From online classrooms to mindfulness exercises and more, educators want support with new platforms

New York — Amid the unprecedented transition to distance learning made by thousands of schools and congregations last week, The Jewish Education Project (TJEP) is helping to build and strengthen trusting relationships between educators and students—the hallmark of excellent educational experiences.  To enable these relationships–and each educator, youth engagement professional, and learner–to thrive in this unique moment, The Jewish Education Project launched a hub of resources, an EdTech helpdesk, virtual educator coaching, and webinars that are accessible to anyone.

All of these resources will continue and will expand for the foreseeable future. Already, more than 1,200 participants engaged in webinars on how to provide meaningful virtual learning experiences. And more than 3,500 educators, education leaders, parents, and other professionals accessed a range of resources, on everything from Google classroom coaching, to mindfulness exercises, to self-care, and more.

“I’m always encouraged knowing that there is whom to turn to and appreciate the added efforts that are being expended during this troubling time,” says Chana Zucker, Principal of Be’er Hagolah Elementary School in Brooklyn.

In addition to these mass offerings, The Jewish Education Project’s EdTech Helpdesk Appointments offers 30 and 60-minute individuals appointments to meet via Zoom with TJEP’s Director of Online Educational Content for specific questions and online strategies.

“We need to proactively support educators with the best and most useful tools and strategies for virtual  learning,” adds Dr. David Bryfman, CEO of The Jewish Education Project. “At the same time, we need to answer individual, very specific, tactical questions about what kinds of technology and tools work best—and how each educator with their own skillset actually can use them effectively.  Many educators are adapting on the fly; there was no plan in place for this.”

Veteran educators in particular are going outside of their normal comfort zones, learning how to use new platforms to reach and engage students, often while their parents and colleagues can see them succeed or fail online, in real time.

Ellen Dietrick, an early childhood educator at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, Massachusetts , says, “I don’t love being on camera, but emergency times call for throwing all non-health related caution to the wind.”

Educators are seeing video and live feed options through an entirely new lens notes Shariee Calderone, Senior Educational Consultant for Early Childhood and Family Engagement at The Jewish Education Project. Educators see this lens “opening the door for them to offer stability, community, routines, rituals, and the continued developmental growth opportunities that their students need right now.” Calderone continues, “Using technology with young learners is the only thing my colleagues in the field of early childhood and family engagement can talk about.”

Feedback from educators and other conveys the need for these resources and an understanding of the critical role they play for families during this crisis.

“As I was reflecting on these fabulous educators [through an online forum],” adds Julie BenAvram a teacher at Westchester Jewish Center, Mamaroneck, N.Y.,” I realized that beyond giving the children educational/academic experiences, these teachers were providing their students a sense of community, continuity and care in incredibly tumultuous times.  I was charged and motivated!”