing what looked to me like pretend sword fighting yoga meditation and asked him what we has up to.  We ended up having a 20 minute conversation about different types of fencing and debating the merits of the Italian versus the German broadsword (something I know next to nothing about).   After we concluded that the Italian sword was unequivocally better we ended up in the midst of a game of three flies up and after that we were invited to watch a student demonstrate his skills with something called a Chinese Yo-Yo.

Before I knew it, I felt my awkwardness melting away as I was reminded of what I was really doing there.  Our internships are, of course, about our progress as teachers and exploring our identities as educators but if we come into this experience just looking out for ourselves ultimately we won’t be successful.  We need to look at our larger goals as educators – we are here for the students.  We are here to help facilitate these students finding their passions – whether they be fencing, Chinese Yo – Yo or Talmud.

I’m relieved – I was getting more and more nervous about being in a new and unique environment and not knowing what to do but this experience reminded me that while the environment is important and improving our teaching is our short term goal we need to be open to taking the long road through the students interests before reaching the material.  I’m feeling good and looking forward to what else my internship has to offer now!