March 21, 2013

On teaching

What? Me? You want me to become a teacher for the next few months? Who, me? Teach my child things other than manners and how to roller skate? Like, teach her actual information about a list of topics she chose that range from computers to Great Blue Herons?

What?

Okay, sure. Fine. I'll try it.

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I have no idea how to be a teacher. 

There, I said it. I'm making this up as I go.

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Since St. Patrick's Day, Passover and Easter all fall back-to-back this year, we're taking the time to discuss each holiday for a week. Last week, we talked about symbols of St. Patrick's Day. We talked about Ireland. We talked about rainbows and leprechauns and pots of gold. We even sang Danny Boy a few times.

This week's lesson is all about Passover, and here's what I've learned: there is absolutely no way to teach Passover without delving into the Bible, and the Jewish faith, and heady topics like slavery and murder and the Angel of Death.

This was surprising to me. I'm not sure why.

I guess my first plan was to teach Zoe the Passover traditions of my youth - the Seder, Elijah's cup, the hunt for the Afikomen (the piece of matzoh hidden during the Seder, for which children hunt after the dinner is through). I remember Passover Seders at my great-aunt's house as fondly as I remember the jar of marbles she kept stashed in the back room that always smelled of mothballs (but in a good way).

But how to explain the bitter herbs we eat, without explaining the bitterness of slavery. How to explain the salt water into which we dip our herbs, without explaining the need to symbolize tears. How to explain the lamb shank without discussing the Angel of Death's passage over the Jewish homes in Egypt. 

Our Passover Project...
it's a far cry from the rainbows of last week

And how to tell the story of Moses, without talking of the Ten Plagues? Boils and lice, locusts and the death of all the firstborn babies?

Incidentally, we did find this video, which does lighten things up quite nicely.

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At a Seder, the youngest child is expected to ask the Four Questions. These can be asked in English or Hebrew, and ask about why certain traditions take place.

I planned to teach them to Zoe in English. As soon as she heard they could be sung in Hebrew instead, she wanted to learn.

Now we spend time each day practicing. Where my tongue finds the old, familiar words thick and heavy, and I struggle to pronounce each syllable correctly, my child hears only beautiful music that she wants to sing.

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Our "field trip" this week will be to an old synagogue in downtown Charleston. It also has a graveyard out back, so expect pictures.

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Next week we learn about Easter. Easter is easier. Easter has baby chicks and ducklings and the Easter Bunny and symbols every child can discuss without discussing religion. 

But now that I've taught Passover and all its religious implications, I have to balance it with the religious aspects of Easter.

Because I have to respect the religion behind that holiday as much as I respect my own.

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Our field trip will be to the church in Mount Pleasant where my mother-in-law was raised, Christened, married, and where my husband and his sister were also Christened. My mother-in-law will take us on a tour, telling us family history.

I think it will be brilliant.

2 comments:

Med Stud said...

there's something in my eye. Not sure what it is or why, but your writing often causes this...

Leah said...

So...um...you might want to get that condition checked by a doctor...

Also, thanks. :D

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