experiments, instruments & measurement book

Measuring Connection

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by Sheryl Glickman, Hollis Hills Jewish Center

The goals of our new initiative called Kesher Connection are to help participants develop a sense of community and build relationships with each other and across generations.  We want them to be involved in life long learning with this population and be on a journey of applying Torah to daily life.  We cultivated a community of ten coach families who will be paired with other school families.  After four training sessions with coaches we were ready to launch our 1st joint program.  In addition to beginning the nurturing process of creating relationships between families we chose Shabbat practice for our programs.

We wanted to create a baseline survey that would give us information on several levels. This survey would be taken by coach and school families.  We wanted to know how connected people felt to others at HHJC.  We wanted to know where they might be interacting.  We also wanted to know their ideas and interest in Jewish ideas and practice.  Taking this survey at the onset of the program would allow us to have a comparison of changes after our 4 sessions with families and also their spending time with coach families on Shabbat.  It might also be helpful to have participants take the survey midway through the program as a means of tracking progress as well as seeing changes.

Suri Jacknis, our Jewish Education Project Consultant, and I first fine tuned our goals for the initiative.  We then began creating questions that would speak to those outcomes.  We tried to be very careful with our wording and the way questions were formulated.  We did not want to offend anyone or appear to be prying into their private lives.  We tried to balance our questions asking first about how people felt toward others in the synagogue community and then about their views on living Jewish lives.  We also wanted an open ended final question where people could write their own thoughts, suggestions and ideas.

The survey was distributed in a packet of information each family received.  It was pointed out to them and asked to be turned in before they left.  Although the survey did not ask for names they were precoded on the back so that we could track responses.  We also included 2 surveys in each packet and asked both parents to do a separate one.  The majority of participants did not do this.  With few exceptions we received only one survey per family.  Approximately 80% of those who attended returned the survey.

As we move through this process we hope that the results of this first baseline survey and subsequent survey will help us tailor future programs and measure whether we are achieving our outcomes.       

Integrated Learner Conversation

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by Cantor Judi Rowland, Park Avenue Synagogue

In my second grade class the girls sit on one side of the oval table and the
boys on the other. Even at the precious age of 7 or 8 the learners self-
segregate. But, when they do mingle for an activity, especially an activity
that is perceived as “free time”, I am often privy to fascinating conversation 
that goes beyond typical “girl-talk” or “boy-talk”, and, surprisingly, it usually based on the lesson I have just taught. In this way, the “free time” serves
not only as relationship time and conversation time but also time to reflect
on the lesson.

Two examples: 

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At the end of the day I sometimes allow the learners free time at the
blackboard to write Hebrew letters. What learner doesn’t like writing on
the blackboard? And at the blackboard, there is no segregation. The boys and girls intermingle, vying for space, the precious colored chalk and the
erasers. The better Hebrew students help the weaker, and they talk amongst
themselves about how to write the letter, which has a “tail” or a “flag” or
a “space”. Or they talk about writing in general. After the class had read the
story of Joseph, animated conversation occurred at the blackboard about the
learner’s siblings and who had younger siblings and who had older. “Who
is an oldest?” someone shouted, and several hands shot up. “Who is a
youngest?” someone else shouted. And the room was buzzing with the pros
and cons of one’s birth order.

When the weather allows I take my class to the roof to play on the
playground for 15 minutes in the middle of their two-hour session. There
is no lesson plan other than relationship building.
Here again, the boys and
the girls play together – they chase each other. They shoot basketballs. The
climb on the equipment and compare their skills on the hand-over-hand
ladder (what is that called?). And they talk. At the playground I can’t quite
hear what they’re talking about. All I know is that they really like each other. They know each other’s names.

OK – I’ll admit that I enjoy those 15 minutes of reflection myself. I’ll also
admit that when we come in the kids are exhausted and ready to plop down
on the rug for a book or quiet singing. But the reality is that these “free
time” activities enable the learners to form a class bond that could never happen at their tables. It’s a very powerful lesson. 


Making Space for Conversation

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by Lynn Lancaster, Forest Hills Jewish Center

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I’ve been thinking a lot about conversations since the LOMED “Living and Learning” on Sunday. Small groups of educators at a lovely restaurant relaxed and engaged in animated conversation about the role of conversations in our work. The subject was serious but the setting changed the tone. Good food, relaxed setting, wonderful colleagues devoted to the same work and a place where all we needed to do was focus on each other. Our stories are powerful, but it is only when conversation takes place that that critical relationship that Buber would define as “I-thou” takes place.

So I am thinking about the conversations that have taken place this year at Forest Hills and why they worked. Book groups in families' homes- relaxed and welcoming setting, families at ease, and a common interest. Mix it all together and the conversation was great.  Who knew that there was so much Jewish content in “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid”? We’ve looked for places in our building that feel like home. Nooks and crannies, studies, I've even found room for a couch and chairs in my full to the brim office. 

Conversations need room, not just physically but emotionally.  Some of them are about particular subjects but what about the conversations that take place spontaneously. Do we have room in the world of Jewish education for those?  We have begun hosting shul-wide Shabbat play dates following Family Services.  Kids of all ages playing basketball, sitting in corners talking, board games of all sorts, ping pong – all in the same room. Parents drop in, teachers drop in. Just families, fun, community, and conversation. I think that those conversations are equally valuable. 

In the coming months I hope to figure out more ways to provide the time and place for more conversations. Perhaps that is one of the critical changes we need to make. We know how to facilitate discussions, but what do we need to do to push ourselves towards content rich relational conversations in our learning opportunities and to provide Jewish settings where everyday conversations abound?  

Perhaps the process starts through listening.


Light a Fire, Spark a Conversation

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by David Lieberman, B’nai Jeshurun

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Growing up in Jewish day schools, I always assumed that when a teacher asked my class to study a text in chevruta, she or he needed a break, or just didn't feel like teaching that day.  Chevruta time meant time to slack off and socialize.  My work with LOMED this year has altered my view and taught me the value of the chevruta model.

A common complaint about “kids today” is that their communication through texting, Facebook and SMS is fractured, superficial and remote.  In my work with teens at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, I have heard from many parents that are worried their kids are not socializing, and on weekends rarely peek out from behind their computers.  How do we foster community, friendship and a sense of belonging in a culture with an attention span of only 140 characters?

What I’ve discovered this year is that conversation, like any other skill must be learned and practiced.  One of our main goals in the teen program at BJ is to get our kids comfortable with talking about themselves and most importantly teaching them how to really listen to each other.  Herein lies the true value of chevruta work.  We learn in Pirkei Avot that a wise person is one who learns from *everybody*.  But that learning can only take place if we are able to truly listen to one another.

Almost every time we meet, I encourage the participants in my teen programs to practice active listening.  “Listening is not the same as waiting to talk,” I tell them.  “Don't finish your partner's sentences, don't jump right in with an anecdote of your own as soon as they finish talking.”  I ask them to wait until their conversation partner is done speaking and then ask follow-up questions to ensure they have understood what was said.

One method of igniting conversation that works really well with boys (and especially teen boys) is to turn off the overhead lights and light a fire.

 For some reason, guys are transfixed by flames and are uninhibited and open in their conversation if they have a fire to stare into.  If lighting a fire is unfeasible in your space, try using a lava lamp or a similar, moving light source.  Sometimes even just turning off the lights will do the trick.


KDBB in Action

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by the Coalition of Innovating Congregations
Aided by the pioneering leadership of Coalition Educator Shana Zionts, Temple Israel Center is taking “Knowing, Doing, Believing, and Belonging,” and really putting it into action!

What does learning look like when all these elements come together? Watch the video below and see!

How is your congregation incorporating KDBB? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Assessment for Non-Classroom Settings

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by Suri Jacknis

The following is a tool created for assessment in non-classroom settings.  Hope these discussion points are helpful in your community.

Assessment for Non-Classroom Settings
File Size: 219 kb
File Type: doc

Download File


Relationships and Connections – A Tool for Your Community

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by Pam Barkley, Temple Beth Abraham
I would like to share with the Coalition the Temple Beth Abraham “Relationships & Connections” worksheet . The first two pages are ideas for relationship building in three categories (student to student, teacher to student and teacher to parent).These ideas were generated at the summer LOMED conference and then the whole staff brainstormed additions at our opening staff meeting in September. Please note that the page numbers listed on the list of ideas refer to a notebook I gave them with things like a list if community builders, blank copies of sheets needed for a particular ice breaker, etc. (I can send all that to you if you need it.)

At the end of the document is a blank form. Once a month, each teacher fills out one thing they did in each category, in each class they teach. It has been a pretty powerful way of concretizing the relationship building activities. It doesn't assess how well they work, do they work etc – but it does assess if these actions are intentionally being done by teachers.  

Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions about it!

Relationships and Connections Worksheet
File Size: 24 kb
File Type: docx

Download File


Give G-dcast a Hand!

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by the Coalition of Innovating Congregations

Familiar with G-dcast?  Ever used these short animated parsha pieces in your congregation?  The following is a message from G-dcast's founder, Sarah Lefton. We encourage you to take a moment and give G-dcast a hand if you can!

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G-dcast is a production company dedicated to raising worldwide Jewish literacy using digital tools and modern storytelling in short animated films and apps based on Jewish texts.

To better serve rabbis and educators, we'd love to know how you use (or don't use) G-dcast. We want to better understand the needs and interests of users and nonusers alike. We will select two random survey respondents to win their choice of a Torah or Holidays Teachers' Guide with a DVD from G-dcast, a $200 value!

Please complete G-dcast’s brief online survey here:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/G-dcastSurvey

If you have questions about the survey, please contact the researcher atdana@danapowell.org.

And here, for your viewing enjoyment, is this week’s G-dcast featuring author Dara Horn:


How have you adapted G-dcast (or other new resources) into your congregation's innovative model?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

A Jewish Communal Professional’s Code of Ethics

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by Jane Shapiro of Jane Shapiro Associates

Former Brandeis University professor Bernie Reisman passed away last week.  His work and vision were an inspiration to many Jewish professionals the world over, and in his memory we offer this piece…


A Jewish Communal Professional’s Code of Ethics

In my professional practice I will seek to:

Answer all phone calls within 24 hours.

Answer all letters within three days.

Make sure there are introductions at the start of all meetings and social occasions.

Make sure to summarize at the end of meetings, both what occurred and steps which are needed for follow-up.

Personally greet and help connect strangers who enter groups of which I am a part.

Give recognition to people for their special achievements as well as for their consistent and dependable performance.

Be diligent about monitoring my own ego and ways it gets in the way of my empowering others to grow and assume responsibility.

Seek to risk and be creative rather than to be conservative and cautious.

Do my homework in preparing for all meetings and programs in terms of a clear agenda, knowledge of the issues and the participants.

Be prompt and thorough in following up on all decisions arrives at in meetings where I am the professional.

Concentrate on learning and using people’s name.

Start and end meetings on time.

Demonstrate a commitment to pluralism in Jewish life with respect for the several religious denominations and other ways Jews identify with the community.

Be a “boundary crosser” someone who sees the “larger picture” and rises about parochial identifications to broader perspectives: beyond the department to the total agency; beyond the agency to the Jewish community, beyond denominational or ideological loyalties to concern for K’Lal Yisrael.

Concentrate on listening to people in an open and non-judgmental fashion.

Be attentive to my own psychological and physical well-being so that when I am at work I have available optimal physical and emotional energy.

Think of my Jewish communal organization not as another large, impersonal organization, but as a “surrogate family” highlighting warm and caring relationships.

Seek to create a culture in my Jewish organization which stresses active participation and collaboration among several elements of the organization: members, professional and other staff, and board members.

Finally, I am a role model. I am aware that I will have my greatest professional impact on the people with whom I work based on the caring and disciplined manner in which I conduct myself, both professionally and as a Jew.

-Bernard Reisman

What do you find most inspiring about this code of ethics?  What would you add?

What’s on Your Socks?

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by Shaina Wasserman

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At last month’s gathering of the Camp Connect group (see the original post here), representatives from Jewish Camps and congregations alike gathered to talk about many things – among them, their hopes, and questions, for the kids in their programs.  In the true spirit of Jewish camp, each group took a moment to write on paper socks what they would like to see for their campers/learners in the time they were not engaged in their space (i.e. the congregations’ hopes for kids during the summer, and the camps’ hopes for the kids during the school year).  Below is a list of what each group came up with – what would you add? 

Camp Directors’ Socks:

+ Sense of belonging year ‘round
+ New skill-set that will be engaged and valued by the congregation when the teen returns home
+ Connection to Israel and hunger for more experiences, info/knowledge
+ Partner organizations we can count on
+ Stay autonomous/an individual
+ Stay connected
+ Be the best version of themselves at home!
+ Leverage camp kids differently @ Hebrew School
+ Intense Jewish relationships – being  Jewish is not just something you have in common with others, but something you do together, choose experience.
+ Healthier risk taking through guidance and support when they return home
+ Love being Jewish
+ Proud to be Jewish
+ Cultural mentoring – that our kids come home and continue being mentored, continue living in values-based community
+ Openness to challenge – desire to grow Jewishly
+ A child should do something differently or more different –choice about something because of what s/he learned @ camp


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Photo Credit: Genevive_Too

Congregational Teams Socks:

+ Know that your family @ home & @ synagogue wants to share in your joy of camp – your love of participating in Jewish life @ home will enhance the fun of being Jewish @ camp
+ Live Jewishly – Shabbat part of the week – part of their lives all year long. 
+ Relationship – being on a journey with your family – provide tools and resources for families over the summer. And into the homes, hear from kids’ perspectives how to share experiences with Jewish families; can’t take families along. I want to start keeping kosher… kid's really alone – communicating between camp & synagogue this week during the heat wave; representatives from camps, before camp, during camp & after camp sessions with parents.
+ Brainstorming with parents – how they bring the camp home – welcome back in fall – camp Shabbat dinner – not only kids but families – camp is a place where, also bring in perspectives from camp  families – private dinner out, to be invited
+ Bring youth group to camp – t-shirts from youth group to camp, skills that developed at camp would be valued. Need for communication – appreciation of gifts from both sides
+ Sessions with camp directors and parents 3-4 times a year
+ To feel as though being Jewish and being part of the Jewish community is something they cannot live without
+ How do we encourage our teens – especially to constantly ask: how will I take all of this home?
+ How are you going to create a personally meaningful experience? What do you like most about camp? What can we do at home during the off /season? What will you miss most about the temple? How can you make that part of your life this summer?
+ An awareness that they can bring ideas back to us and we will welcome them and give them opportunities to share them
+ Camp Shabbat dinner @ temple after the summer
+ How to share your experiences with your family?

How are these responses related?  Where are there differences?  What would you add to this list?


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