Friday, February 18, 2011

We did Jewish Learning at Macy's Herald Sqaure

Jewish learning must speak to the real life questions of children. If
not, says Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, you have indoctrination, not
learning. How do teachers shift from "covering subjects" to teaching a
Judaism that is relevant to today's children?

As part of LOMED: Twenty five teachers from the Manhattan's Coalition of
Innovating Congregations met for a day of learning in Macy's at Herald

Their charge:

1. Uncover the real life questions of learners.

2. Teach children how to turn to Torah for answers.

See the video viewed on teachers' phones and ipads at Macy's as
they stepped into the lives of their learners.

Teacher teams identified the real life challenges of their students.

1. How can I feel good about myself when I don't look anything like the

2. I want to buy everything, I need it, why can't I have it all?

If we are supporting children on journeys of:
  • Applying Torah to daily life
  • Spirituality grounded in Judaism
  • Being in Relationship with Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael
  • Mending the World

What questions might they ask when strolling Macy's?

Torah at the ready, the teachers accessed Jewish text that speaks to
the challenges children face daily. Text Text.

Macy's was the setting that helped teachers used a method of learning
that fosters belief/values and action.

1. Inquiry: What are the childrens' questions?

2. Reflection: How do children sort possible responses? (e.g. What does my
parent say, What does Torah Say, What do I say, What do my peers say?)

3. Meaning Making: What actions actions does the child take? What values
does the child struggle with and express?

At the end of the day one teacher said:
"I knew the theory of applying Torah to daily life, now I understand
what it really means."

Later in the week, another teacher said:
"We returned and changed how we create lesson plans. We now see why we
have to make room for the questions of the children."

In total 100 teachers and educational directors from the Coalition of
Innovating Congregations from Greater New York will learn the power of putting the questions of their students first.

That means when you have a subject to "cover" good pedagogy says: Ask the students what they want to know, where their interests are and what they wonder about the subject. That is basic good education.

Putting students' questions first also means:
Uncovering the real life everyday questions of children. Be brave enough to hear what children are really wondering about.

I don't need to read ASCD to know this is good education. I read the Torah: Judaism is for when you wake up in the morning, when you walk on the way and when you go to bed at night...not only for special occasions.

Being at Macy's was example of where our learners "walk on the way." If the weather had been better we would have gone to the playground, to dinner time, to the texting between friends.
This is where our children live and I ask you, where do they turn for the answers?

Thrilling Lady Gaga has a political agenda. She has emerged from her egg to recreate a race of people without prejudice.
Ok..there is something in what Lady Gaga has to say..but our children need more than the lady with pointed whatever..(I think it was horns this week) to model and guide. Torah is there for the everyday. Leaders from the Coalition of Innovating Congregations are taking the challenge:

What kind of Jewish learning will enable a child to walk through turbulent exciting times to reach their own sacred promise and act as a force for wholeness in the world?