Intergenerational Model: Shorashim - For Living Judaism Beyond the Classroom

Update (July 2017): Temple Israel Center White Plains (TIC), White Plains, NY

Model Description | Update 2017

Current Status:

Shorashim remains a vibrant model for teen learning at TIC. A few changes have taken place over time.

  • One change is that there is no longer a hierarchy of staff; everyone has the same responsibilities.
  • In addition, the clergy has become part of the education team. Team meetings with the clergy take place twice a month.
  • Another change is that there is now one Board of Education rather than several different boards for different age groups.

Classroom management has undergone significant change in Shorashim. There is much more pair/hevruta and small group work in Shorashim, but the educators discovered that the students didn’t really know how to work in those configurations. They realized that they couldn’t take for granted that the students would work together, and needed to realign classroom management to support this kind of learning.

Reflections of the Educator:

The educator attributes the success of the model to the team approach of the staff. They support one another and have strong support from the clergy. The core team meets weekly for learning and reflection (as noted above clergy join every other week). All team members know what each of the others are doing. Everybody teaches a class, and each person can fill in for the next. The educator shared that this process of planning before and reflecting together after every event is what creates a team.

The educator described a story of success that highlights how the educators truly listen to the students and design the learning based on the students’ interests.

At TIC, they begin by asking the students what they want and what they think. In one-to-one interviews, students said that regarding tefillah they wanted to sing with and participate in tefillah with the older students; they cared much less about the meaning of the prayers (bolded because this might not be the answer we expected or wanted).

TIC educators are very proud that they have involved their students in every aspect of Shorashim. When the educators ask students what they want and really listen, they find out things we would never have known. TIC changed their entire approach to tefillah because they wanted it to resonate with students in important ways, and educators wanted them to feel that they were a part of the services from an early age.

TIC has taken these approaches and applied them to every aspect of their educational programming. As noted, it is most impactful when students get directly involved and choose what they want to do, and how they want to do it. For that to happen, and for the learners to take control and achieve success, the educators have to be willing to really listen to what the children are saying.