Creating Community in Learning Environments

 Hi Teachers and Religious School Board members,

In light of the conversations we’ve been having about how a caring

community can prevent/reduce/offset bullying, I wanted to share this

article that just came to me from the Lifelong Learning specialists at the Union for Reform Judaism.


Creating Community in Learning Environments

Teach students, not subject matter. Look at the student as a whole

person, with a life outside the classroom. Care about your students’

interests and lives. It is a productive use of time to talk to

students about their lives. Be around before or after class or during

non-programmed time so that students can talk to you. And don’t forget

about your students after the class ends. Send emails or call just to

say “hi” or “Shabbat Shalom.”

Create a welcoming environment. Write a short personal note to your

students. It’s hard to feel welcome when you’re lost; use clear signs

to help people find key places. Create a central bulletin board with

pictures of teachers, synagogue staff and students. In Pirkei Avot

1:15, Shammai taught, “Greet all people with a cheerful countenance,”

so don’t forget to smile! Reinforce the message that you appreciate

all of your students, that each child is a gift.

Devote time to learning names throughout the class. Include activities

that help students get to know one another and help you get to know

the whole person. Create a class directory and be sure every student

has a buddy to check in with on class work or missed assignments. With

adults, distribute name tags or name tents for every class.

Celebrate the Shehecheyanu moments in the students’ lives—from losing

a tooth to getting a promotion. With the assistance of the caring

committee, learn about the celebrations and the sorrows in each

student’s life. Help organize parents and children to respond in

Jewish ways, like paying shivah calls, sending cards, bringing meals

or sending a mazal tov. You may include a short prayer service at the

beginning or end of each meeting to help recognize these moments.

Keep track of your students’ Jewish journey. Students can create a

personal Jewish snapshot by writing letters to themselves about their

Jewish learning, memories, experiences and questions. For example,

mail one copy to them in the fall; put another copy in the rabbi’s

bar/bat mitzvah file; keep a third copy to send them just before they

start college, along with information about how they can maintain

their Jewish connection in college. For older students, collect

letters at the beginning of the course, summer or year and send them

at the conclusion. In this way, their progress along their Jewish

journey is tracked and the message that they are cared about is

reinforced over again.

As so often when you allow spirit to direct you wonderful things occur.  I was sent this article by Reverend Felecia Mulvany.  She and I had been discussing the bullying issues that are so prevalent at this time and the article moved her.  I like it so much I emailed Rabbi Lisa Levenberg to ask for permission to blog it on our UCM Blog.  Through our wonderful emails Rabbi Levenberg let me know she was not the original author but would ask permission for it to be blogged by us.  Thanks to her effort we were given permission by Wendy Grinber, RJE at the Union for Reform Judaism and the original authors name Joan Carr, RJE.  Below you will find links to the Union for Reform Judaism and Rabbi Levenberg.

I would like to thank Joan Carr for writing a great article, Wendy Grinberg for allowing us to post it and Rabbi Lisa Levenberg for going the extra mile to do the research needed for the permission to post.  All of us at UCM believe it is through this type of outreach in religious communities of all faiths that many problems may be solved.

Reverend Angela DeBry, H.H.D, D.D.

They may reprint if they give credit to the Union for Reform

Judaism. They can link to the full article on page 8 of Torah at the

Center, Vol 10, No 3. This credit was inadvertently left out.

Union for Reform Judaism

Serving Reform Jewish Congregations in North America


Rabbi Lisa Levenberg, Educator

Congregation Shir Hadash

20 Cherry Blossom Lane         

Los Gatos, CA 95032

(408) 358-1751 x 3

follow me on twitter: rabbilevenberg

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