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Making The Last Days As Exciting As The First Days
By Rachel Katz, ISJL Education Fellow
When starting a long process, we go through many stages. First is the preparation; the excitement builds up as we anticipate the start of whatever it is we are about to do. Let’s make it more relate-able – how about religious school, for example?
We spend the summer and very beginning of fall collecting registrations, reviewing curriculum, creating lesson plans, and decorating our classrooms or teaching spaces. There is lots of excitement to begin a new year of religious school. Then we get to the middle of the year. The excitement seems to fade a little bit, and the routine sets in. Finally, we come to the end of the year. Everyone is tingling with the anticipation of summer. We are only human; we get tired and need a break.
However, our students still need the Jewish education they deserve and with the attitude that it came with on day one. How can we find that middle ground that meets their needs as well as ours?
Let’s Learn About Chofesh
It is okay to admit that there is a huge feeling of excitement for summer break. In fact, you can get your students excited about it, too. Take the last two or three lesson plans and see how you can connect it to chofesh, or rest/break. Explore different examples of chofesh in the Torah, like Abraham resting outside his tent or how God rests on the seventh day of creation.
Parents love to see what their students are learning and doing at religious school. The ISJL curriculum makes an effort to send letters home that help explain what was done in class each week. Still, it would be great for parents to get an even closer look at the environment in which their student is getting their Jewish education. Have your students decorate their desk area and have them “showcase” something from the year for an Open House (like a science fair!).
School-wide Celebration “Potluck”
Hold a school-wide potluck at the end of the year. Each class can be responsible for bringing something that represents something they enjoyed learning during the year. It could be food, games, or even a performance. Have the class vote on their favorite general topic from the year (I.e.: TaNaKh, Jewish values, Israel, life cycle events, holidays) and see which one gets the most votes. Then decide on how you would like to share that with the rest of the school. You could perform a play about one of the stories from the Torah. You could make a recipe from a holiday you investigated. You could play one of the games from a life cycle lesson. The most important part is for you and your class to get excited.
It is very easy for us to want to kick back and relax earlier than the last day of religious school. But, as teachers and religious school directors, we can catch a second wind and make the last days of religious school just as exciting as the first ones.