September 30, 2020 |

Welcome to TI – Everything You Need to Know About Remote Learning

Posted on August 31, 2020

Dear Religious School Families:

I hope that everyone was able to enjoy and relax a bit during this very different summer.  If you have not yet looked at our September and October calendar, it’s on our new website: rs.tiofnatick.org.  Please check it often; we are continuously updating and adding to it.

We are on the cusp of September, which means religious school and the high holidays are right around the corner.  I am writing to share with you some of the ways TI is going to be supporting your child(ren) and pre-teen(s) while we are learning remotely, and what we will need from you for your child(ren) and pre-teen(s) have a positive remote experience.

You already know that class sizes are smaller, and Hebrew will be taught in small groups.  We have also hired aides and volunteer madrichim in every Zoom classroom for Judaic subjects to support the students and teachers with technology and during small group work in breakout rooms.

TI will be providing every student with a Religious School Book & Supply Box (קוּפסָה/koof-sah) with just about everything we think your student will need when they are in class.  The thought behind investing in this box was that no one in your home has to hunt for books or supplies – everything should be in this box.  We will do our best to remind students to return materials to their box at the end of each class.  Please help your child(ren) and pre-teen(s) keep their boxes organized, and please be sure they have it with them when they log onto their Zoom classes. If items need to be replaced (for example, markers do dry up) and replacing them is a financial hardship for your family, please let me know.  When we resume in-person learning (if we do), your child(ren) and pre-teen(s) will be expected to bring this box. This box’s contents will be your child(ren)’s and pre-teen(s)’ supplies, whether we are remote or in-person.

At the beginning of each Jewish month, we will be providing you with any handouts your child(ren) and pre-teen(s) will need for class as well as a Project 5781 kit (see next paragraph).  These materials you will need to pick-up at TI.  (We’ll remind you when these are ready for pick-up.)  If you misplace a handout, or if, on occasion, there is an additional item that your child may need, everything will be posted in a Google Classroom.  To access Google Classroom, someone in your family will need an email that ends with @gmail.com.  We intend to prepare everything in advance for you and require as little printing as possible. You have our word that we are doing everything we can to make remote learning as uncomplicated as we can for your family.

What’s Project 5781?  Temple Israel received a grant from the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts to support Jewish family education.  We are using this grant to provide you with a kit at the beginning of each Jewish month with activities to do at home related to the new Jewish month.  (Think Blue Apron meets Jewish education.)

A note about textbooks, which we have veered away from in recent years, in favor of experiential learning.  I believe that textbooks are a resource; they are not a curriculum.  Our goal remains for our students’ remote learning experience to be experiential.  Teachers will be using textbooks to support their curriculum and teaching.  As much as possible, textbooks will be used instead of handouts and instead of screen sharing.  We are trying not to do too much screen sharing because we want to see our students’ faces and want them to see each other.  Some of the textbooks your child(ren) and pre-teen(s) will be using are gently used, and some texts for grades 2 and 6 are gifts that we would be giving to you during Kabbalat Siddur and at the end of the year siyum.  Some textbooks we will want back at the end of the year and will have a label on the cover that says “Property of TI.”

Please set your child up to succeed.

  1. Please help your child(ren) and pre-teen(s) find a place to work conducive to learning.  (We know some of them like lying down, sitting on the floor, or standing.  All of those are fine.  Our request is that child(ren) and pre-teen(s) not be in their beds, that they are dressed (not in PJs, unless it’s a designated PJ morning), and that they are not walking around or on a swing set.)
  2. Please make sure your child(ren) and pre-teen(s) log onto Zoom on time, if not a few minutes early.  
  3. Please be sure your child(ren) and pre-teen(s) have had breakfast or a snack before their Zoom class, so they don’t need to eat during class. Snacks are fine during breaks.
  4. We discourage virtual backgrounds as they slow down your internet speed and can be distracting. However, if your child(ren) and pre-teen(s) must, please help them pick a virtual background for the day, and remind them not to change it.
  5. Please get your child(ren) and pre-teen(s) a set of headphones, especially if they will be working in an area with others. Headphones will help them concentrate, and you too! Also, if your child has headphones on, it is less likely the class will hear background noise and conversations in your home.
  6. We know your child(ren) and pre-teen(s) love their pets and showing their pets to their classmates.  Pets are invited to religious school only during breaks. They must leave when break is over; otherwise, they become a distraction.
  7. If your child is in grades 3-7, they will need the siddur they received at Kabbalat Siddur on Shabbat mornings for tefila.  Please let me know if you need a siddur.  Students in grades PK-2 will receive a siddur in their supply box.

For security, (1) All teachers will have waiting rooms enabled in Zoom; (2) All students must use their real name; (3) Zoom links will be posted in a Google Doc for you to click on.  (4) Students must have their video on.  If your child is having trouble using technology appropriately, we will send you a text message asking you to help them. (We are aware that there may be days on which there is a reason that your child(ren) and pre-teen(s) turn off their screen; if this is the case, please let their teacher know ahead of time. We can easily make accommodations when we know in advance.)

Here are some technology tips to prevent glitching or freezing on Zoom.

  1. Call your internet company and ask them to increase your internet speed.  (Comcast increased my speed last May and didn’t charge me.)
  2. Connect your computer/Chromebook to your router with an ethernet cord.  (They make long ethernet cords, and they are relatively inexpensive.  If you are using an ethernet cord, you will not be on wifi, and my experience has been that you will never freeze on Zoom.)
  3. Virtual backgrounds may significantly slow down your internet speed, making it more likely you will freeze.  If you are having trouble with your internet and using a virtual background, try turning it off.

Last, please remember that online teaching and learning are new to the teachers and me as it is to your families.  There will be wrinkles, and we will iron them out.  We will always give you the benefit of the doubt, and ask that you give us the benefit of the doubt.  Let’s strive for compassion, kindness, and patience.  We’re going to have a great year, learn a lot, celebrate a lot, and do things in totally new and formerly unimaginable ways!

Livriut U’lshalom, (for health and with peace)

Robin

SUPPLIES

Alef-Bet Chart
Alef-Bet Stickers (G. PK/K/1 only)
Colored pencils ( G. 2-7 only)
Construction Paper
Crayons
Dry Erase Markers*
Dry Erase Board*
Erasers
Fidgets
Gluestick
Highlighters
Index Cards
Markers
Notebook (lined paper)
Pencil sharpener
Pencils
Pens
Playdoh
Post-Its
Ruler*
Scissors*
Shaker (for tefila)*
Tape
Textbooks**
Tissues
*At the end of the year, please return these items and the plastic box to TI.
**Some textbooks we would like returned at the end of the year.  Textbooks that should not be written in will be indicated.