LEEPing into the New Year

by Sam Spindrad, Religious School Director

This summer, I had the opportunity to participate as a LEEP (Leadership for Emerging Education Professionals) Fellow in the first ever virtual NEWCAJE, the “new” Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education. I received hours and hours of professional development in a year when education is undergoing extreme changes. I’m passing many of these tools and ideas on to the religious school’s volunteer teaching staff.  Many of the courses were simply great knowledge for a Jewish community member to have.

Teacher Retention Tools:

  • Making observations versus judgments of teachers, and how to use primary and secondary documents to turn notes into constructive feedback reports.
  • Having consistent and timely communication to keep teacher morale high.
  • Using star teachers to mentor others and emphasizing the importance of these roles.
  • Acknowledging teachers with both regular and surprise teacher appreciation acknowledgements and gifts.
  • Having staff bonding opportunities.

Tefillah Tools:

  • Placing constant emphasis on why we are praying and the purpose of these specific prayers.
  • Having interactive, musical sessions.
  • Exerting even more energy than normal when holding online tefillah.
  • Using breakout rooms for more intimate interactions in large groups.
  • Getting parents on the same page to engage with the prayers.
  • Using both visual and audio cues.

Creating Effective Videos:

  • Segmenting concise and efficient videos and making sure to edit out anything superfluous.
  • Using good lighting, steady camera, and good text quality. It’s worth extra time investment.

Special Needs Being Met Virtually:

  • Including people with special needs and special needs knowledge on the education committee.
  • Making lessons accessible visually with descriptive links and labeled photos.
  • Speaking slowly and clearly at all time.

Creating Online Community:

  • Holding class, parent, and teacher orientations.
  • Providing weekly update and welcoming notes to get people excited!
  • Acknowledging birthdays and milestones.
  • Creating rules and designing the virtual space together as a class to make a more effective structure.

Talking About Death with Children:

  • Acknowledging that there’s a beginning and end to everything that lives.
  • Talking to kids on their terms, when they’re ready, and letting them consider their own questions about afterlife.
  • Providing a safe environment to answer questions, answering what they ask with simple answers and addressing any misconceptions.
  • Listening.
  • Being aware that kids will likely have difficulty verbalizing their feelings about death.
  • Being aware that they will ask questions repeatedly for reassurance that the answers remain the same.

Important Moments:

  • Putting thought into the fact that people tend to remember the end of a class and being aware of what that looks like.
  • Providing moments of “elevation” that raise the stakes and break the script to boost sensory appeal.
  • Taking something from good to great creates memories – when they need to bring out their cameras!

I look forward to a great year using this knowledge with our community!

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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