Today was one of those days that I had been dreading. It was time for the end of the year program for our little Sunday School class. We don't have a big congregation, so we have a very small school. But, I am thrilled that we have the students we do have. And they really are learning quite a bit. So why should this end of the year program bother me?
Well, for one thing it was very late in the year this year. When all secular schools have been out for weeks, it is very difficult to get children to willingly attend Sunday Religious School. Also, our Rabbi, while understandably proud of what the kids have learned and accomplished this year, might have expected more than was possible for children ages 10 and under. Don't get me wrong, I think our Rabbi is an amazing man. He is smart, compassionate, and an excellent teacher. I am proud that he thinks highly enough of my skills to allow me to teach these children as well. But his goal was an impossible dream.
Rabbi wanted the children in the Torah Study class to present an essay on EVERY SEDRA we discussed all year. Well, we started the year off with Bereshith and we are now in Bamidbor. For those of you who don't know, that means that we have read and studied almost every portion in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Levitcus, and are in the process of studying the sections of Numbers. The students in the Torah class are ten, nine, and eight years old. I don't care how smart these kids are, there is no way we can expect them to present comprehensive essays on every single one of those Torah Portions. It would take DAYS! I tried to explain to the Rabbi that I thought it would be much more effective if we assigned each student three (different) sedras and asked them to develop them from the notes that they had taken throughout the year. My idea fell on deaf ears.
Until the week before the presentation. Five school days before we were scheduled to hold our program, the Rabbi began reviewing everything in earnest. When we spent the first two days of this review on Bereshith and had not reached the story of Joseph and his brothers yet, I think he realized that his dream would not be achieved this year.
Let me make sure I am clear here. I adore our Rabbi. I would do just about anything he would ask me to do when it comes to teaching these children. I think he is brilliant and I enjoy sitting in on his lectures. He takes a lot of pride in our little school and I think it is with very good reason. He works very hard to make our school the success that it is.
So, when he finally decided to let the children select three sedras from Bereshith for their presentation, I was thrilled. That would be easier to handle, I thought. And, I thought, it would be much more interesting if each child selected different sedras. Sadly, that didn't happen, but there wasn't too much overlap, so it worked out in the end. Of course, they were each to cover the part in Shemoss where salvery is discussed. That was a little redundant, but again, it all worked out in the end.
So, we spent the last two (really day and a half) practicing for the presentations. I was beyond stressed that something would go wrong. Had I prepared the children well enough for their presentations? Would the baby be a distraction as she was in practice? Did I do enough to help my co-teacher prepare for the feast to follow? (I am excellent at feeling guilty for not feeling guilty enough.)
As it happened, I didn't need to worry. The day was a huge success. We had a nice crowd of congregants. The youngest students willingly shared their knowledge of the alef-bet, and even sang a little bit of the song. The Hebrew portions were done well, and the oldest did a lovely job reading from the Torah. The presentations were well done and well received. I only had to use our secret code (a throat-clearing cough) once or twice to encourage the speakers to be louder. The picnic following the program was wonderful. We had the perfect amount of food and I still think I didn't do nearly enough to help.
Once again, I worried for nothing.
But, part of me thinks that the worry I had helped motivate the students. If I hadn't been so focused on making the day a success, maybe they wouldn't have been, either. Not that this is about me. It isn't. It is really about how well the children did. They worked hard and it showed. I am extremely proud of them.
And extremely glad it is over. Until next year.