Rabbis Without Borders
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Reading through the bonus section of my students’ final exams, I am transported back in time to the first lesson of Unit 1 on the second day of class. We began our study of Genesis 11 by live tweeting Six Word Stories about the Tower of Babel. We ended the year with a 10-point bonus question: Write a six-word story about your favorite text we studied this year.
In both cases, the ninth graders believe they are receiving a gift. Live-Tweeting from the teacher’s iPad during class is not only a fun activity to break up the monotony of serious Torah study, but also an easy A for the day. After all, the teacher announced there are no wrong answers. The same is true for the extra ten points on the test; this bonus ensured nearly every student earned an A on the final exam.
Perhaps some of them realize they are the benefactors rather than the recipients of a gift.
Working with teens — offering them opportunities to develop their skills and trying to inspire them to acquire Torah in a way that will help them flourish in their lives– is generally an exercise in delayed gratification. Yet, the hours I spend reading their exams and deciphering the humorous hashtags they have affixed to their six-word stories are both gratifying and exhilarating.
Over the course of the school year, we cover four units made up of 14 chapters of Genesis. We discuss big ideas and ask many questions about the relevant life lessons find embedded in Jewish literature:
- To what extent are people creative builders who seek to live in society, who seek unity and community?
- What is required to make true reconciliation between estranged family members possible?
- Under what circumstances would revenge be justified?
In the last few moments of class, my students share their lasting impressions of our conversations about Torah and life. And I receive 25 gifts from my students, my end-of-the-year bonus in 150 words.
Here is a personal favorite: “Stories in Torah still happen today.”
Join us on Friday, May 26th between 8 and 10:30 a.m., as 9th graders from @TheWeberSchool share their #sixwordstories on Genesis. Follow and reply to our tweets at @PamelaGottfried.