By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com
No one really knows what is in store for the coming school year. Will schools be able to fully re-open? Can you get COVID-10 twice? Will there be a vaccine or a strong treatment?
And is there a Plan B? Is social distancing feasible? How will the classrooms be able to fit the students?
And while Zoom classes, generally speaking, are working far better than what was originally thought – an unspoken elephant in the room is that the weaker students are suffering greatly and not really learning. The long-term repercussions of this can be devastating.
Often, students can be divided into 3 categories: 1] Those that get the new material right away 2] Those that take up to a week to get the new material 3] Those that take longer than a week to get it – if at all.
Category 2 and 3 children – can, generally, be caught up either by very dedicated parents or capable tutors. All this was before COVID-19. The educational devastation that this pandemic brought on – has affected these children even more. Thus, the need to open up in September is most acute.
A Rosh Yeshiva once asked Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita for a bracha that he should merit to have good and outstanding students enrolled in his Yeshiva. Rav Chaim responded, “The Tafkid of a Yeshiva is not that at all. The tafkid of a yeshiva is to take weak students and make them good students.” [Minchas Todah page 107.]
The Alter of Slabodka, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, once asked Rav Yisroel Salanter for advice: “I wish to establish a Yeshiva that can produce true Gedolei Torah- what should be my tafkid in going about doing this?” Rav Yisroel responded, “Your tafkid is to fulfill what the Navi says (Yishayahu 57:15), “lehachayos ruach shefalim ulehachayos laiv nidkaim – to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the crushed.” [Zichron HaMeir p. 321].
We cannot ignore the needs of the Category 2 and Category 3 children. Ask around. The reality is that we have not been prioritizing these two groups of students.
HOW TO MEET SOCIAL DISTANCING
The largest problem is that there is limited room in our schools to facilitate proper social distancing. One idea that is floating around is to divide the student body in half and institute a Yom Aleph/Yom Bais program – where half the students physically attend school on even numbered days of the month and half physically attend schools on odd-numbered days. The days that they are not physically in school – they will Zoom the other days.
The problem with this is – who will cover the Zoom days? The Rebbe, Morah or teacher cannot teach both at the same time. There are a number of possibilities to address this:
- The Rebbeim and secular teachers can be employed full-time instead of half time – and they can Zoom in the afternoons, for the half of the student body that is home every other day.
- An assistant can be hired to help in the Zoom instruction and the Rebbe or Morah will oversee the specific tasks that the assistant will perform.
- A technological solution can be employed where a video camera will be directed toward the teacher which will move around – the very expensive HuddleCam HD is one option and there are probably more economical options as well. Although $3000 is expensive – if it will do the trick it might be a far more economical option than the other alternatives.
- One teacher suggested implementing a form of chevrusah learning or catching up where the class is divided up into 2 or 3 teams and the Yom Alef kids of each team call the Yom Bais kids of that team and make sure that they know the material. The teams will be divided equally and the Rebbe or Morah would prepare packets to help in the after-hours “tutoring.” The winning team receives motivational prizes.
Regardless of which option is chosen, it might be a good idea for the general curriculums of each teacher to be re-tooled or tweaked in order to maximize real learning in the new reality. Of course, we all hope that the Corona virus will go away, but just in case, we really need to think of a viable Plan B.
Rav Shmuel Vozner zatzal once remarked on the pasuk in Daniel (12:3), “Umatzdikei HaRabim k’kochavim l’olam vo’ed” – “Why does the Pasuk make this statement about the Mechanchim – those that teach our children – that they are likened to the stars forever on? Because the tzidkus – the righteousness of our nation – is placed in their hands. It is these Rebbeim and Moros who form and shape the yorei shamayim and the future tzaddikim and nashim tzidkanios of Klal Yisroel.”
The Plan B for the coming school year in case, chalilah, Corona does not go away by then – should be one of our highest priorities.
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