Teaching Hebrew is probably my favorite thing to do in all the world. And teaching Hebrew to lively, engaged youngsters just makes it all the more fulfilling.
So when you add the blind-teacher-uses-Hebrew-Braille-while-her-sighted-students-are-using-print-Hebrew element, lessons become even more interesting—and encompass much more than 3-letter roots, and the use of the shvah.
In such a classroom, students could get away with a lot of misbehavior. But I’ve learned, that they actually act out much less.
Why is that?
Maybe it is because I expect more of them, and hold them to the “honor system”.
Maybe they have too few distractions since our classroom has no windows and its walls are unfortunately quite blank at present.
Maybe I remain a mystery to them, and they just aren’t sure what to expect.
I really don’t know; but it happens every year—the students learn what they need to learn in terms of Hebrew, and the group becomes a pretty nice little community in which members develop empathy, and take initiative to assist one another.
Does that happen because they must take turns being my “scribe” for board work?
Or because they must announce themselves when they enter the room so I know who is present?
These would be great opportunities to clown around, to trick the teacher with erroneous writing or false identities.
Yet the kids always come through for me.
And, better still, they always come through for each other!
Lashon HaKodesh, “the holy language” definitely consists of layer upon layer of meaning, each of which in some way reflects Jewish values. But it is not merely through discussions of Hebrew that these young people are developing into caring, thoughtful human beings.
They are evolving by way of personal interaction with diversity.
And by coming face to face with the beautifully varied expression of humanity, they find their own unique expression– that divine spark that is the “I am” within each of us.
This strengthened “self” compels them to reach out to one another with compassion; deepening relationship, and strengthening the community; cycling between and through each member back to the whole.
For, even as “to teach” and “to learn” emerge from the same Hebrew root, each and all of us are bound together in the most mysterious and significant way—
And you may have learned it in Hebrew class.