By Adam Grobman
Necessity is the mother of invention.
As many have found throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to social distance and limit contacts has sparked creative solutions for accomplishing everyday tasks and activities.
Temple Ohev Sholom Religious School shifted to an online model of learning in the early days of the pandemic, coming together on Zoom each Sunday and Wednesday through the school year. Like other schools, they found that virtual sessions made imparting knowledge to their forty-nine K – 7th grade students more difficult.
“Through feedback, we learned that parents felt it was important to return to in-person classes on Sundays and have that social interaction with other students,” says Jason Graf, Religious School Principal.
But, he continues, parents did see value in continuing online school during Wednesday’s session for 3rd- 7th graders, when students and parents schedules fill up with mid-week activities and commitments.
“While parents were supportive, we wanted to avoid the pitfalls of online education,” Jason says. “So we thought, ‘Let’s reimagine it completely.’”
When Ohev Sholom’s Religious School resumed last month, the school introduced its new model: in-person classes for all students each Sunday, complemented by a half-hour, one-on-one, midweek Hebrew reading/tutoring session for all thirty-six students grades 3 – 7.
“One of the overall arching philosophies of Ohev Religious School is giving students tools to be able to choose how they want to live their Jewish adult life,” Jason says. “Hebrew reading is a basic tool.”
Temple leadership was supportive of the plan and brought eleven tutors on board, each of whom meet with a number of students every week for individualized instruction.
“This fall, we were thrilled to be able to come back to an in-person experience for our students and teachers by following safety measures including masking and distancing,” says Dr. Erika Saunders, Religious School Chair. She says that the one-on-one Wednesday model “broadens our access to tutors and provides an individualized learning experience for our students.”
Jason feels that the shift has been beneficial for students of all abilities.
“Switching from a classroom setting to one-on-one helps our readers who need that extra support, while allowing our high-flyers to go much further and at a pace appropriate for them,” Jason says.
He says that by having dedicated Hebrew sessions on Wednesdays, the rest of the curriculum is able to flourish, too.
“It was important to me that Wednesdays could be the primary day for Hebrew,” he says. “By carving out that specific space, our Core Judaics is getting stronger because they’re more direct and pointed each Sunday.”
For more info on Temple Ohev Sholom Religious School, contact Jason Graf at Jason@ohevsholom.org.