Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Every Step of the Journey is the Journey"

I posted this question late tonight elsewhere (beyond 11:59) and these are the early comments. I never know if people prefer seeing their name in print or prefer anonymity (I think in this case it's a split) so I will keep it discreet.

Q - How can yeshiva high school classes -possibly - be more about process and thinking and less about memorizing for a grade?

A1 - F.L.L. - I'm not a teacher, yet, but I thought of 2 things, let me know if you think either idea is good. Since kids are already driven by desire to excel in the testing, perhaps by telling the students you are planning to give tests that will require them to compare two totally different things they learned, they will practice using analytical abilities and make more observations.

Second, would it work to have a section on the board that a teacher writes the thoughtful comments students make with their names, and give points for meaningful and thoughtful things that the students notice on their own?

Me - Great ideas. I don't do the first one - but something related. I give an unseen that they need to compare and relate to what we learned. For example we learned about how the mishkan was all about giving from inside as you can't give G-d gold or silver. This is why it says vayikchu li trumah, because you can't give G-d in the conventional sense, you can only take from inside yourself. This fits with the idea of veshachanti betocham, the idea that G-d was not to live in the built mishkan but inside the people. It also fits with the tern nediv lev, the donators gave of their hearts, that was all they could do. Also it explains why even though (according to the Ramban and it's been pretty accepted as Judaism 101) the Mishkan required the Jews to give, while at Matan Torah they only had to show up and receive. That didn't work so well. When you invest of yourself it increases the odds of the relationship lasting...

The question on the test was to tie this quote in with what we learned about the Mishkan (we learned more than I stated above) - "When we talk of a man doing anything for G-d or giving anything to G-d, I will tell you what it is really like. It is like a small child going to his father and saying, 'Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.' Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child's present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction." - C.S. Lewis Many of the kids loved the quote and how well it fit (and chose it over another option that included an unseen quote from Tehillim) which they had to tie in with an unusual take we studied regarding the cheit ha'eigel.

When kids say great stuff I make the class responsible to know it, write it on the board in their name, and put on the test what did X ask or answer about Y.  At first they don't listen so much to eac other but this encourages them to.  I also tell them to talk to each other, not to me, and when one person finishes talking - to call on their next.  Rather than a rigid curriculum, the curriculum is enhanced and shaped by their input. 

A2 - E.F. - Nell, the answer lies within a hilarious book called "Kosher Chinese."

In Kosher Chinese this young peace corp volunteer and former yeshiva student has his concept of himself as a Jew tested and reinforced through watching the Chinese struggle with their self identity after being stripped of it post Mao. The answer is more of Jewish debate and less answers...The more you question the more your mind expands. It is what makes our people great, it is also how we thought ourselves into tight fitting protective boxes when the world had forced us to change. It is a risk to teach youth challenge our world  beliefs. The end of judaism through assimilation is one possible outcome, but the other outcome of a great mind with unshakable faith is also the potential result.

The Chinese, believe it or not are facing the same dilemma.

Me - I'm pleased to have received two responses so quickly.  I always ask thinking questions in class and on tests.  I hope to - maybe - share some of my tests and ideas at an optional meeting on this topic tomorrow.


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