Coronavirus has definitely disrupted everyone’s routine. However, one can argue that students and teachers have been some of the most challenged at this time. Private Jewish Yeshiva Day Schools had to readjust their whole educational system to continue to educate their students from a distance without the resources available to the public school system. Yet, the best Private Jewish Day Schools not only rose to the occasion, they surpassed everyone’s expectations.
Helping Families who Don’t Have Enough Devices
Jewish academies and yeshivos often had the added challenge of contending with many families who did not have any or enough internet capable devices for their multiple children to use concurrently. To that end, Yeshiva Toras Chaim Toras Emes, one of the premier Yeshiva day schools in South Florida, made it its mission to provide safe filtered devices to every student that needed one. This involved purchasing, filtering, and distributing hundreds of chromebooks to any family that requested it. Other Jewish day schools offered similar programs with filtered tablets or other devices.
Delivering Lessons and Educational Content
Once the students all had devices, the teachers and administrators had to devise methods to best educate their students and provide meaningful enjoyable activities to fill the day. To that end, teachers utilized the now popular zoom conferencing, Google classroom and recorded videos to impart their lessons. Often this included worksheets and projects that were sent home to each student or uploaded on shared Google Drives. Schedules to best mimic the regular classroom were created with modifications to reflect the realities of distance learning. Although it can never compare to learning in an actual classroom, to everyone’s relief, school continued, as best as it could under these circumstances, from a distance.
Providing for Students’ Social and Emotional Needs
Recognizing the social and emotional needs of their students too, the best private Jewish day schools went above the call of duty to offer their students so much more than just a basic curriculum. They devised games and activities including the fun and competitive game Kahoot, as well as variations of spinning the wheel. They coordinated virtual birthday parties and celebrations for meeting certain milestones. Teachers from these Jewish Academies delivered treats and prizes to their students and created contests to encourage learning and participation. Schools even hosted online concerts with famous singers from around the country as well as world renowned speakers to engage the students. Some schools in South Florida even held virtual talent shows and field days. These schools also offer social skills classes and have counselors available for anyone who reaches out. Between all the lessons, the extracurricular activities provided and the social and emotional support, despite the many challenges of distance learning, students in these Jewish Yeshiva day schools are provided with a full and enriching day of learning and fun at home.
Teachers and schools have shown that when necessary children can be productively engaged from a distance, and learning can continue even when students are homebound. But more importantly, they have provided parents with the tools to guide their children, of all ages, during these uncharted times. Although it is not without challenges, and is far from ideal, under these circumstances, the best Jewish day schools, in partnership with very dedicated parents, have truly succeeded in creating a path to success for students, parents and schools, by providing a robust curriculum along with extracurricular programs to ensure that students not only survive, but thrive during this unprecedented pandemic.