Lev La'am Article by Abby Reiken

Summer 2015

Ben Zoma said, Who is wise? One who learns from everyone, as it says, “From all who would teach me, I have gained understanding…” (Psalms 119:99) --Pirke Avot 4:1

This was one of the quotes that we discussed at our first teacher meeting last fall. Throughout this past year of teaching and staff development, we have explored and implemented Jewish and secular teaching strategies that increase opportunities for students to learn from each other. Our class discussions include communication between the students, not just between the teacher and student, so that students respect and respond to different perspectives. We understand that the learning environments we create impact how our students relate to each other, support each other, and advocate for each other in the future. We want our students to value that being part of a kehillah (community) can make each of us stronger and wiser.

In our classes and family programs, students and parents have benefited from learning from one another. Our students often work in small groups to help each other apply their learning, including reading Hebrew in pairs. This past year fourth graders taught each other about tzedakah organizations that are important to them, and they led their K&1 chaverim (buddies) in creative activities on Tu B’Shevat and Israel. After presenting small group projects, fifth graders asked their classmates questions to check for understanding. By debating a topic from the weekly Torah portion, fifth graders challenged each other to defend their ideas. Sixth graders had a spirited discussion with student to student interaction about the recent Israeli election. They also gave grades K-5 tours of their Lego model of historic sites in Jerusalem. The sixth graders thought about how to communicate their ideas to different ages. During our family programs, parents study together with Rabbi Bronstein and share ways to enrich their own and their families’ Jewish experiences. Then the students join their parents, so they are able to study topics from our curriculum together.

At our end of the year program in Dor Hahemshekh, the tenth and twelfth graders shared reflections of their learning. The teens expressed their appreciation that at BAS they were challenged by their teachers and peers to think about Judaism in new ways. You can read their reflections at www.betamshalom.org/Grades_8_-_12. What is inspiring about their speeches is that each teen found a personal way to connect to Judaism.  The teens shared their views with confidence, knowing that they are part of a safe, nurturing kehillah that values different perspectives. 

As I spend the summer preparing for the upcoming school year, I will be working with our teachers to update our curriculum, including developing new ways for our students to take on leadership roles in sharing their learning with each other.  I invite you to stop by my office or contact me to discuss ways to engage you and your family in learning together at BAS.

Abby Reiken
(914) 946-8851


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