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Teaching Memoir
I am standing in front of 6 students, them trying to converse with me as I am trying to brainstorm exactly how to help them learn a lesson that was taught to them 2 years ago.  They just begin to converse with each other because I stop answering them.  I realize that I have to break this lesson down into the smallest bite-size pieces, and I have 20 minutes to do so.  I start with what is tasked and make it smaller and smaller.  Prayer to sentences, sentences to words, and words to letters. Hoping that these kids recognize a letter and we can begin to work our way back up.   I feel the pressure. I feel the weight of my reputation and my co-teacher's expectations push me down. As I stare at one single sheet of paper that I had as a sample lesson plan, I feel the clarity of my younger days, how I was taught this material.  I let go of the fact that they are behind in their lessons, I let go of my own intrusive thoughts that I had to teach it all in the next 20 minutes, and I pick up the chalk and begin to write the simplest word in the Hebrew language with no vowels, so they do not attempt to read it and begin the lesson. I had been granted an opportunity at only the age of 12 to aid in teaching those younger then me the language that I had been praticiing and learning with such passion since I was in the 1st grade.  It started as me just sitting in one of my friend’s mom’s classroom and helping her with small tasks before I had my own Bat Mitzvah tutoring to being able to teach some of my own classes before I graduate high school. I continued to channel how I have seen it taught by the many co-teachers I have had over the years, the same teachers who taught me these very letters and language.  I channel the changes I would have made as an 11-year-old learning these letters, sounds, and words. As I am scribbling on the chalkboard, the students are starting to catch on.  Guessing more and more letters, learning to write them, learning to put them together to form words. This excites me and gives me more hope and energy to continue to help these kids learn this language and become a Jewish adult.  The 20 minutes we have 2 days a week becomes more and more precious, and now the students begin to realize that.  Of course, it is not all fully structured as this specific group has a very short attention span, we had laughs and chats and giggles in the middle, but they just made it easier to teach them.  I had done this routine each school year for 7 years. Each year gearing up to battle a new set of students and try to predict some of their unpredictable behavior. Each year, navigating the obstacles and succeeding in teaching these kids at least one new word or prayer (hopefully more).  Each year, no matter how much they wear us down, there was still so much fire and passion when the students presented their learnings to their parents at the end of the school year.  The first time I was told that I was a good teacher in the second grade was molded into me and slowly became my identity. I kept being told that teaching was a strength of mine which made it an even stronger and stronger piece of my personality.  Anytime I had a friend who was struggling in one of our classes, I would always attempt to help them out.  When I was presented with the opportunity to teach those younger than me on a topic that I was so passionate about, I knew it was a no-brainer.  It lit me up everyday.  I developed relationships with these students.  Learning more and more about them as individuals and how I could tailor my teaching style to their needs.  Even though I had to get through a treacherous day in middle school or high school, I would push through knowing that at the end of the day, I would be able to see these kids.  As I got to know them, they got to know me.  They learned how to tell if I had a bad day or if I was a little more stressed than usual and they would always be able to cheer me up.  This is what the kids needed.  They too were coming from days of copious busy work, prepping for state testing, dealing with bullies and mean teachers.  They had created a group of kids who go to both our synagogue and their public school and they became each other’s buddies through it all.   Being a good teacher means that you become memorable to the students that you teach.  They confide in you and trust you, even in the years that you are not their actual teacher.  The best part of sharing this connection is when you have the same students when they were in 1st grade again when they are in 6th grade. 6th grade is the last  year at my synagogue of traditional religious school.  After that, you go for tutoring for your Bar or Bat Mitzvah twice a week and have one-on-one time with your tutor and then you have 45 minutes once a week to connect with your peers.   I got to watch these kids grow up.  To see them just start to learn how to write these unfamiliar letters to mastering prayers in this ancient language.   To see some of them grow taller than me.  There voices changing from mouses to mature teenagers.  From hearing about their stuffed animals to hearing how their geography teacher gave them hours of homework.  The proudest moment of a teacher is seeing a student’s evolution.  Is seeing a student grow up and fly their wings and go off on their own path.   Having the gift of teaching is one of the greatest blessings that I have had in my life and there are countless stories that I can share that add to this belief. 

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