Jewish educators join with hundreds of children, parents, grandparents and others at an event at the 92St Y; photo courtesy The Covenant Foundation.
By Judy Alexander
Throughout my twenty-year tenure of serving as an educator in my local Jewish community, I’ve found one thing that ensures success for Jewish educators: building strong relationships with parents. Jewish educators and parents must work together to create fun and meaningful learning opportunities. When parents aren’t involved in a child’s Jewish education, the student can lose interest and motivation. To keep students engaged, Jewish educators need to engage parents.
Here are some suggestions on how to do this successfully:
1. Suggest the parents come to class! Create open-classrooms where parents can volunteer or serve as classroom aids.
2. Find a variety of ways to facilitate communication between parent and teacher/parent and classroom. Send home nice notes/emails/texts, ask if a parent wants to share a special talent, read a story, cook a favorite recipe, teach a song/dance. Keep a blog to share with parents and post pictures of their child engaged in an activity.
3. Create opportunities for parents to engage with each other. This could be anything from a formal parent group discussing child-rearing issues to an informal coffee-klatch where parents just come in to schmooze. Create a small space where parents can do this, such as Rodef Shalom’s Parenting Series.
4. Hold family education classes where parents and students learn alongside each other like they do at The Learning Center of Pelham Jewish Center.
5. Experiment with different models and approaches to learning. Family school, for one, can be a one-day-a-month program where parents and children come in to study a text or holiday, separately and on their own level, then come together afterwards to join in about what they learned or create an art project, or dramatic presentation, based on the learning.
6. Organize a Mitzvah Day where families can come together for the good of the greater community and then work throughout the year on a project as a school with the families. This could be preparing meals for Salvation Army, going to read/talk/play music at Senior Centers, volunteering time at animal shelters. check out Beth El Hebrew Congregation’s partnership with Bailey’s Shelter.
The more opportunities you create for your families to feel connected and comfortable in taking on greater Jewish practices in their homes, the more at ease the family will feel in both their homes and in your synagogue. It is up to Jewish educators to enhance the parent’s role as a Jewish educator.
Judy Alexander is Social Media & Content Curator at Jvillage Network.