Al sh'loshah d'varim haolam omed: Al haTorah, v'al
ha-avodah, v'al g'milut chasadim.
The world depends on three things: on Torah, on worship
and on loving deeds. - Pirkei Avot 1:2
V'shinantam is divided into three sections. Torah contains
thoughts and ideas for us as teachers to help support and elevate us in our holy
work. Avodah will be teaching ideas and suggestions to use in our
classrooms. G'milut Chasadim contains information about a specific
mitzvah and suggests opportunities to involve our students and us in the work of
helping others, in and out of the classroom.
Summertime is hiring time in
our schools. It is a time for reflection and preparation for both veteran and
new teachers. We hope that some of the ideas and resources included in this
issue will inspire and motivate you on your journey to provide quality Jewish
education for all your students.
The end of the year is an important
time for reflection before preparing for the new school year. On Shavuot we
celebrate the giving and receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the harvest
season and the first fruits. During the Temple times, farmers brought the first
and best of their crops to Jerusalem as an offering to thank God. First fruits
represent the choicest results of the farmers' hard work.
teachers: What is
the result of your hard work during this past year in the classroom?
For new and returning
teachers: What do you envision as a success you'd like to achieve in the
coming year? What seeds will you need to plant now in order to harvest that
fruit next summer?
In our world, we now turn to
the challenge of helping build cooperation and trust and leading others to find
ways to pursue democracy and peace. We remain concerned with the well being of
our brothers and sisters in Israel and pray for their safety. Being a Jew has
much to do with being a fixer-making the world a better place.
teachers: Have you a
"first fruit" that resulted in making your classroom, school, or the world a
For new and returning
teachers: How can you make your classroom world a better place-a holy place?
As you envision your class next year, what are the essential elements? What do
you need to learn or prepare in order to help create the kind of classroom
environment you are striving for?
Text study can be a means of
reflection on the past year. Try sitting with a colleague (a master and a novice
might choose to meet together) and discussing one or several of the texts below.
Or, choose one each month to write about in a journal.
How are words of Torah like a fig tree? A fig tree's fruit ripens at
various times over a long season; whenever you search the tree you can find figs
ready to eat. So also with words of Torah; whenever you are engaged in studying
them, you will find morsels of wisdom. (Rabbi Yochanan - 1700 years ago)
Share a few "morsels of wisdom" you learned this year either from/with your
students or while preparing for class. What was special about that moment? How
can you maximize opportunities for this kind of learning for your students in
One who learns in order to teach will be granted the means both to learn
and to teach; but one who learns in order to practice will be granted the means
to learn and to teach, to observe and to practice. (Pirkei Avot 4:6)
Do you "practice what you preach?" We often encourage students and their
families to incorporate new Jewish habits into their lives. Choose a new Jewish
ritual to try yourself (for example: saying daily blessings for morning and
bedtime, reciting hamotzi before each meal, finding opportunities to say
shechechyanu, observing Havdalah, giving tzedakah before
Shabbat begins) and reflect on your experience.
What we need more than anything else is not textbooks but text people. It
is the personality of the teacher, which is the text that the pupils read; the
text they will never forget. (Abraham Joshua Heschel)
What do you want your students to learn by watching you? How can you be
purposeful and explicit about setting an example? If you're feeling brave, talk
about something others may have learned by your example that you wish they
hadn't. Think about how you might act if you had the chance to relive that
moment, or make a plan to change that behavior.
Students increase the teacher's wisdom and broaden her mind Even as a
small piece of wood kindles a large log, so a pupil of small attainment sharpens
the mind of his teacher, to the point that the student elicits glorious wisdom
by the questions the student presents. (Mishna Torah, Laws of Torah Study
For returning teachers: What was the most challenging question you
were asked this year, and how did your react?
For new teachers: What questions from students are you nervous
For a lighter source, see
the Teacher's Little Instruction Book by Dr. Homer Adams and Sarah Adams
Johnson. This book contains little bits of wisdom from teachers for teachers,
such as "The smile on your face is the light in the window that tells students
you are home. Tune into your students' creativity and intelligence by smiling at
them as you listen to their questions and ideas."
See, I set before you this
day life and prosperity; death and adversity I have put before you life and
death, blessing and curse. Choose life so your offspring would live.
(Deuteronomy 30:15, 19)
As you reflect on the past
year in your classroom, it's hard to ignore the turmoil in the world that
certainly affected all of us in our schools. In preparation for next year, it
may be worth reflecting on the values of respect, cooperation and
self-discipline. How can your classroom be an environment of support, safety,
This summer, study materials
on Conflict Management or ADR, Alternative Dispute Resolution. Conflict
Resolution techniques help students articulate feelings, regulate themselves,
empathize, and problem solve in addition to giving them other useful skills in
the areas of communication, self-awareness, and compromise.
There are three elements
involved in conflict-issues, communication, and personal feelings. Begin by
brainstorming ways to give students opportunities to:
Give compliments to their peers.
Express their unique qualities.
Recognize their negative talk and turn it into positive talk.
Create a sense of belonging.
Extensive information can be
found on the education section of the ACR Web site at
To view a copy of the guide
Conflict Resolution Education: A Guide to Implementing Programs in Schools,
Youth-Serving Organizations, and Community and Juvenile Justice Settings, a
joint project of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of
Education, go to: www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles/conflic.pdf.
Please note, this is a PDF file and requires Acrobat
Reader to view.
For more ideas, read
Conflict Resolution Activities for Elementary Students by Beth Teolis,
The Center for Applied Research in Education, Paramus, NJ 2002. Many of the
ideas in this book can be adapted for Jewish classrooms, for example, the lesson
"Real Values" (p. 62), designed to help students recognize the importance of the
values by which they live, offers an opportunity to examine Jewish
Let us learn in order to
teach; Let us learn in order to do. -Gates of
And you shall teach them
to your children. (Deuteronomy 6:7)
Take steps to get organized
this summer. Once these details are taken care of, you'll have more time and
energy to devote to creative and exciting lessons.
Outline three or four main goals for your year. These will keep you
focused as you plan lessons throughout the year and help you select materials
and learning activities. Jot down ideas of learning activities that will help
you to reach these goals. Consider how these goals will affect the way you
decorate your classroom, respond to student questions, and handle conflicts.
Establish routines for your class. How will you begin and end each
day? What are the class rules? What will you do when a student is absent or
sick? How will you make decisions about tzedakah donations? Where will
supplies and texts be kept?
Write a letter introducing yourself to your students and their
parents. Make a plan for regular communication with parents. Don't forget to
include both parents if you have a student whose parents are separated.
Work with a Jewish calendar and a school calendar as you plan. Make
note of vacations, holidays, the Torah portion of the week, and special events.
Review the texts you have been given for your class. Which aspects are
useful and what will you need to do to augment them?
Become familiar with the Reform Movement's website, www.uahc.org, and the resources that you can
Identify people who can serve as resources to you: clergy of the
synagogue, a teaching colleague, or parents of students who could visit the
Find opportunities in the community for your students to perform acts of
tzedakah and g'milut chasadim. Make contact in the summer to
plan the program, then confirm two months, one month, and one week prior.
Meet with your Director of Education. Review your ideas and questions.
Establish the best way to communicate with him/her during the school year.
Visit your classroom and plan how you will set it up and decorate it.
Collect basic supplies as well as those for special activities you have planned.
advantage of study opportunities this summer. The UAHC is currently offering
several on-line courses.
Summer Session 2003: July 27 - September 26
Each teacher course is $100/participant. The madrichim course is
Reform Judaism for Teachers An introduction
to the critical elements of Reform history, philosophy, practice and resources
Teaching and Learning: An On-line Course for New Teachers A
course to give new teachers (those in the field for 0-2 years) the basic skills
to teach their students in meaningful ways; to assist new teachers in creating
positive, caring, and stimulating environments; and to nurture teacher growth
Mentoring Jewish Educators: An Interactive On-line Class Training for experienced religious school teachers (with 5 or more years in
the field) to give them the ideas and skills needed to be a successful mentor
Is There More to this Than Putting Out Snack? An On-line Course for
High School and Middle School Students Working as Madrichim A
discussion of the role of madrichim, the relationship between the
madrichim and classroom teachers, classroom management, student learning,
and personal growth
Coming Soon: A course in support of teachers
using the new CHAI: Learning for Jewish Life Curriculum Core
teacher education courses are divided into eight sessions conducted over nine
weeks. Each session is designed to take the learner approximately ninety minutes
per week. The madrichim course is four-sixty minute sessions conducted
over the same nine weeks.
We would love to be able to
share your classroom successes (credit given), questions and comments with so
many other teachers across thousands of miles and in many congregations. The
best way to be in touch is email: Irene Bolton, firstname.lastname@example.org and mark the subject of your
email, V'shinantam. I look forward to hearing from and speaking with many
of you. Shalom!