Dear Zayin 1 (7th grade) families,
I hope that this communication finds you keeping warm and staying well. I want you to know that I look forward to Wednesday nights when I have the privilege of working with your children.
Our study of mitzvot has included “Bal Tashchit,” Do Not Destroy” and “Talmud Torah,” the study of Torah. One of the activities that the group enjoyed regarding Bal Tashchit was to come up (theoretically) with an invention which would help with an environmental issue about which they were passionate. They worked in groups to prepare a commercial about their invention and then presented their commercials to the rest of us. They had fun preparing their commercials and I enjoyed watching them.
I asked my students what was more important, studying or doing. A lively discussion ensued. We learned that the mitzvah of studying Torah supersedes all other mitzvot.
The Revolutionary War has been our topic in American Jewish History. We learned where Jews stood with regard to the war and how they contributed to the war effort. Interestingly enough there were religious accommodations for Jewish soldiers regarding fighting on Shabbat! As always it was a balancing act for Jews to fit into American society while still maintaining their Judaism.
Stay warm and healthy.
Kara used Storyboard to teach Torah - the students studied the text and then made their own comic strip
Shalom Kitah Zayin (7th grade) Families -
After learning about the categories of rules for Shabbat the past few weeks, we did our class Shabbat challenge on February 13. What did your student decide to try? If you have not had the chance to talk to your 7th grader about it, please do! Part of our learning together is understanding that people do things differently and being willing to see things from other people's perspectives. Shabbat observance is something that varies in different households, or when we are in different places - like summer camp. I have enjoyed learning about Shabbat with the class.
Speaking of seeing things from other people's perspectives, I wanted to use this blog post as a way of talking about camera use during Zoom class time. Our current set up at Talmud Torah for classes is that we are in virtual learning spaces. Some students are working from their kitchen tables, others from their bedroom work space. Talmud Torah has clearly laid out that the expectation is that students will attend class with their cameras on for the best possible interactive, community building and educational experience for the class.
I was recently asked by a parent why all the students in class do not have their cameras on. During this conversation I thought to myself, this a really great question that I am sure other parents are asking as well. As time has gone on in our distance learning we have realized that for some students, having their camera on becomes a stumbling block for learning instead of an open door. Let me explain: Some students are struggling with identity, other students are dealing with anxiety of seeing themselves, others are processing the time of having their camera on as feeling like all the other students are looking at them, and that is a stressor for those students. Then there are students who have their cameras turned on a regular basis and politely ask if they can turn their camera off for 15 minutes to eat their dinner, to which I say yes to every time!
I think we as adults need to remind ourselves about what middle school felt like in a typical time, when students would pass each other in the halls and when in classrooms would all be facing towards the front of the room. Peer and personal dynamics are huge in middle school.
Zoom forces us to look at each other, which is wonderful for building community and helping with communication for many of our students. However it does not work for every student. Please understand it is the hope of Talmud Torah teachers, as well as public school teachers that we can see our students in class. We do understand that for some students having cameras on is proving to be very difficult. I teach because I enjoy watching learning happen, when cameras are turned off, I do not get that feedback from students. If one or two students have their cameras off, I can get facial feedback from other students to help me measure how the learning is taking place. However, when 12 out of 14 students have their cameras off it is a very different experience for me as the teacher and for the class. Teaching to a screen of black boxes with names is deflating.
Please check in with your student, ask them how they are feeling about having their camera on or off and what their camera habits are. If there is a reason for your student to have their camera off, please communicate that with their teachers. If there is not, please partner with all of your students teachers during this time to encourage screen-on behavior for the maximum interactive, educational experience for your student, for their classmates and their teachers!
If you have any questions or would like to talk about this more, please let me know.
I like to share good things going on in our area and on the Internet for us to learn from. I would like to share this month:
https://www.jewishtogether.org/jdam - The month of February is Jewish Disability Awareness month - check out the wide variety of events we can take part in to increase our awareness of how to make this a kinder world for all of us
If you hear of an event that would be good for our class, please let me know.
Thank you for looking out for your student and keeping in mind our entire community of learners.