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A panel of teens expressed their opinions in a workshop at a Jewish educator’s conference in Philadelphia called “Understanding the Teenage Brain.”
Who were they? These were teens already involved in post Bar/t mitzvah education, both in synagogue and community schools, which means they are committed to continuing their Jewish education.
I asked them to talk honestly about what they want from their relationship with their teachers, and from their Jewish education experiences.
Do you want to know the amazing things they said? Can you fathom the tons of resources we’d have to pull together in order to do what they’re asking?
Here are some of their comments:
When we come to class, ask us how we’re doing and how our day was
Get us involved in what we’re learning
Ask us how we want to learn the material
Create a sense of enjoyment in the classroom
Allow 5 to 10 minutes to debrief from the day, or give us the ‘free space’ to talk about what we want during that time
Don’t talk down to us
Don’t use language to ‘be cool’
Create an environment where we feel comfortable and not judged
Recognize that we have a lot of stress in our day, and we have a hard time adding more
Tell me what’s not doable here. And yet they felt the majority of their teachers were not doing these things.
Why not? What is the biggest investment we need to make?
We need to listen, or better: Na’aseh v’nishmah. (Exodus 24:7 We will do and we will keep listening so we understand).