Participants in ShalomLearning’s No Teacher Left Behind (an 8 week course in partnership with JETS) are learning about different online tools, and how they can used for Jewish education. Alissa Okrent, Religious School Principal at Temple Shalom, Succasunna, NJ used her new skills and her creativity to engage her students right away! Using Padlet, an online, collaborative, bulletin board, she created an activity where the seventh graders gained a deeper understanding and connection with tefillah.
She shared with us the following (and we’re including a picture so you feel like you know her):
One of my personal joys is helping my students feel our prayers are relevant today. My two foundations for this lesson were: Achrayut and nature. How can I integrate these two concepts into an activity that would engage my students, and help me to interact with each other and the learning?
I began with nature, choosing pictures that gave me a sense of “prayer meaning.” Seeing the “rock” could be an image of Gevurot; the sky aligned with God/Shema and the path felt like a connection to being in the present moment.
I asked, “What words describe this image?”, they typed in their words, and things started to appear on the screen. The lines, and arrows, and “web” effect was a total surprise to me!
Once each picture had words associations, I asked them, based on their understanding of the meaning of the prayers we had discussed, which prayer correlates to which image? There are no wrong answers. As I watched the words appear on the screen, I asked the group to create a poem which could be their prayer.
One of the students composed the poem and we all experienced our own moment of Achrayut; becoming a better version of ourselves.
Marc Sender is a ShalomLearning Teacher at Am Yisrael, Northfield, IL and Congregation Beth Judea in Long Grove, IL
I started teaching ShalomLearning a few years ago at Am Yisrael in Northfield, IL. My Education Director, Charlie Sherman is always open to trying new ideas, so I wasn’t surprised when he presented this new curriculum to me.
From the first class, I could see the potential with the materials. The videos resonated with my students, and the lesson plans were ready to go. The kids in my class would get so wrapped up in some of the discussions, sometimes I had to make some tough choices – stop the conversation or determine which of the following activities I’d need to skip. As a teacher, it’s a “good problem” to face.
A few of my experiences with students really drove home the power and importance of the ShalomLearning curriculum. One memory that stands out occurred after a lesson where we learned about treating everybody like they are created B’tzelem Elohim (in God’s image). We watched a video about a school’s buddy bench. Sitting on the bench was used as a signal that the student was looking for friends with whom to play. Other students could then go over and invite the person on the bench to join them. The following week, two girls in my class were clearly excited to tell me something. These two fourth graders (yes, fourth graders!) loved the buddy bench idea so much that they pitched the idea to their elementary school’s principal. To this day, that school now has a buddy bench during recess, and the students in my class regularly check the bench to invite others in. It is that kind of instant connection to students everyday lives that make this values based curriculum so powerful.
This summer, ShalomLearning contacted me about a pilot mentorship program they’re offering this year. I was flattered to be offered a mentor role along with my wife, Shira. (Did I mention she’s a ShalomLearning teacher too?) Together, we assisted at the ShalomLearning Educator Conference in Florida this summer. The conference was great – not only because we were able to attach a mini-vacation onto the trip, but also because it prepared me to lead other trainings here in the Chicago area. Just the other week, Shira and I led a training day for almost 20 ShalomLearning educators in our region.
ShalomLearning’s partners and educators are always inspiring new ideas and ShalomLearning is receptive to feedback and innovation. It is great to be part of the team, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. I am excited to continue to learn and grow with such an amazing team of dedicated Jewish educators!
In a traditional “classroom” or a virtual space, ShalomLearning went from coast to coast in August to support our educators. Our training began in Davie, FL, with special thanks to Orloff CAJE, where we trained 40 educators. We worked with new partners at NewCAJE8 in Moraga, CA, and led one more session at Hebrew College in Newton, MA. Our two-day training included:
- a comprehensive overview of ShalomLearning course materials
- personalized instruction
- training on our learning portal, my.shalomlearning.org
- preparing educators to use a virtual classroom
- an opportunity to network with peers
Whether on a laptop or hand-held mobile device, teachers mastered the basics and experienced the curriculum in a meaningful way and had some fun! Our Zoom icebreaker, a surprisingly competitive game of Kahoot!, and relaxing social gatherings were some of the highlights.
For those unable to attend or just wanting a refresher, we ended the month with well attended webinars reviewing the materials. And there’s more work to be done!
We’re currently providing virtual 1:1 training. Staff and mentors are meeting with teachers to answer specific questions, troubleshoot, and/or offer ideas. Questions and suggestions are also being discussed on ShalomLearning connect, our virtual teacher’s lounge.
There are additional opportunities to network and learn at our upcoming fall training sessions in New Hyde Park, NY in September and in Northfield, IL in October.
Throughout the year we will continue to connect educators to create a community of practice, encourage each other, and share ideas.
Rachel Besser teaches Bible and Jewish thought to post-high school students studying during their gap year. Before moving to Israel this year, Rachel taught Tanach and philosophy at The Frisch School where she also served as department chair and a member of the guidance team. A graduate of Yeshiva University, Rachel received her MA from Hunter college in English literature. Besides her love of teaching, Rachel also enjoys creative writing and editing. Rachel lives with her husband Donny and their five children in Beit Shemesh, Israel.
Why do you like teaching for ShalomLearning?
I love being part of ShalomLearning’s innovative team. It’s amazing to connect with students all over the world to share ShalomLearning’s curriculum and insightful way of presenting Jewish values. Of course the main thing I like about ShalomLearning is the students! I have been privileged to meet thoughtful and intelligent young men and women and delve with them into Jewish texts and ideas.
What has been your favorite teaching moment this year?
During one of my classes, a student shared something difficult that he was going through in his personal life. Immediately all the other students in the class began sharing their own stories and words of encouragement. It was amazing to see them connect and be able to support each other even through a digital medium.