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The Letter of the Script vs. The Spirit of the Script
The biblical laws articulated by Moses provide the base for Jewish tradition. Many of the commands are common sense, important keystones in the bedrock for a functioning society: do not murder; pay workers promptly; take care of the poor. Others are seemingly arbitrary or disturbing: do not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk; do not wear garments made by mixing wool and linen together; stone a wayward child.
Not surprisingly, Jewish tradition has never included following every law by the letter. Instead, traditions emerged that allowed the spirit of the law to become the norm over the letter of the law.
The ISJL Curriculum is written with the balance between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law in mind.
Each lesson or unique program we produce includes a detailed script: large quotation marks to tell teachers, “say this;” large question marks telling teachers, “ask this;” detailed instructions for when to pass out which supplies and more. Just as different Jewish communities have interpreted and followed biblical laws differently depending on the needs and desires of their community, different teachers from ISJL partner communities follow our lesson scripts differently. We write lessons keeping in mind classes with two students and twenty. Frankly, while we go into great detail in the lesson for inexperienced teachers, we expect teachers to follow the spirit of the script, adapting as necessary for their particular students and their particular needs. Here are examples from three hypothetical teachers:
Teacher #1 conducts the lesson pretty much as it is written. They incorporate their class’s special beginning-of-class ritual into the written Set Induction, or they skip the Set Induction if they don’t think it will pique the students’ interest. They don’t say every quote or ask every question, but they follow the flow of the lesson. They’ll sometimes swap in an Optional Activity.
Teacher #2 uses all of the crafts and “K” activities, but not the discussions—their students aren’t particularly engaged by auditory activities. Sometimes, the teacher adapts the craft or uses different supplies for a similar end product. For additional ideas, they consult “Rabbi Google,” using the Big Ideas as a jumping off point.
Teacher #3 reads the lesson each week expecting to use the big ideas and SSBAT to come up with their own activities. Every once in awhile they’ll use one of the activities, but they mostly find other ways to teach the same ideas that are more engaging for their specific group of students. Pinterest and JEDLAB are their best friends.
The beauty of the ISJL Curriculum, much like the Torah, is that there is no correct way to follow it. It is meant to be adapted and molded into a product that teachers can use for their students. Moses might not always recognize each classroom’s approach, but he would definitely approve.