Posted on March 26, 2012 by Rabbi Julie Gordon
On Thursday I completed my teaching at the Kellman Brown Academy, a medium size warm and friendly Solomon Schechter (Conservative) day school in Cherry Hill, NJ. The school has terrific staff and it was a great match for me. I was mentored by a talented fourth grade teacher who encouraged me as I deepened my skills. It was the first time I ever taught חומש in Hebrew. I introduced my students to hevruta study, used the Smart Board and active discovery learning strategies with them. One activity I renamed as “Boardwalk no talk” where I put up a thought question on the board and each student wrote his/her response to it. It worked well because it increased the number of participants from the typical five students who always raise their hand to everyone! Several students wrote their answers on the board while other students quietly waited their turn. They thought about their answers which deepened their quality. Plus, they all are familiar with the Atlantic City boardwalk which made the learning activity both fun and familiar to them. I also learned about fourth grade social development and their struggles learning how to show כבוד to each other.
At the אני מאמין Kabbalat Shabbat middle school minyan, I shared thoughts about my theology though it was challenging to engage them at 2:40 when school ends at 3:00! The minyan’s theme is based on the popular NPR show, “This I Believe.” I was also invited to teach a different topic to each Middle School class. Fifth graders were fascinated to learn about עולם הבא as part of their life cycle unit on death. Sixth graders and I discovered the meaning of ציצית according to gematria, the renewal of תכלת, and how to tie ציצית on their homemade טליתות. Ritual macramé is a fun challenge especially to ten boys and two girls. Seventh graders taught me how to use the computer program Gemara Berura as I learned משנה with them. The eighth graders and I studied the end of שמואל ב and summarized the many successes and challenges in David’s life.
During תפילות it was thought-provoking and challenging to regularly daven and guide students of all agesI I enjoyed leading קבלת שבת with the lower school students. Anyone remember the great book “Benny and the Bagels” about a little boy who worked for his Grandpa in the bakery every Friday? I read them this great story about Benny who sought to connect with God. Weekly he earned a big bag of bagels and brought them as a gift to God, storing them in the ארון הקודש. After he left each week, the same poor man found them. These bagels sustained his family until he found work. Benny learned God doesn’t need the bagels but wants us to help others less fortunate than ourselves.
Finally, I helped plan and staff the middle school שבתון whose theme was VOICES (based on the hit TV show): improving our communication skills with family, friends, and teachers. We studied sources about לשון הרע, played a variety of improvisational games and UNO, and ate so much food! After הבדלה, we visited the local Friendly’s for delicious ice cream sundaes, back to watch Princess Bride, and play Mafia. It was a great שבת as students across grades strengthened their friendships and sense of camaraderie. Together we created a lively שבת atmosphere for many students who don’t regularly observe שבת. It was a busy month of learning and teaching!