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What can you learn in nine years?

12 0 5
13.09.2021

I wonder how many teachers, outside of adult education, can say they taught the same students for nine years. Having been given that privilege, and having recently said goodbye to the two young ladies I got to learn with all those years — who are now embarking on a year of post-high school study in Israel — I can’t help but reflect a bit on those years and our collective accomplishments.

When I first discovered TorahTutors.org in 2012, online learning was still novel and I had no idea where this new role would go. I was asked to take on a small group of students that had just formed, four girls whose parents wanted to bolster their Jewish education and chose Navi (beginning with the book of Joshua) and Mishna (beginning with Brachot) as their subjects. We met once a week for an hour, conveniently after school in their time zone and after my kids’ bedtimes in mine. (Time differences turned out to be a key advantage of online learning that I would never have thought of!) Those one-hour sessions were divided into 30 minutes for Navi and 30 minutes for Mishna, and the girls were very strict about it. “Morah Sarah, it’s time to switch!”

Of course, our group went through some changes over the years. In the beginning, I gave them homework, usually follow-up thought questions or the chance to look at a text before we studied it together; as they got older and other demands on their time increased, we dropped that so as not to create stress. I began to discover some of the benefits of independent, individualized learning: we could be as formal or informal, as rigorous or as relaxed, as we wanted, and nothing was set in stone.

As we continued our studies, we moved from Joshua to Judges; we finished Brachot and selected Bava Metzia next. Two of the girls eventually left the group because of schoolwork and other activities; the two who remained eventually added a second hour per week, segued from Mishna to Gemara, and added a third topic – philosophy. Try fitting three subjects into two one-hour sessions…........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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