TTSP’s Online Learning

Quick Adjustment and Learning for all at the Talmud Torah

Both students and teachers at The Talmud Torah of St. Paul completed a quick and productive transition from daily routines at the school to distance learning. On Sunday, March 15, we learned that schools were to be closed, and literally overnight, the Talmud Torah of St. Paul began a distance learning program. In an effort to mitigate overall potential harm from COVID-19 and “flatten the curve,” we created a new sense of community using Zoom and Skype for all our students, from Early Childhood to Midrasha and everything in between. Heidi Tarshish, Director of Education, worked closely with educators at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul to plan for the transition to distance learning for students and families. We are proud and grateful for our incredible teachers and staff at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul.

We are proud of the Talmud Torah of St. Paul teachers for seeing this transition to distance learning as a challenge instead of an obstacle and using this as an opportunity to create community and increase learning for all. Students from other classes, siblings of students, and even friends of teachers were invited to take part in the learning discussion going on with this transition. In one of Dr. Arie Zmora’s college level Hebrew Skype sessions this past week, students discussed COVID-19 and its impact on their daily lives, all in Hebrew! An older sibling of a student joined in on the discussion and shared her experience in Italy and her fears and frustrations upon returning home. The impact and flexibility that teachers have had during this time has made the distant learning environment impactful and dynamic for our students.

The Newman School’s Online Learning Experience

At the Newman Day School, the changing classroom environment had children looking outward. Before leaving school on Tuesday, March 17, students talked with their teachers about the planned visit to Sholom Home East that would be cancelled due to distance learning. Knowing that they would not be able to visit their grand-friends, students decided to send them cards to let them know we at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul were thinking of them. These cards were a source of positivity and happiness in a potentially sad and lonely time, and our younger students had an opportunity to make a difference and continue a sense of community and spirit even when they were not in the classroom.

Students at The Newman School continue their daily learning online using Zoom and other educational learning programs. Even classes that are considered challenging to teach online, like art and music, have continued for our younger students. Our Early Childhood students enjoy connecting with their teachers online to sing songs and create art projects. All our Newman School students and families value a weekly Torah connection and come together on Friday afternoons for out Kabbalat Shabbat celebration. At the Talmud Torah of St. Paul, we are proud of the students in all our programs during this transition time.

Rabbi Yosi Gordon and the Online Learning Experience for Afternoon School and Midrasha

While online and distance learning is something that is new to many, Rabbi Yosi Gordon is seasoned in this education tool. Rabbi Gordon used synchronous online teaching during the five months he was laid up with a broken leg last year. There are many other situations where he has used technology to build the community and continue Jewish learning. A Talmud Torah student whose family moved to Florida discovered that there were very few Jewish learning opportunities in his new community. This student ended up studying online for two years, while enrolled at the Talmud Torah.

Distance Learning as a Give and Take

This year, Rabbi Gordon is using Zoom to teach most of his classes. Overall, he says it has been a pleasure for him pointing out the positive aspects of distance learning:

  • Teachers can see every student at the same time on their screen
  • Students are even more eager to see friends and interact, even if this is virtually
  • Educators can still send students documents they want, share music or video clips, and by sharing their screen, post visuals or create an onscreen white board to write down anything they want their students to see.

While there are many positive aspects to distance learning, Rabbi Gordon also takes note of the fact that while we can still engage, interact, and learn, there are also challenges that arise for both the instructors and the students:

  • Teachers often spend two to three extra hours preparing for each session, almost as if they are doing a TV show.
  • Finding ways to keep things fresh and interesting can be challenging when teaching over video, and many teachers are spending hours researching Hebrew video clips, new articles, stories, songs, riddles, or other forms of education and entertainment as add-ons to their lessons.
  • In-person meetings and class time are typically a crucial time to share feelings, concerns, and even fears, and we lose a sense of security and regularity without it.

A Changing, Inspiring Age

We believe that continuing academic conversations and teachings with peers, whether through a computer screen or in person, is essential for the future of our students at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul. Maintaining this connection to Jewish learning nourishes and lifts up our hungry souls.

Our Commitment to Our Students and Families 

The Talmud Torah of St. Paul remains committed to staying connected with each family and student. Thank you to our amazing teachers and staff for switching gears so effortlessly and efficiently. With the Coronavirus pandemic upon us, we are all in this together and can support one another from a distance and still achieve our goals and aspirations.

More Information 

If you would like more information about our programs and learning opportunities, please contact us at [email protected].