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with the Heart
BCRC's new Religious School Director
Sherrie Rosenberg Klein, MAJEd, CJE
Shehecheyanu: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, shehecheyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higianu laz'man hazeh. Our praise to You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of all: for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this season.
This is the blessing we recite when we do something for the first time in a calendar year (for example lighting the Hanukkah candles) and when we celebrate a joyous occasion. This is the blessing I recited when on June 1st as I began my new journey as director of the Religious school at Beth Chaim. New journeys, like new initiatives and chang- es, may carry some anguish and stress. For myself, I have found the beginning of my journey filled with welcome and support.
I come to Beth Chaim with many years of experience in the Jewish education world, both formal and informal. Working in the realm of family education is my passion. I believe that including the parents as a partner in the educational process is the only way to succeed. To develop that link between the classroom and the home, we will be “Bringing the Discussion Home” through a question that will extend the learning through parent/child discussion in the car, around the dinner table, etc. These weekly questions will enable you to share your insight with your child.
Along with the classroom teachers, I will also be structuring grade level family programs that will include the parents in the classroom experience. Parents will interact with their child within the lesson, thus giving the parent an opportunity to experience what the students are learning, see the teacher in action and, hopefully, learn something from and about their child. These programs will be noted in the school calendar and in the parent handbook.
The classroom experience will move from a “teacher centered” experience to a “student centered” one. Students will reflect on the learning to find personal meaning within the lesson . In Kindergarten through second grades, PJ Library Goes to School will be added to the lessons. These stories are based on Jewish values and mitzvot and are easily incorporated into the curriculum.
For fifth grade, we are investigating a “project based learning / PBL” program that will allow the students to explore sacred space and sacred time. Many secular schools engage in PBL, so students are comfortable with the process. They are motivated to learn because they are working on problems and projects that are personally meaningful. PBL promotes higher order thinking, encouraging the students to learn how to learn while engaging them in an authentic way.
Hebrew, too, will have a new “feel” as we engage in small group learning. Second and third graders, as well as fourth and fifth graders, will be grouped according to their ability, to allow learning at the appropriate pace. Hebrew is a skill and like learning a sport or a musical instrument, the only way to learn the skill is through practice. Five minutes of practice on two different days is very beneficial in learning Hebrew reading skills. I encourage parents, even if they do not read Hebrew, to sit with their child for those five minutes to listen to the reading. And the more practice, the more fluent the student will be.
There are new initiatives for our 8th – 10th grade program: the Confirmation Academy. The program will have two groups: 8th graders will focus on building their Jewish identity through the lens of Reform Judaism and the larger community, while 9th and 10th graders will focus on creating a sacred space in their ever changing world. There will be experiences within the curriculum to help bring the lessons into practice.
We have hired Dan Slipakoff to teach the eighth graders. A current rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College, Dan brings a wealth of experience in working with teens. The 9th and 10th graders will be taught by Rabbi Pearl- man. Rabbi Pearlman will bring her love for Judaism, community, informal education, and our teens to the lessons as she guides them to explore issues meaningful to the teens through a Jewish lens. She will also help our teen students develop a stronger connection to their synagogue and their rabbi. I am excited to be working with both Rabbi Pearlman and Dan in developing an engaging and thought-provoking program for our teens.